Summary: What is a Solemn Assembly and why is it necessary.
Do you ever come home from church and think, “I think I understood the message this morning—but what am I supposed to do with it?” Well, if that’s ever happened to you before, it’s not going to happen to you today. This morning, each of us is going to leave here knowing exactly what to do with what we’ve heard. If you haven’t been with us over the past few weeks, we’re in our third week in our study of the book of Joel. And in many ways, the passage we’re looking at is the crux of the whole book. Joel has been preaching for a verdict. He wasn’t just preaching a fluffy, feel-good, self-help message. He was preaching to the people about their real condition. And in preaching to them about their real condition, his goal wasn’t to get them angry or depressed. His goal was to get them to do something. But here’s the crazy thing—he wasn’t trying to give them an inspiring motivational talk to get them to fix their problems in their own strength. Because here’s the reality—they weren’t capable of fixing their own problems in their own strength, were they? Remember what their immediate problem was—they were suffering through the aftermath of a terrible locust invasion. Their livelihood was destroyed. Their economy was in shambles. Their future was hopeless. They weren’t even able to worship because there wasn’t any grain or healthy animals to sacrifice. They were looking at starvation—both physically and spiritually. If I was preaching to them, let me tell you what I would have said. I would have told the people to get busy cleaning up the dead bugs. I would have told them to start plowing the fields. I would have told them to start sending out teams to get food from other areas. But that’s not what the Prophet Joel did, is it? Now, there was a time for all those things eventually. But now wasn’t that time. The first thing the people needed to do was to seek God’s face and His favor in a uniquely desperate way. And that uniquely desperate way is called a Solemn Assembly.
Folks—over the past couple of weeks, I hope you’ve had your eyes opened to exactly how desperate our situation is. In our world, in our region, and in our community—we are rapidly heading to the time when God will pour out His wrath on His creation. Throughout the Bible, and here in Joel, that time is called the Day of the Lord. Just as God poured out His wrath on creation the first time with water in Noah’s day, He will pour out His wrath with fire in the Day of the Lord. Joel reminds us that the Day of the Lord is near. He’s not saying that to give us a timeline. He’s saying that the cup of God’s wrath is almost full and his longsuffering and patience has almost come to an end. Peter describes it like this in 2 Peter 3:9-10: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Folks—that day is coming. We can see the evidence all around us. Christians are being brutally slaughtered around the world. Around the world, 40-50 million babies are being murdered in the womb each year. That means that every two minutes around the world, enough babies are aborted, that if they were allowed to grow up, they would fill this sanctuary. Sexual sin is promoted and celebrated—both heterosexual and homosexual. And on top of that, the seeds of anarchy are being sown around the world. We can see it in places like Egypt and Libya and Syria—and even closer to home in places like Ferguson and Baltimore and Chicago. And you need to understand that this isn’t something that we’re sheltered from here in our community. All you have to do is pick up a paper or watch the local news. Better yet, spend some time counseling the ladies who come into the Abel Center. Or talk to a school counselor or teacher. Or spend some time with one of our local social workers. Or talk with local law enforcement. Romans 1:29-31 says, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” If you open your eyes, that describes even our area pretty well, doesn’t it? Make no mistake about it—the Day of the Lord is near. We don’t know when. But we do know that the cup of God’s wrath is closer to overflowing than it’s ever been before. I believe that we’re in a uniquely desperate time—every bit as desperate as the people in Joel’s day. And because we’re in such a uniquely desperate time, I think it’s time for us to call a Parkview Baptist Church to a Solemn Assembly the way Joel called his people to a Solemn Assembly. But if we’re going to do that, then the first question we need to answer is—What is a Solemn Assembly? Look at verses 12 through the first part of 13: