Summary: What Awaits YOU In Decision Valley? Dismay? Delight?
The thermometer must have almost popped when temperatures reached 57C (134F). That’s the second hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world. The shade of night doesn’t bring much relief here either. Midnight temperatures have hit 44C (112F)! In 1929 and again in 1953 not a drop of rain fell in this location. Does this sound like a place you’d like to visit? Many do. This is Death Valley, a national park located in the state of California. If you plan on visiting Death Valley, you’ll want to check out the visitor’s guide the U.S. National Park Service produces. This guide instructs you to carry four liters of water per person per day and to make sure you have a working spare tire in case you get a flat. You don’t want to get stuck in temperatures hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement. With the proper precautions, however, Death Valley can be delightful as there are soaring mountains and rolling sand dunes to explore.
You may never get to Death Valley but every one of you here and every person who has ever lived will one day stand in Decision Valley. You won’t find this valley on any map because it’s more of an event than a location. Decision Valley is our sermon text’s name for Judgment Day. Just as Death Valley can bring dismay or delight depending on how well one is prepared, Decision Valley too will either bring dismay or delight. Which awaits you? Let’s find out as we turn to our sermon text.
Decision Valley is also called the Valley of Jehoshaphat in our text. Jehoshaphat means “the Lord judges” and that’s what’s going to happen in Decision Valley. Jehoshaphat was also the name of the fourth king of Judah who saw God’s judgment unfold in a valley east of Jerusalem. Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites had invaded Judah with what was described as a “vast” army (2 Chronicles 20:2). Jehoshaphat turned to the Lord for help and he wasn’t disappointed. When he and his men arrived at the battleground, they didn’t find a single enemy solider alive. God had caused the enemy to fight one another.
In our text God wants us to know that what happened during King Jehoshaphat’s day is going to happen again on Judgment Day: God will destroy his enemies. God put it this way in our text: “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. 10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears… 12 ‘Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side” (Joel 3:9, 10a, 12).
God sounds like a hotshot warrior taunting his enemy to grapple with him. He even gives them the chance to arm themselves for the confrontation. That would be like the London police (in the wake of the recent rioting there) saying to the anarchists: “Go ahead, pack your backpacks with all the Molotov cocktails you can carry.” Or NATO goading rogue governments like North Korea: “Come on. Fire all your nuclear missiles at us at the same time!” Or the freshman in college saying to his atheistic professor: “Can you tell me again why you don’t believe in God, Professor? Hit with me your best arguments. Bring it on!” If you talk that way, you better be able to back it up with might and smarts. And God does. God is so confident of victory he doesn’t even stand up to meet the invading army! He just sits coolly on his throne, for there will be no battle but only judgment and you’ll be there to hear the verdict. Our text goes on to say, “Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow – so great is their wickedness! Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. 16 The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble” (Joel 3:13b-16a).
Decision Valley will be dismaying for all who laughed at the idea that there is a God. God is going to squish those who attacked his church as easily as you and I can squash a grape with the heel of our foot. But Decision Valley will also be dismaying for those who outwardly lived decent lives thinking that this was good enough for entrance into heaven and saw no need to put their trust in Jesus as their savior. They’ll no doubt try to plead their case before God as to why they are worthy of heaven but they won’t even get a word in – not when God is described as roaring from Zion – roaring so loudly that even the earth and sky will tremble, and the sun, moon, and stars won’t dare show their countenance.