Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"God's plan for Judah and Jerusalem ... prepare to be amazed!"

Day #244

Scripture Reading:  Joel 1 - 3 …

While many try to "spiritualize" predictions of coming judgment made by the prophets or ignore them completely, God's Word speaks truth and everything that God has spoken through the prophets either HAS taken place or WILL take place.  God's judgment is about to fall on the earth as never before in the history of mankind and millions are "playing church," failing to warn those who make a mockery of God that all is not well in our world and within much of the visible church.

When Joel proclaims to the elders of Judah, "Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?" (1:2), he is not talking about something good, he is talking about judgment from God.  The land was being destroyed … "surely the joy of mankind is withered away" (1:12).  So Joel brings God's message:  "Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly.  …  For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty" (1:14-15).  God's judgment does not come unannounced. God sends His messengers to call people to repentance, but the message goes unheard by most because their hearts are hard and their minds are closed.

So God declares, "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 - a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness" (2:1-2).  The "day of the LORD" WILL come.  The earth will shake, the sky will tremble, the sun and moon will be darkened and the voice of the LORD will thunder at the head of His army (2:10-11).  "The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful.  Who can endure it?" (2:11).  Still God called to those who were given "ears to hear":  "Even now, return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love" (2:12-13).

A small number, a remnant, heard God's voice and confessed their sin and received His forgiveness, trusting God's promises, but the nation around them was destroyed.  God speaks through Joel of another time … a time when He will bring blessing to Zion (Jerusalem) and to Judah and Israel.  "In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations … I will enter into judgment against them" (3:1-2).

You and I may promise things and forget what we have promised or have insufficient power to make our promises happen … but not God.  God says that He will "repay you for the years the locusts had eaten" (2:25), the days when Jerusalem and Judah and Israel have been oppressed.  "You will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you … then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other" (2:26-27).  Then Joel speaks about the time when the Spirit of God will be poured out on all people – meaning some from every nation (2:28).

God will bring the nations into Israel (not a stretch of the imagination!) and there He will pour out His wrath.  He even singles out "Tyre and Sidon” (Lebanon) and "regions of Philistia" (the Gaza strip), declaring, "I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done" (3:4).  God does not forget how the nations treated Israel in the past … or in the present. "There I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.  Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.  Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full" (3:12-13).  We know this is yet future because the Apostle John writes of a future "harvest" of the earth in Revelation 14:18-19, as the angel swings his sickle on the earth and throws the armies of the nations "into the great winepress of God's wrath."  It is only in the context of hearing the judgment we deserve that we rejoice in the grace and compassion and mercy of God in sending us a Savior who is Christ the Lord!!

"The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.  The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble … BUT the LORD will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the people of Israel" (3:16).  In a future day God will stand for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the nations of the world come against them.  All that is predicted in the prophets will take place, as God has spoken.  "Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill.  Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her" (3:17).  This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled … but it will be.  "Egypt will be desolate, Edom (southern Jordan) a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah" (3:19).

But "Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon … the LORD dwells in Zion!" (3:21).  God promises that "everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls" (2:32).

Have you called on the name of the LORD?  Have you placed your faith in the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … the God who makes promises and keeps them?!!  The "day of the LORD" is approaching swiftly, when God will pour out His just judgment upon all mankind, and only those who have found refuge in the mercy of God in Jesus will be spared.  Pray with me for the Word of God to bear fruit until we hear the trumpets sound and the "day of the LORD” begins.  God has promised that we who believe will not face His wrath (I Thessalonians 5:9).  Praise God for His grace and live to worship Him, for He is worthy!! God has a plan for Judah and Jerusalem ... prepare to be amazed!!

"LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, I thank You for revealing Your plan for Israel and for the world in Your Word.  As I witness the rise of evil all around me, I take refuge in Your promises that evil will be overcome in the day of the LORD, as Your judgment falls upon those who do not know You and who do not acknowledge the reign of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Keep me strong as I rest in the truth of Your Word, that I may fight against evil and call others to repent, to turn to You and find that Your grace is sufficient.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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