Summary: Christians are to sound the alarm of judgment, but also the alarm to repent. We warn, but also offer the hope found in repentance.
Sound the Alarm!
In the late 1990’s, our family lived in a split level apartment in Union Township… just north of Cincinnati, Oh. It was a great location in many ways…it was close to a major freeway, but not so close that we had to listen to its traffic, it was just 5 minutes from the downtown area with a mall and lots of restaurants, but really not on a busy street … and to top it off we lived across the street from the church we attended. But there was at least one thing that wasn’t pleasant about our location,… we lived right under some powerful air sirens. Frequently our conversation would be interrupted to test “Tornado Readiness.” Those horns produced sounds that were intrusive, belligerent and irritating.
One evening in 1999, Janine and I were awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call her sister, Sandy. “Did we know there was a tornado coming our way?” We shocked ourselves awake and turned on our small bedroom television set to witness a rather excited weatherman making marks on an area map indicating the path of said tornado. It was inching closer and closer to the little niche we liked to call home in the upper west corridor of the intersection of I275 and I75. We waited and waited… breathlessly. Nothing ever happened. We would find out the next morning that 20 miles from our apartment, the Tornado had ripped through the neighboring town of Blue Ash killing 4 people.
I didn’t think about it till later that day, but it suddenly dawned on me. The tornado alarm never went off. That grating, ear piercing, annoying shriek was silent when it was needed the most.
We come to the second chapter of Joel this morning and I want you to hear the alarm! Twice Joel says: “Blow the trumpet in Zion!” (verse 1 & 15). He actually says: “Blow the Shofar in Zion!” A Shofar was a ram’s or bull’s horn that sounded to warn or call together the people of Israel.
[play shofar sound]
Now Joel says twice to blow the shofar in this passage, but for two different but related reasons.
Sound the Alarm: Judgment is Coming!
Early in pastor Will Willimon’s ministry, he served a little church in rural Georgia. One Saturday he went to a funeral in a little country church not of my denomination. He grew up in a big downtown church and had never been to a funeral like this one. The casket was open, and the funeral consisted of a sermon by their preacher.
The preacher pounded on the pulpit and looked over at the casket. He said, "It’s too late for Joe. He might have wanted to get his life together. He might have wanted to spend more time with his family. He might have wanted to do that, but he’s dead now. It is too late for him, but it is not too late for you. There is still time for you. You still can decide. You are still alive. It is not too late for you. Today is the day of decision."
Then the preacher told how a Greyhound bus had run into a funeral procession once on the way to the cemetery, and that that could happen today. He said, "You should decide today. Today is the day to get your life together. Too late for old Joe, but it’s not too late for you."
Willimon writes: “I was so angry at that preacher. On the way home, I told my wife, "Have you ever seen anything as manipulative and insensitive to that poor family? I found it disgusting."
She said, "I’ve never heard anything like that. It was manipulative. It was disgusting. It was insensitive. Worst of all, it was true."
- Will Willimon, in his sermon "The Writing on the Wall," PreachingToday.com
Joel is an insensitive preacher at a funeral… He seems to be kicking a discouraged populace while they are down. Remember chapter one? A crop of locusts had swarmed in and devastated their crops. “Cry out to God,” Joel told the shell shocked inhabitants of the land. “This plague should serve as a wake up call for us!” And if that message wasn’t shrill enough, Joel follows it up with a prophetic horn blowing in chapter two.
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
It is close at hand-
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was of old
nor ever will be in ages to come.