Sound the Alarm!

Posted: June 1, 2017 in Joel, Uncategorized

Joel 1:1 – 2:17, “Sound the Alarm!”

When is “too late,” too late?  At what point does someone reach the point of no return?  It all depends on the circumstance.  Sometimes, it’s obvious.  If you’re going into surgery, it’s when you receive the anesthetic.  If you’re parachuting, it’s when you step out of the airplane.  Other times, it’s not so clear.

Most of the times, when we’re driving, the only time it is “too late” is when we’re on a schedule.  Otherwise, we can always turn around & head in the other direction – the only thing stopping us, being our pride.

Something similar could be said about our spiritual lives.  Every single one of us is on a schedule of sorts, for there will come a day that our heart stops beating, our brain stops functioning, and we find ourselves standing face-to-face with God.  But until that point, when is it too late to turn our lives around?  It’s not.  Typically, the only thing stopping us is our pride.

That’s not to say that we can avoid all consequences of our sin.  Some consequences are unavoidable, even though they are tragic & we meet them with broken & repentant hearts.  But in regards to a restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ, our main obstacle is ourselves.  It’s not that He is far removed from us; it is we who are removed from Him.  All it takes is for us to turn around in repentance – but that’s something we must be willing to do.

That’s one of the main ideas behind the prophecy of Joel. (יוֹאֵל )  The nation had just experienced a terrible consequence due to national sin.  A swarm of locusts had wreaked havoc on the land, and it was as if a conquering army had come in force for total destruction.  In point of fact, that is exactly what would happen (or did happen, depending on your point of view), as a result of generation after generation of unrepentant sin against their covenant God.  Yet was it too late to repent?  No.  Even at this late stage – even as enemy armies overrun the land – God’s people were still invited to repent and seek Him in sincere faith.  Even when Israel eventually faces the final Day of the Lord during the years of the Great Tribulation, the opportunity to repent will still exist.  The only time it will be too late is when people finally see Jesus with their own eyes.  They have a wonderfully gracious opportunity before them now…it’s not to be squandered!

The book of Joel is second in the Hebrew canon of the Minor Prophets, and though it’s a short book, it’s an important one.  Peter famously references it on the day of Pentecost when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the multitudes.  The book of Joel is a book of judgment, but it’s also a book of hope.  Judgment is foretold, but so is restoration – destruction is seen, but so is blessing.  One leads to the other.  The promise of judgment was to lead people to repentance, which in turn leads to their restoration with their covenant God.  God’s desire was to bless His people…He just needed them to see their need.

Joel 1

  • Introduction (1:1)

1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.

  • Not much is given, by way of introduction.  What is said here is all we know about Joel.  The name (meaning “YHWH is God) is rather common throughout the Hebrew Bible, but his father’s name is unique to this verse alone.  There’s no further family history given – no king named during whose reign these prophecies were given – not even any cultural events, markers, or even occupation listed for Joel.  What we see is what we get.
  • This leads to quite a bit of questions as to the dating of the book.  Some scholars see reason to date the book rather early, perhaps early in the reign of Joash (2 Kings 11).  Enemies such as the Assyrians and Babylonians are unnamed in the book, perhaps indicating that they had not yet presented themselves as a threat.  Because no king is mentioned, it’s possible that this was written while Joash was still too young to assume the throne & the priest Jehoida was the regent ruler of Judah.  Other scholars believe that the book must have been written later, after the Babylonian exile.  Chapter 3 has some wording indicating a past-tense exile, and nations like the Greeks & Sabeans are mentioned – which make far more sense in a post-exile context.  Of course, if that’s the case, the question of why Joel was placed so early in the Hebrew canon needs to be answered.
  • All in all, we cannot say with any certainty when Joel was written – and that means some of our interpretation needs to be held loosely, open for debate and correction.  That said, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Even if the immediate context & interpretation for the past is unclear, there’s much written in Joel that clearly pertains to the future.  Those things are applicable to all people.  Perhaps an unclear date is a good thing…it helps to keep us from getting too comfortable, thinking that all of what’s said is for someone else.
    • That’s true regarding Scripture as a whole.  We always want to do our best to interpret Scripture according to its primary meaning to its original audience.  But we don’t leave it there.  We look for the principles that are timeless, and application for the present.  Bible study is never supposed to be Bible trivia; it’s supposed to be an interaction with the living word of God!
  • The call to wake up (1:2-7)

2 Hear this, you elders, And give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days, Or even in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation.

  • Who’s speaking here: Joel or the Lord?  It’s unclear, but the message isn’t.  As the prophecies begin, the clear call goes out to listen up!  Pay attention!  Throughout Chapter 1, there will be a series of imperatives, calling certain groups to take action.  It’s only fitting that the first imperative is to listen.  We don’t know what to do, if we’re not first listening for instruction.  We may see a need to take action and end up taking the wrong action, if we don’t first listen to what’s being said.  The Jews were called to pay attention to the prophecy.  Just as the call had gone out by Moses to “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut 6:4) – a similar call goes out now: “Hear…give ear!”  What is about to be said is important!  This is something they needed to hear & something they needed to pass on.  Future generations needed to learn the lesson, and the only way they would know was if the initial generation listened in the first place.
  • We need to pay attention to the word of God!  One of the primary marks of being a disciple of Jesus is obeying all things that He has commanded (Mt 28:19-20).  We can’t do that if we don’t know what He’s commanded.  The Bible is not optional for the Christian – it’s not given only to the “super-spiritual.”  It’s given to all of us.  Every believer needs to read, to listen, to take heed.  Don’t just read to read…read to pay attention & see what the Lord your God is saying to you.  (And read to learn it, in order that you can pass it on!)
  • What did this message concern?  The tragedy that had come to them in the form of a locust swarm…

4 What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.

  • The question is sometimes raised of whether or not these were literal locusts, or perhaps a symbolic description of an enemy army.  The type of destruction that is described could easily be said of an enemy conquest, and later verses specifically talk about soldiers.  At the same time, all of the description could arguably be used of a devastating locust swarm – one that wiped out all the crops of Israel/Judah.  There are arguments on either side, but perhaps the best interpretation is that Joel has both in mind.  There was likely a literal swarm of locusts (grasshoppers) – something not uncommon in the region – and it was so bad that it left a total devastation upon the land.  But that very real imagery becomes symbolic for a future military invasion.  After witnessing the clouds of locusts, the Jews would have little trouble envisioning swarms of enemy soldiers descending upon them.  Joel was warning his people that as bad as the locusts had been, something was coming that would be even worse.
  • That a literal swarm of locusts was in view should not be surprising.  This was actually part of the prophesied curses for breaking the covenant.  Deuteronomy 28:38–42, "(38) “You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. (39) You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. (40) You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off. (41) You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity. (42) Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land."  What Moses wrote centuries earlier came true – all described in the prophecies of Joel.
  • The whole idea is that everything was gone – it was totally consumed.  Four different words are used for the locusts, which has led to all kinds of conjecture about the ages of the bugs, type of insects, etc., all of which likely misses the point.  The prophecy doesn’t focus on the details of bugs, but the details of the destruction experienced by the Jews.  They had experienced a terrible judgment – one which had been promised to them as a curse for breaking the covenant.  If that came true, what else might come true from the curses?  Everything.  The Jews needed to pay attention to what God was saying to them, and do it quick!
    • God will do what it takes to get our attention.  The key is to listen sooner, rather than later.

5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep; And wail, all you drinkers of wine, Because of the new wine, For it has been cut off from your mouth. 6 For a nation has come up against My land, Strong, and without number; His teeth are the teeth of a lion, And he has the fangs of a fierce lion. 7 He has laid waste My vine, And ruined My fig tree; He has stripped it bare and thrown it away; Its branches are made white.

  • Of all the people groups that could be called out, why does the Lord (via Joel) call first to the “drunkards”?  Because they would perhaps feel the effect of a destroyed grape vintage more than anyone.  Where would they get their wine?  With the whole harvest destroyed, they had nothing to drink.  Obviously, the Scripture is not encouraging drunkenness; this was just a reality to the people living through it.  The drunkards of the land had other reason to weep: they had sinned against the Lord, and were in the process of experiencing His judgment…and more was on the way!  It was just the lack of wine that would get their attention, hopefully breaking them out of their stupor.
  • What they would find is that it was more than locusts that brought destruction.  Something else was sure to come: an enemy nation like a lion!  Just like the locusts were “without number,” so would be the mighty men of battle.  They would be fierce, symbolically described as having sharp fangs.  IOW, these weren’t people the Jews would want to mess with!  Yet they were coming, and they were bringing devastation.  The vine of God & the fig tree of God (both common pictures of the nation of Israel) would be left barren.  It would be as if even the bark was stripped away from the branch/vine, leaving the flesh of the plant exposed.  Whoever this “lion” was, it was bad news for Judah!
  • Who were they?  This is where the debate over dating becomes a bit of an issue.  If Joel was written early, then it seems very likely that this is Babylon.  From all the later references to Jerusalem, it’s fairly certain that Joel was a prophet to the south, so Assyria wouldn’t have been the issue so much as Babylon would be.  If the book was written later, this becomes a bit harder to identify.  Some suggest it’s a reference to the surrounding enemy nations that close in on a weakened regathered Israel – others suggest that Joel is already looking forward to the future Tribulation.  While there’s little doubt that Joel does prophesy the Great Tribulation later on in the book, it’s uncertain whether or not he does so at this time.  Bottom line, we cannot know what specific enemy is in view, but we do know that the battle would be horrendous.
  • The devastation described, what should be the response?  Mournfulness & contrition…
  • The call to mourn (1:8-18)

8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth For the husband of her youth. 9 The grain offering and the drink offering Have been cut off from the house of the LORD; The priests mourn, who minister to the LORD. 10 The field is wasted, The land mourns; For the grain is ruined, The new wine is dried up, The oil fails.

  • Why did Joel describe their lamentation to be like an widowed “virgin”?  Because just like a woman in that situation had her future destroyed, so would Judah face the same sort of bleakness.  They were to mourn what they had lost.  They were to wail and cry out, with the full realization of what they faced.  No crops not only meant no wine – it meant no food, no drink, no economy.  It even meant no worship.  What kind of grain offerings could be given to the Lord if there was no grain that was harvested?  What kind of oil could be used in the temple, if the olive groves were destroyed?  How would worship be possible without the means given them in order to worship?
  • Again, this was part of the problem for their violation of their covenant with God.  If they had obeyed the Lord, following Him in sincerity & truth, then their land would have been blessed.  That would have helped them in their worship, and everything would cycle back around, with blessings abounding as worship abounded.  But that’s not what happened.  For generations, the Israelites ignored their covenant responsibilities, and now they would face severe consequences.  As Hosea pointed out elsewhere, the people would reap what it is they had sowed.
    • Some consequences are unavoidable, as grievous as they may be.  If we push too far into sin, we’ve got to expect certain things in return.  It doesn’t mean that we cannot be forgiven by God, nor even that a restored future is impossible (God can do anything!) – but certain things in our present may have to be endured.  If you find yourself in a place where “the field is wasted, the land mourns,” etc., don’t let that drive you away from the Lord; let it drive you to Him.
  • Joel goes on to describe more of the destruction that has come to the land.  Vs. 11…

11 Be ashamed, you farmers, Wail, you vinedressers, For the wheat and the barley; Because the harvest of the field has perished. 12 The vine has dried up, And the fig tree has withered; The pomegranate tree, The palm tree also, And the apple tree— All the trees of the field are withered; Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men.

  • Question: is this a reference to the already-performed destruction from the locusts, or the future-destruction from this future army?  It’s difficult to say.  Perhaps both are in view.  Either way, the imagery continues of a land that has been lost.  Everything that had once been a blessing had been cursed & stripped away from the people.  This was the result of their sin.
  • Anyone who has experienced this sort of consequence knows what it’s like to have their “joy…withered away.”  It is a sorrowful thing to endure these kinds of trials.  There is good news: the trials don’t last forever!  God can bring wonderful results even out of the worst of circumstances.  God can even use terrible sin to bring us to a place of wonderful blessing.  Think of the apostle Paul: he was in the very act of pursuing Christians to persecute them when stopped by Jesus along the road.  Paul immediately came to faith, and became one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) missionary in history.  Think of the cross: It was a terrible sin for men to nail Jesus to the tree…but that was the very act God used to bring about our salvation.  If God can work miracles from those things, what other circumstance is too hard for Him?  Trust God!  Surrender yourself to the Lord Jesus!  If your joy has withered, keep seeking the Lord until He brings restoration.
  • As for the Jews, they weren’t yet at that place.  They still needed to recognize their sin.  Vs. 13…

13 Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; Wail, you who minister before the altar; Come, lie all night in sackcloth, You who minister to my God; For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God.

  • There is an echo of verse 9 here, reiterating the impossibility for the priests to bring an offering to the Lord, because of the destruction of the crops.  They couldn’t follow through on the rituals of sacrifice, so what could they do?  They could “lament.”  They could allow their hearts to be broken on account of their sin.  They could recognize their consequences for what they were, and deal with them in the ways available to them.  Vs. 14…

14 Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD.

  • They might not be able to offer grain offerings, but they could certainly “consecrate a fast!”  They could “gather the elders” of Judah together, “call a sacred assembly” and “cry out to the LORD” together.  IOW, they could find a way to worship!  They could call upon everyone all over the land to humble themselves before God, and seek Him in spirit and in truth.  What was most needed at this point wasn’t the ritual of sacrifice; they needed humble, broken hearts.  Psalm 51:16–17, "(16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise."  David wrote this, knowing full well that sin offerings of bulls & goats could (and should) be offered at the altar of the Lord for the sins he had done.  But David also knew God didn’t want him to simply go through the motions; God desired real repentance, and that starts with sincere contrition.
    • Repentance never ends with remorse, but it doesn’t start without it.  Do we feel true remorse over our sin?  Do we understand how evil we have acted?  When we consider the things we have done against God, our hearts ought to break.  Those were the things for which our Lord Jesus died.  Thankfully, our sins are covered in His sacrifice – but that ought not minimize sin in our eyes.  It ought to make us cling even tighter to Jesus!

15 Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; It shall come as destruction from the Almighty. 16 Is not the food cut off before our eyes, Joy and gladness from the house of our God? 17 The seed shrivels under the clods, Storehouses are in shambles; Barns are broken down, For the grain has withered. 18 How the animals groan! The herds of cattle are restless, Because they have no pasture; Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.

  • Question: Is Joel still talking about locusts, or something more?  Again, it’s possible that both are in view.  The fields were destroyed, causing even the livestock to suffer.  All the food was gone, and the nation was left in shambles.  The devastation that had once come upon the nation of Egypt as God demonstrated His power in freeing the Hebrew slaves now had come upon the Hebrews themselves.  But even the terror left by the locusts paled in comparison to something yet to come.  Be it the Babylonians or the future Great Tribulation, something awful lay in the future.  People would rue the “day of the LORD” when it arrived!
  • Did all of that cause the prophet to run from God?  No.  Vs. 19…
  • Joel’s prayer of despondency

19 O LORD, to You I cry out; For fire has devoured the open pastures, And a flame has burned all the trees of the field. 20 The beasts of the field also cry out to You, For the water brooks are dried up, And fire has devoured the open pastures.

  • In the midst of all that destruction, that’s when Joel prayed to the Lord.  He cried out to God even while judgment was ongoing.  Why?  Because the Lord was Israel’s only hope.  Be it the men or the “beasts of the field,” the Lord God of Israel was the only one who could deliver Israel.
  • Likewise for us!  No matter what God has allowed to go on around us, the Lord Jesus is still our only hope.  To whom else would we go?  He alone has the words & the promise of eternal life.  He alone has saved us from the eternal consequences of our sin.  Our trials last for a moment; Jesus & His salvation lasts for eon upon eon.  In whatever circumstance you find yourself, cry out to the Lord!

Joel 2

  • The day of the Lord described (2:1-11)

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand: 2 A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, The like of whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many successive generations.

  • If it seems as if the scene changes somewhat, it does.  Again, there is debate regarding the interpretation of chapter 2.  Some scholars insist that all of this still describes the intense destruction brought upon by the swarm of locusts.  Yet it is almost certainly describing something far more fierce.  Locust swarms could surely look like clouds on the horizon, but locust swarms are relatively common.  What is described here is something unique.  This spoke of an invasion, “the like of whom has never been, nor will there ever be.”  This describes something unparalleled in history, even allowing the use of figurative language.  It seems far better to see this description of “the day of the LORD” as the actual day of the Lord.
  • With that in mind, does this speak of the approach of the glory of God (i.e. the thick clouds)?  Probably not.  Joel specifically mentions “a people,” i.e. an army that would approach Jerusalem.  Their numbers would be so vast that they would seem like clouds approaching on the horizon.  One could easily imagine rising smoke from the battlefield & weaponry, and the kind of darkness that would descend would be terrible.  This could easily describe the ancient Babylonian armies, but there will also be future armies that come against Jerusalem.  There’s the war of Gog & Magog (Ezekiel 38) – there’s the persecution of God’s people by the serpent (Rev 12) – there’s the field of Armageddon (Rev 16,19).  It’s difficult to identify this particular battle with precision, but it certainly describes something far bigger than a bunch of locusts!
  • How powerful will this army be?  They will leave a wake of devastation.  Vs. 3…

3 A fire devours before them, And behind them a flame burns; The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, And behind them a desolate wilderness; Surely nothing shall escape them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like swift steeds, so they run. 5 With a noise like chariots Over mountaintops they leap, Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, Like a strong people set in battle array.

  • The key phrase: “nothing shall escape them.”  However beautiful the land might be in front (“like the Garden of Eden”), it is left a burning rubble behind them.  There is no earthly defeat of this army, and those looking on from Jerusalem will tremble at their approach.  Not only is there the visual flame, but there is the audible noise.  All of the senses are assaulted as this enemy army comes near.
  • Again, there are several ways of interpreting this army: past Babylonians, past post-exile armies, or future Tribulation armies.  The futuristic interpretation is rather intriguing, especially in light of the description of having a “noise like chariots,” and leaping “over mountaintops.”  Surely that could describe something from the past, but it very easily fits the description of modern-day helicopters. 
  • As the army approaches, soon enough it comes to attack.  Vs. 6…

6 Before them the people writhe in pain; All faces are drained of color. 7 They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like men of war; Every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks. 8 They do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, They are not cut down. 9 They run to and fro in the city, They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter at the windows like a thief.

  • Imagine a city (likely Jerusalem) being completely overrun.  The enemy soldiers are disciplined, yet overwhelm the city walls almost like the locusts hanging upon every building.  Modern Jerusalem is not completely surrounded by walls (though ancient walls do persist in certain parts of the city), but it is not difficult to conceive of a future day when walls are rebuilt as protection.  Even so, there is nothing about the city as it stands right now that could not be totally fulfilled in this prophecy.  This speaks of a total invasion, in which the city is overwhelmed.

10 The earth quakes before them, The heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, And the stars diminish their brightness. 11 The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?

  • Not only will there be the approaching armies, but there will be signs in the heavens as well.  Again, it needs to be said that this could be figurative language indicating the darkness of the locust swarm, but it is highly doubtful that the original readers would have understood it that way.  The original readers would have understood Joel to be writing of the terrible day of the Lord, with His full approach of judgment – something which even the heavens would fear.  This invasion was no mere battle brought on by just another army; this was an army led by the Lord God Himself (vs. 11).  God has not hesitated to use heathen forces for His purposes in the past, and He will not hesitate to do it again in the future.  The war of Gog & Magog provides a clear example of the Lord doing exactly that: drawing a nation out to war against Jerusalem, while eventually destroying them in judgment. (Eze 38:4, 39:5)
  • Will it be terrifying?  Yes.  Will it mean the end of Israel?  No.  God will preserve His people – a point that will be driven home in the 2nd half of Joel.  God promised to truly bless His people, and they will indeed be blessed.  But the reality of His judgment needed to first be clearly proclaimed.  The salvation of God is rarely appreciated when the wrath of God is not understood.
    • This is one reason why the law & the gospel to hand-in-hand.  The law is our tutor to bring us to Christ. (Gal 3:24-25)  How so?  The law shows us our sin, which shows us our judgment, which shows us our need to be saved…and that takes us to the feet of Jesus.  We have to understand the bad news if we are to ever understand the good news.
    • That’s what is happening here in Joel.  The bad news of judgment is being clearly proclaimed – which will make the good news of God’s blessing all the better.
  • So how will God’s people experience that blessing?  They will need to repent…
  • God’s invitation to repent (2:12–17)

12 “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”

  • The invitation is clear!  In light of all the wrath that is sure to come, repent!  Turn around, turn back to the Lord.  Go to Him in sincere repentance, being truly remorseful over the sins of the past.  God doesn’t want a quick “I’m sorry,” and then back-to-business.  (You wouldn’t want that either!)  God wants real repentance, where a person not only feels remorse over the consequences of his/her sin, but feels remorse over the sin itself.  He wants us to realize just how bad it was & for our hearts to break over it, just as His was by our actions when we grieved Him.  And after the remorse, there is a turning – a returning to the Lord.  We had walked away from Him to do our own will, and now we are to turn around and walk with Him once again.  Not in pride, demanding our forgiveness & restoration as if God’s promises of grace were some sort of right for us to claim, but in true humility, symbolized here by the fasting, weeping, and mourning.
  • Is this what your repentance looks like?  If not, why?  May God break our hearts over our sin!  May we see it for what it truly is: a nail in the hand of Jesus – a thorn in His brow – a strike of the whip on His back.  Those were the things our Jesus suffered on our account, and that’s exactly why it’s so serious.  Mourn your sin, and turn back to the Lord in humility!

13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him— A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?

  • God is good!  We fear the Lord in reverence, and our attention is often gained by consequences & discipline – but we don’t repent because of God’s acts of punishment; we repent because of His goodness.  Our hearts are to be rent in true contrition – something far better than mere acts and lip service of ritual & custom.  But the only way that happens is when we see God for who He is in His goodness.  People who don’t know the Lord in truth will repent out of fear of punishment, but that’s not a repentance that lasts.  Israel was guilty of that during the days of the judges.  They’d get into sin, be turned over by God to their enemies, would do some repentance, be delivered…and then they’d start right over again, each consecutive cycle getting worse.  Why?  Because they were repenting for the wrong reasons.  What’s the right reason?  Remember the goodness of God!  “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”  His goodness is fully revealed to us in the Lord Jesus.  We remember what He has done for us, and we cannot help but surrendering ourselves to Him in humility.
  • As for Israel, they had the opportunity to repent, and perhaps even escape additional judgment.  It is reminiscent of the Ninevites during the ministry of Jonah.  They were told of the impending judgment of God, and despite no hope of deliverance being offered to them, they still decided to trust God’s goodness & mercy.  Jonah 3:9, "Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?"  The Ninevites experienced the mercy of God, and the same opportunity was open to the Jews.  All they needed to do was take it.
    • Is it ever too late to repent?  No!  We might not be able to avoid all our earthly consequences, but it is never too late for us to be reconciled with God.  As long as we draw breath, we still have the chance.  It may take our pride being broken – it will take humility & honesty (something not everyone is willing to give) – but the opportunity is there.  It can be done. 

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; 16 Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

  • Notice the echoes of 1:14.  The instructions hadn’t changed.  The nation was still called to corporate repentance, and God told them how it could be done.  It wasn’t just one or two people who needed to turn to the Lord; it was all of them.  The nation had to be gathered with one mind and one heart to seek their God…something difficult, but not impossible.  All it took was a people understanding the goodness of their covenant God, and being together in one accord.
  • Is this impossible?  By human standards yes – by the power of the Holy Spirit, no.  Does this not describe revival?  This is something for which we can (and ought) to pray!
  • The people were to seek God, and the priests were to pray for them as they did so.  Vs. 17…

17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”

  • This is basic intercession.  This is what the priests should have been doing all along, but sadly were not.  They could have been praying for their people for generations.  It wasn’t too late to start.
    • Nor is it for us.  How often do you pray for the lost to be saved?  For the Church to have revival?  May we be those who weep for them – that we could cry out to the Lord on their behalf!
  • The prayer itself is interesting, as it is an appeal to God’s greatness.  It is not a prayer based on the worthiness of the people, nor of the priests (there is none!); it’s a prayer based on God’s glory.  His own fame is the issue, with the prayer being that the nations of the world would know the reality of the God of Israel. 

It began with mournfulness over the consequences of sin – it looked ahead to more consequences certain to come – but it wasn’t too late to repent.  The time had come for the alarm to sound, for hearts to break, and for men & women to seek the Lord.  Israel still had the opportunity to do it, but it wasn’t an opportunity be wasted.

Likewise with us.  We have all experienced consequences that have come from sin…but it isn’t anything that needs to continue.  Thankfully, what we’ve experienced now will not follow us into eternity.  The cross & resurrection of Christ assures us of that!  But it is also the cross & resurrection of our Lord Jesus that ought to keep our hearts soft towards Him, and mournful over continued sin.

When aware of the need to repent, do it!  Don’t wait – don’t put it off. Be aware of the need, and act upon it. Listen to the alarm that’s been sounded, and seek the Lord.

  1. Michael Gonzalez says:

    Thank you for this, I am still reading through it.
    I will trust God for His timing and your words have been very helpful. Blessings in Him!
    Psalm 7:17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

  2. timburns says:

    Praise the Lord!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s