Summary: God's judgement is fearful. God will call to account those who reject him. Don't say you weren't warned. Return to the Lord.
The great and terrible day of the Lord.
Are you afraid of God? Do you secretly harbour a fear of him? Maybe in your upbringing you were introduced to a god who scared you and this was reinforced as you read those violent stories in the OT.
Does a fear of God turn you away him?
The language that Joel uses is provocative and fearful. Is this truly what God is like?
The invasion of locusts with teeth like a lion and the fangs of a lioness. The fields ruined, the ground dried up. The promised human army in chapter 2. The land trembling. The day this army strikes is a day of darkness, gloom, clouds and blackness. The nations recoil in anguish and every face turns pale.
The great and terrible day of the Lord.
On this day the earth will shake and the heavens tremble, the sun and moon will be darkened and the stars will no longer shine. The Lord thunders at the head of his army as he brings judgement upon the earth.
In the Book of Joel, God reveals himself as absolutely sovereign. God is not afraid to speak his mind. He is not afraid to say that the nations of the earth are accountable to him. He is not afraid to say that he is the Judge of heaven and earth which were made by him and for him. And whether or not we be his treasured possession, God reacts to sin the same way every time. God’s reaction to unrighteousness is consistent and predictable.
His holiness demands that sin be punished and God is not afraid to use forceful images to make this point.
But the conclusion that God reacts strongly to human rebellion is often isolated from the gospel and therefore misunderstood. As someone wrote in a forum about God, “I was a Christian until reading the Bible”. Another said, “I am unafraid of this monstrosity of a God for I am much more moral than He shalt ever be”.
In the movie Mr and Mrs Smith, Angelina Jolie blurts out the line, “Happy endings are just stories that haven’t finished yet”.
God does not mince his words in the Book of Joel. He tells us what we need to know. The day of the Lord is coming and we ought to be prepared. Indeed, it is God himself who shows us how to prepare for the visitation of his anger. God is not immoral and he does not enjoy watching anyone suffer. God likes happy endings but the storyline is his to tell. And the storyline continues into chapter 3 which we turn to this morning. The future day of the Lord and Israel’s foes will not escape—those nations who rise up against God and in their arrogance seek to strike him down.
Come with me to chapter 3 and we see that it falls neatly into three sections.
First, God announces his judgement upon the nations (v. 1–8). Then the description of judgement in verses v. 9–16; and thirdly, the book finishes with ultimate restoration for those who returned to the Lord.
There’s a lot of judgement happening in the Book of Joel. Chapters 1 and 2 upon God’s OT people. Chapter 3 upon the foreign nations.
Joel is crying out to his audience and he is crying out to us. Judgement is coming! Not an unjust, vindictive, irrational, savage judgement. But a judgement totally deserving and yet patiently withheld for a long period of time. A judgement that the Jesus explores and in so doing he invents the word “hell”. The NT reminds us that the coming day of the Lord must shape the way we live now. The big, red flashing warning lights that tell us that the path ahead is dangerous without Christ by your side.
The BIG IDEA of chapter 3 is a simple one, “God will call to account those who reject him”. And the BIG APPLICATION is a simple one, “Don’t say you weren’t warned. Return the Lord”. OT history testifies that God is serious about sin; the cross testifies that God is so serious about sin it took the life of his Son to offer a remedy;
and the NT writers assure us that God is in control when this world seems out of control and persevere for the end is coming soon.
In verses 1 to 8, God announces his judgement upon the nations. And it’s done rather satirically.
Ok, you nations. You want a fight? I’ll give you a fight. Meet me at the Valley of
Jehoshaphat. I’ll put you on trial for what you did to my people.
Come on! Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors. Put on your gloves. Make your swords and spears. Put the weak on their feet because you’ll need them. Come on you nations! Pull yourselves together and meet me at Jehoshaphat and there we’ll have it out.