A poll was conducted of 1,500 Americans, and they were asked what was most on their minds. A large majority of them had this question, when will the world end? When will the world end?
If you were to go online, as I did this week, and typed in on just one search engine, end of the world, I discovered over six million hits, including this interesting letter from somebody who was perturbed with the notion. Hello, I'd like to rant about a growing suspicion that the world is coming to an end. Just the other day my best friend of 12 years called me from some mountain in Colorado to tell me they're stockpiling guns in preparation for Armageddon. She told me I'm crazy, and I should flee Babylon. I'm a little disturbed by this.
Ever since the beginning of the world, people have wondered about the end of the world. When will the world end? In fact, there's an entire study of theology that is devoted to the study of end times from the Greek word éschata, which means the end or the finale.
Eschatology is the study of end things, end events, end times. The prophet Joel will speak to us about the end of the world, the end times. The day of the Lord, he will call it.
A period of history toward the end when God will bring a final reckoning upon this world. However, Joel will look at that end of the world, that day of the Lord through a lens of something local, something immediate. And he will take something local and something immediate that was happening in Judah, the southern kingdom, and he'll take that template, and then march forward, and see something that is far off and global.
A few years ago, I had to get special glasses for people who are in my age bracket.
I discovered that my eyes weren't what they used to be, that I could take small print at one time and I could read anything. And as time marched on, I was pretty good with it. And when I got into my 40s, I thought no problem. I think I'll lick this thing. But there came a day when my eyes weren't as elastic in the focal length as they once were.
So they gave me these glasses. I have contacts. But when I wear the glasses they are graduated focal lengths, so that in one lens I can see something up close at the bottom of the lens and then far away at the top of the lens, and there's graduated focal lengths in-between. You may want to picture the book of Joel like wearing those glasses.
He will look up close and immediate first at a plague of locusts that hit the southern territory of Judah and would decimate that whole country. Nothing was like it that they ever knew before that. And then he will take that, and he will lift up his eyes to the horizon, and see out the top end of the glasses, and see something that is yet future.
Joel prophesied in about the ninth century B.C. He is down in Judah. He is not up in Israel as was Hosea, but he is down in the southern kingdom of Judah prophesying. Because he was prophesying in the 800s, the ninth century B.C, he no doubt was aware, and perhaps even knew personally or at least met Elijah the prophet, and the one who took over for Elijah, Elisha.
It was a dark, dark time up in the north, even darker than down south. And God always has his witnesses. So those two were up north while he was down south.
And so in chapter one, verse one, the word of the Lord that came to Joel, Joel yo el means Yahweh is God, or is the Lord. The son of Pethuel. We don't know anything more about Joel than this.
No background is given, not about where he was from, where he traveled, his parentage, other than his father's name, Pethuel. That's all we know about him. And so the only thing we have is about what is mentioned in this chapter, what he sees in the events of Jerusalem, and what's going on in that southern kingdom.
Hear this you elders, give ear, all you inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it. Let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
We're going to discover that an unusual plague of locusts had attacked the land. Now, locusts were and are common in that part of the world. But this was an unusual swarm of locusts.
Again, unlike anything that had ever happened that they had ever seen. And Joel sees this from the Holy Spirit as a judgment of God on their land, a wake up call you might say. He will say to the drunkards, he will say to the farmers, he will even say to the priests, the alarm has gone off. Watch this, be aware of this, the judgment is coming.
And then that local plague of locusts will be a harbinger, a forerunner of a future great, terrible event unlike anything in human history called the Day of the Lord. Look at verse three, tell your children about it. And then their children, their kids, etc. Most information in those days was by oral transmission, parents teaching children, those children growing up and hearing those stories in the home, and they would tell their children, etc.
If you wanted to know the news, you would go to the gate of the city. And you would sit with the elders. And the elders would have downloaded information from travelers and merchants from different parts of the community, different parts of the world, and would transmit the news to you.
They didn't have newspapers. They didn't have internet, as we know. This was exactly the way the Lord instructed fathers to teach their children in Deuteronomy chapter six.
God would reveal his truth to them, his law to them. Then the Lord said, instruct these things to your children, pass them on. Let it impress their hearts and their minds, so that the children will hear from their parents about God in their generation. And then they'll hunger to experience God in their own generation.
When my son, Nathan, was young, and I was observing the way he would listen and react to certain situations, I discovered that as a young boy he liked to imagine himself as a character. So if he heard a story, or a story was told to him, or if he saw some cartoon, he wanted to become the character.
So I developed a little teaching tool for Nathan when he was quite young. And I called it say, play, and pray. We would say the story, or we would read the story in the Bible.
Then we'd put the book down, and we would choose characters. And we would each become a character. And Nathan loved to act it out.
And then after he acted it out with me, or with us, or as many as we had around, then we would pray about one particular thrust of the message, one application point to our hearts. And he loved that. When I would come home every evening, daddy, let's do say, play, and pray. Now, I noticed a pattern with him that whenever there were parts of this story that had good guys and bad guys, he always wanted to be the good guy. And daddy was always the bad guy.
So if it was David and Goliath, he would be David, I would be Goliath. That fits. I'm taller than he is.
If it was Jesus and Judas, he would play Jesus. I would be Judas. If it was a swarm of locusts, he would be the nation or the prophet. And I would be the locus.
I'd always be the bad, but it impressed these Bible stories in his heart, on his mind, so that he would remember them. And he looked forward to that say, play, and pray. Tell them to your children.
What the chewing locusts left, the swarming locusts has eaten. What the swarming locusts left, the crawling locust has eaten. What the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.
There's a couple of different ways to view this. Some like to view this as four different kinds of locusts that came into the land. Others like to see it as four stages of the same locus, four stages of development.
I'm comfortable with that view. I think that's the best, that there are four stages that are seen. And each performing a function that the previous stage of locust were unable to fulfill or perform at that stage.
So sort of like a military operation. First you send in the bombers. Then you send in the artillery. Then the infantry. Then the mop-up up crew.
It was going to be something that would stick with that land for a long time, because it would be such a devastation. Awake, you drunkards and weep. And wail all you drinker's of wine, because of the new wine. For it has been cutoff from your mouth.
For a nation has come up against my land. Now here, he's looking toward the bottom part of the glasses. It's a locust nation. It's a swarm of these little insects that are crawling around the land, millions of them.
Strong and without number, his teeth are the teeth of a lion. He has the fangs of a fierce lion. He has laid waste my vine and has ruined my fig tree.
And you remember that sometimes in the Bible, in the Old Testament in particular, the vine, the vineyard, and the fig tree are both pictures of the nation of Israel. So yes, it destroyed the vineyards literally, but it destroyed the land figuratively as depicted by the vine and the fig tree. He has stripped it bear and thrown it away. Its branches are made white.
The last harvest of the year is the grape harvest. It's in the fall. So it would seem that these locusts came from the north and maybe even affected the northern kingdom of Israel. We don't know.
But they came from the north, and we'll see why in a little bit. They swarmed over the southern kingdom of Judah in the fall. In the winter, there was a dormancy. They laid their eggs, and they came back in full number and then some in the spring time of the year.
We noticed in verse five that the first ones that are affected by this judgment were the drunk's, the alcoholics. Because just when those little grapes grew into grapes ready for harvest, that's when this blight came. That's when this destruction came. So there would be no wine for them to guzzle.
Nothing else has gotten their attention up to this point. This would. Their drug is gone.
This drug that they relied on to numb the feelings of life is gone. Wake up, you drunkards. Let this be a wake up call to you.
There is one type of locust that is called the short horned grasshopper that reproduces very rapidly, and it spreads quickly, and over long, long distances. It's about two inches long. It has a wingspan of four to five inches. And it travels in vertical columns of about 100 feet high and four miles long.
When it comes out, it looks like a total eclipse of the sun. It darkens the sky like a cloud. It's black.
And when it leaves, it leaves the earth as if it has been scorched by a brush fire. It takes all of the chlorophyll out of all of the green plants. And it's devastating.
There's a couple of these swarms of locusts on record that were very devastating. Back in the 1800s, mid to late 1800s, in North Africa in the country of Algiers, there was a plague of locusts so severe that about 200,000 people were killed by the famine that came as a result of this swarm of locusts that spread rapidly and lasted a long time. Then in the 1950s, 1951, over in the Middle East, there was another swarm of locusts that affected a large area of the Middle East and every green thing was devoured. And hundreds of thousands of square miles, it is said, were somehow affected and left barren.
Lament, verse eight. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering had been cut-off from the house of the Lord. The priest mourn who ministered to the Lord.
The field is wasted. The land mourns for the grain is ruined. The new wine is dried up. The oil fails.
So the grain, the wine, and the oil, three of the staple crops in that part of the world, would be affected. So the economy will be effected. The food supplies will be effected.
If the olive oil and the vine, the grapes, as well as the grain, that's going to effect a lot of their food supply, and their ability to function. Be ashamed you farmers. Wail, you vine dressers for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished.
So we're getting a broad picture of how effective this plague was in touching all of society from the lowest strata of society, the drunks, to the working class, the farmers, to even the priests in the temple. Because if the grain is effected, that means the meal offerings, the grain offerings, will also be diminished in the temple. And it will effect the worship in the house of the Lord.
Now, Joel has a point in all of this. He's looking to a natural phenomenon. They all knew about it.
Nothing has ever hit that land like that before, Joel will say. And with that he's going to point to a supernatural phenomenon. This is the hand of God, he says, in judgment. But this, the natural phenomena points to a supernatural time of judgment that will come in the future, as he will say in a few verses, is the day of the Lord. Here it affects all of their land.
Now Israel back then, especially, but even today loves to be integrated into its own land with the growing of the crops, et cetera. So when they were going from Egypt into the land of Canaan, the Lord told them. He said, the land that you're going into is not like the land of Egypt where you could water your vegetable gardens by these foot pumps out of the Nile River.
But the land of Israel is different in that it drinks water from heaven. If you're faithful to me, said the Lord, if you obey my principles and my laws, I'll make sure that you have abundance of crops, abundance of food, abundance in the vineyard, abundance out in the fields of grain, et cetera. But if you are unfaithful, and you disobey, and you disregard my laws, I'm going to keep it from raining, so that the spigot to the rain is in your control either by your sin or by your obedience. So it was a very, very different place from the land of Egypt. They would rely on the Lord and be called to trust in the Lord for their sustenance.
The vine has dried up. The fig tree has withered, the pomegranate tree, the palm tree, also, and the apple tree. All the trees of the field are withered.
Notice this part. Surely, joy has withered away from the sons of men. Gird yourselves and lament, you priests. Wail, you who minister before the altar. Come lie all night in sackcloth.
You know what sackcloth is. It's like-- well, imagine wearing a potato sack. Rough, itchy, a garment of lamenting. A garment of mourning.
You who ministered to my God for the grain offering and the drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. We mentioned that Israel was and is tied to their land. God gave to that land, to those people, his covenant people, seven feasts where God commanded them to rejoice, to have joy. And in their joy, to remember his greatness and his provision to them.
The only time God commanded them to go and fast was one day a year, the day they were to afflict their souls it is called. That is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. But the rest of the time, God wanted to make sure that there would be this national celebration. And they would thank God for his provision in their land.
I've been to Israel on a few of their feasts. First time I went was their feast of Tabernacles. And then, Pentecost, as they were celebrating what was brought in from the fields and holding up baskets of fruits and vegetables. And they were whirling around and giving praises to the Lord.
And I'll tell you what, nobody throws a party like they do in Israel when it comes to these feasts of the Lord, the joy that they celebrate with. And so many times when we even went over at Independence Day, and there was partying out in the streets, they weren't drunken parties. There weren't drugs. There were psalms of praise going on nationally. Very impressive.
They were to give thanks to the Lord for his great goodness to them. But here it says, surely, joy has withered away from the sons of men. So all of those fees that they were to joy in, they can't experience that joy, because there's no produce.
This is a time of wailing. This isn't a time of joy, because they're experiencing judgment not blessing. But it is God's intention that his children, his people, us experience the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
It's sad that somewhere along the lines throughout history people began to connect Christianity with being very sad, and somber, and even angry, dressing in black, and looking very serious. And the more furrows you had in your brow, the more spiritual you must be, rather than the joy of the Lord. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, I would have entered the ministry, except most of the clergymen I know looked like undertakers.
On one occasion, Robert Louis Stevenson went to church and wrote in his diary, I went to church today, and I'm not depressed, as if that was monumental. That's not what God intended. He intended a relationship whereby God would bless us, and we would return and worship, and there would be that joy of relationship.
I'll never forget the time I came here to Calvary Chapel in the tent and saw our pastor. And well, you know how he smiles. It lights up a room.
In fact, a guy from the Billy Graham Association who used to speak at our church in Albuquerque said, Pastor Chuck Smith has a 500 watt smile. Aren't you glad for that portrayal of a relationship with God, rather than the gloominess, and the sadness, and the austerity. Don't you love the Hawaiian shirts and the smile, the joy of the Lord.
Well, verses one through 13 was contemplation over what God was doing, what it all meant. Now lamentation fills the remainder. Consecrate a fast, call it sacred assembly, gather the elders, all the inhabitants of the land, into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. When the children of Israel came back from captivity-- now this is way before the captivity-- this is the prophet standing up saying, it's time to fast, and mourn, and wail, because God is sending his judgment.
What these locusts are, it's going to be far worse in the future. So he calls for a fast. When the children of Israel were taken into captivity there in Babylon, and when they returned from Babylon and came back to Judah, they started the weekly fasting.
And they meant it from the heart, I believe. If you read their literature, they wanted to make sure that what happened with the captivity wouldn't happen again. So they legitimately sought the Lord.
But that kept going on, so that by the time the New Testament opens up and the time of Jesus, we find scribes and pharisees just going through the motions of the fast. In fact, there were two days on which they fasted in the New Testament, Tuesdays and Thursdays, which just happened to be the market days when there were more people in the marketplace going to and fro than anybody else. Very interesting, because they could put white powder on their faces and look really sickly.
And they would fast those days, so people would notice their fasting. And Jesus called that kind of behavior hypocritical. Don't be like the hypocrites when you fast who make up a display of it. And they want to show you as they disfigure their faces.
Well verse 15, alas for the day. For the day of the Lord is at hand. It shall come as a destruction from the all mighty.
Now, the theme of the day of the Lord is introduced here. It's mentioned five times in this book of Joel. It is mentioned 26 times altogether in the Bible. It is a major theme of the Bible.
What was local and immediate for Judah would be global and ultimate going from the bottom part of the glasses to the top part looking way out into the future. And it would include all nations. When you hear the term the day of the Lord, don't think of a 24 hour period, but think of a long period of time that is going to take place in the future after the rapture of the church, on through that great tribulation, and then ushering into the kingdom age. Today, this is not the day of the Lord. That's pretty obvious. This isn't it.
This is man's day, you might say. We're having our Hay Day. Our Foray with our own autonomy and independence. We're making choices.
The Bible calls this the times of the gentiles. We're trying to make our own mark. But there's going to come a time when the day of man will be put aside.
The day of Christ, mentioned four times in the New Testament, when he comes for his church ushers us into heaven, we stand before the bema seat of Christ, and are rewarded for our faithfulness on earth. And that will usher in the day of the Lord, a period of judgment that will end with Armageddon, and usher us into the kingdom age. By the way, we're to pray for that.
We're to pray, thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth, even as it is in heaven. That prayer will be answered when he sends the day of the Lord and cleans up the sin on this earth, judges the world in dramatic ways. And then ushers in the kingdom age.
And then when that's done, what is only in fairy tales will be a reality. And they lived happily ever after. The day of the Lord will bring that in. It will be terrible. It will be a time of judgment, but what it brings in will be awesome.
Notice this in the same verse, verse 14, or verse 15, it shall come as destruction from the all mighty. God will send that tribulation. Now the tribulation that comes from the almighty and the tribulation that comes as a part of living in this fallen world that comes its origin from Satan are two different kinds of tribulation.
So when people tell you, well, the church is going through the tribulation, oh, no, we're not. In the world we'll have tribulation, but the tribulation that God sends, Revelation chapter 6 through 19, that horrible time of judgment, is unparalleled. And the difference is in the origin.
Verse 16, is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God. The seed shrivels under the clod, store houses are in shambles, barns are broken down for the grain has withered. How the animal's grown. The herds of the cattle's are restless, because they have no pasture. Even the flocks of the sheep suffer punishment.
Oh, Lord, to you I cry out. For fire has devoured the open pastures. And a flame has burned all of the trees of the field. The beasts of the field also cry out to you for the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the open pastures.
These locusts had a scorched earth policy. They took out everything, total decimation, utter destruction. Every piece of green chlorophyll plant blade of grass was licked clean.
So if you were to look at an area that had been swarmed by locusts, again, it would look scorched. It would look burned, as if a fire had come through. So the day of the Lord introduced will now be further developed and detailed in chapter two.
We go from general to specific from chapter one and chapter two. And the details of the day of the Lord are given to us. As we get into chapter two, let me plant a thought in your mind.
Joel is describing something yet future, and he is describing a time of warfare. If you were living in those days, and you were given some kind of vision, some indication from God, you were able to see into the future, the modern warfare, the techniques, the armaments that we have, if you were to describe in literary form modern warfare, what would you write? How would you describe it?
It would probably look very similar to how Joel described it. Keep in mind he had never seen tanks, and helicopters, and 50 millimeter guns, and the like. He saw horses, and chariots, and bows, and arrows. And so for his ability to describe, it's a tremendous job. And so he may be describing modern day warfare.
Blow the trumpet. Literally, the shofar, the ram's horn. Blow the trumpet in Zion. And sound an alarm on my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble for the day of the Lord is coming for it is at hand.
Now you remember that to signal the people of Israel, they use the trumpet. And the blowing of the trumpet, the number of blows of that horn, the pitch, the manner, would signify different messages. So you could blow it once and you'd assemble the elders. You could blow it twice, you'd assemble all the people.
You blow it in a different way, the western camp would move. Blow it in a different way the eastern camp would move, etc. Here is the blowing of the trumpet of alarm, as if somebody would be on the walls of the city saying, uh-oh, troubles a coming, and they sound the trumpet of alarm.
So verse two, 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.
Again, keep in mind the perspective looking through the glasses up close, far away. Joel is saying, hey, remember those locusts. We've never seen anything like that plague around with these parts, have we?
Well, there's going to come a time in history that will be unmatched, unparalleled. No other time can be like it. Daniel spoke about this coming judgment in much the same way. And of course Jesus described it in that same manner.
Jesus said, Matthew 24, then there will come and be a great tribulation such as not been since the beginning of the world until this time no nor ever shall be. Some people might hear that and say, well, how bad could it really be? I mean, things are bad now.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11. The devastation in the southern parts of the United States, New Orleans, and that whole area. The tsunami overseas. The recent earthquake in Afghanistan. How bad could that be?
Really, really bad. There is no other event or set of events as detailed in the scripture as the day of the Lord. More space is given to it, even more than the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Again, on your own, if you're not familiar, go look over those judgments in Revelation chapter six through 19. Earthquakes, famine, death, destruction, a third of mankind being killed, another fourth of mankind being killed, the fresh water being destroyed, plant life being destroyed, the whole world in upheaval, so much so that the people will cry out for the rocks to cover them. The wrath of the lamb will be unleashed.
Now Paul says about the day of the Lord in first Thessalonians, the day of the Lord will come as a thief. That is unexpectedly. And here's why.
Because what's going to come before the day of the Lord is the rapture of the Church. We'll be taken up immediately, unannounced. No man knows the day or the hour. The church will be gone.
Then comes the 70th week of Daniel you'll remember. And though some will say peace, peace, God says, there will be no peace. For that latter part of that time period will be the worst that human history has ever seen. Amos describes the day of the Lord as we'll see in chapter five with these words, woe to you who desire the day of the Lord.
For what good is the day of the Lord to you? Is not the day of the Lord darkness and not light? Is it not very dark with no brightness in it? Jeremiah 46:10, for this is the day of the Lord, God of Hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge himself on all of his adversaries.
So it's going to be really, really bad. And the details are given here. And more details are given in other parts of the scripture.
Let's take it down in verse three. A fire devours before them. 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. Their appearance is like the appearance of a horse. And like this swift steeds, so they run.
If you've ever watched the nature channel, or the National Geographic Channel, and especially if you ever get to see it in high definition. I was in a store once, and they were hosting these high definition TVs. And they had a nature program on. Stunning.
If you've ever seen a lateral side view of a locust head up close where the camera zooms in with a macroscopic lens and fills the frame, the head has a striking resemblance to that of a horse. In fact, in several languages the term for locust is very close to the term of horse. In German, the translation of their word for locus is horse of the hay, because of the appearance of their head. It looks so much like a horse.
So let's just toy with that idea for a moment. Since this plague of locusts predicts a future event, this being an unparalleled plague pointing to yet unparalleled time of human history, our minds are piqued, because there are four stages of these locus in chapter one. And when we turn to the Book of Revelation and we see the tribulation unfolding, we have four horses. The four horsemen of the apocalypse.
We have a black one, a red one. We have the white one at first. And then we have that pale colored one.
And they all bring in different types of destruction that hit the earth. And then we go on further to that fifth trumpet in chapter nine of the Book of Revelation. A star fell from heaven. And the star unlocked the abusso, the bottomless pit. And out of it came these locusts swarms.
Let's call them designer locusts. Unbelievable power to inflict torment upon the earth for five months not to kill anything, not even to harm any green thing on the earth. Sort of counter-intuitive to the nature of a locust. But to torment those who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads.
So these designer locusts, these demons of hell, belch out of the abusso tormenting men upon the earth. And nothing will help. You can call Orkin. You can call all of the people who deal with these varmints, these critters. Nothing will help.
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. Before them the people writhing in pain. All faces are drained of color.
They run like mighty men. They climb the wall like men of war. Everyone marches in formation. And they do not break ranks.
You remember Proverbs 30 describes these, or uses as an example, locus who have no King, yet they march or they stay in ranks. And calls them some of the things that are wise upon the earth, the locust. They do not push one another. Everyone marches in his own column.
Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. 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.
The earth quakes before them. The heavens tremble. The sun and the moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness.
The Lord gives voice before his army. And you notice a difference here. There's this army coming.
It's awesome. It's terrible. It invades Israel.
And part of the description is it comes from the north. And again, they're awesome. Some people have imagined that this is Armageddon, but there's another possibility.
Because they come from the north, again, a flag goes up. A red light goes off. We think back to easy Eziekel chapter 38 when the description of the northern army of Magog is very similar to this description here. It covers the land. It covers the earth like a cloud, like a swarm.
But verse 11 shows a contrast between that army and God's army. The Lord gives voice before his army. For his camp is very great.
We do need, I believe, to see more of the power of God to deliver than the power of the enemy to inflict. One of the problems we have as Christians is we're so worried about the devil. You say, well, we should be worried. He's our enemy.
Actually, you and I are incidental in the battle. The real enemy of the devil is Jesus Christ. Now you could flatter yourself and say, oh, the devil, Satan himself, is against me.
You're just incidental in the battle. The only reason he would even get to you or want to get to you is because you are related to Jesus Christ, his arch enemy. That's the one he really wants to offend and hurt.
But we should be looking at the power of God to deliver his army. So many Christians get so worried. Oh, but 1/3 of the angels fell with Satan.
But that means 2/3 are left over. The good guys, those who are ministers to those of us who are heirs of salvation. Hey, they're out numbered, man.
Greater is he who is in you than he that is in the world. Here's the Lord's army. 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? That is the question the prophet asks and looking at the devastation. Who can endure the day of the Lord?
It was the Lord Jesus who said, unless those days be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened. Now therefore says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.
So rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious, and merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, and he relents from doing harm. 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. To rend or to tear the garment you'd begin up at the collar. You'd take the robe, and you tear it in times of a great catastrophe, the death of a loved one, a national disaster, rending the garments. It was a display of emotion.
But like all displays of emotion, it can become mechanical. So you go to a funeral, oh, yeah, I brought my tearing garment. I sewed it up from the last funeral. You rip it.
National catastrophe, oh, yes, time that you rip the garment. So it just could become something that really doesn't come from the heart, doesn't affect the heart. It's just like so many outward displays, it becomes a ritual.
But God says, as God always does, I'm about the heart, the real you, what's inside of you, your motives, your master passion, so rend your hearts and not your garments. And here it is, return to the Lord your God. And here's why.
Here's why the heart should be affected. Here's why we should turn to the Lord. And now Joel goes back to Exodus 34, something he was very familiar with.
The name of God as God revealed himself to Moses and the children of Israel, for he is gracious and merciful, he is slow to anger, and of great kindness. When the Lord was revealing himself to and through Moses, he said, and he introduced himself that he was the Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, abounding in goodness and truth, and keeping mercy for thousands, and forgiving iniquity.
The Lord does not want to use judgment to get people's attention. He would love to just be able to have them hear about his love and have them turn instantly. Their heart is warmed and they go, oh, yes, I will respond.
He is not willing that any should perish. God isn't some big ogre who loves to throw judgment on the earth and watch people suffer. It's not like God is just waiting for the tribulation period, so he can do all those things in Revelation. He doesn't want that. He doesn't like that, but because some will not listen any other way,
God takes it to the next level, to DEFCON 4. He raises it to bring our attention into view. Some people are just strong-willed. I think of the difference between, say, the prophet Samuel to whom God could just say, Samuel.
And eventually, he got the hang of it. Speak, Lord, your servant hears. To others who were more hard-hearted, hard-headed, Jonah, go to Nineveh. No. In fact, I'll go in the opposite direction.
As you please. If you don't want to hear my voice this way, I can speak through a lot of different ways. And when you're down in the mouth, you'll listen to my voice. So here's God's heart turned to him returned to him. Come from the heart to the Lord. Who knows if he will turn, and relent, and leave a blessing behind him.
Several years ago, I had a good friend. I saw such potential in him as an Evangelist. He wasn't afraid of anybody. He'd walk out to any crowd on the street, and walk up to them, and say, excuse me, do you people here know Jesus Christ?
And he would share the gospel. He didn't care if they persecuted him, if they yelled at him, and a lot results. As time went on, I watched him rend his garments, but not his heart.
He left his first love. He toyed with the things of the world. I'll never forget one afternoon when I was living in San Bernardino and Tony knocked on my door, and his arm was in a sling. He had pinched his radial nerve in lifting a sack of heavy cement, so that he could not move his hand. It was in a pinched position. And he now wanted to seek the Lord and hear what God had to say to him.
He showed up at my door in tears weeping. We prayed together. We had glorious fellowship.
And he said, I'm just going to serve the Lord now. The Lord, I feel, used this to get my attention. And then just to top it off to show Tony what kind of a God he was, the Lord did a wonderful thing that night. We were both falling asleep in my little apartment, and as I was laying in bed I said, Lord, nothing's too hard for you.
And just even right now is Tony's sleeping, or about to go to sleep, you could touch his arm, and you could heal him. That would be wonderful if you'd just heal him, Lord. Now, I'm saying this as I'm dozing off.
I'm going into my alpha sleep. My eyes are opening and closing. And I started to fade off to sleep.
Suddenly, Tony jumped out of bed, turned on the lights, and just so excited, in tears, moving his hand freely like this. The Lord had touched him. The Lord had healed him.
And it was as if the Lord was saying, Tony, I just needed to get you back. I wanted to grab a hold of your life. I want to use you. And here, I want to bless you on top of that. That's the kind of God we serve.
Who knows, says the prophet, if the Lord will turn and leave a blessing. So hey, I say listen to the Lord. Now if you say no, then just be warned, God can take you on.
He's not intimidated. He's gone after a lot stronger in the past than you and gotten ahold of them. Blow the trumpet, verse 15, blow the trumpet or the shofar again. And Zion, consecrate a fast.
Call a sacred assembly. Gather the people. Sanctify the congregation.
Assemble the elders. Gather the children and the nursing babes. Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.
Let the priests who minister to the Lord weep between the porch and the altar. That's in the Temple of Confines. 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. So there's the trumpet once again, the trumpet of repentance or alarm, telling the people that come back.
And saying in effect, look, stop everything in normal life and pay attention to this. From farm life to wedding life to life in the temple, listen to what God is saying. Then, the Lord will be zealous for his land and pity his people.
Now beginning in this verse on through, we're going to see more of an emphasis on the restoration of the land. The Lord will answer and say to his people, behold, I will send you grain, and new wine, and oil. And you will be satisfied by them. I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.
But I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land. With his face toward the eastern sea, that is the Dead Sea, and his back toward the Western sea, that is the Mediterranean Sea, his stench will come up. And his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things.
It is supposed that this swarm of locusts came from the north and swept from the north into Judah. But once again, that was the immediate and the local that spoke of the ultimate and the global. The bottom part of the glasses look forward to that upper part of the glasses, the future.
And notice the army comes from the north. So Ezekiel 38 talks about God putting hooks in the jaws of that northern army and her allies, Gog, Magog, Tubal, etc, and bringing them down into Israel. What will the hook of those jaws be? Probably, the link with Islam.
So many of these nations that have forged relationships with Islamic nations and are Muslim nationally, and they have a common hatred. None of them want Israel to exist. To swarm Israel like locusts would be their joy if they knew they could get away with it. And one day they suppose they will.
But the Lord has his ways. The Lord will bring in his protection. And the Lord promises that he will come against those who come against Jerusalem in that battle.
And the Bible predicts, and it's interesting that it mentions here the Dead Sea, in Zechariah it predicts that they will be buried, well, Ezekiel does, and Zechariah ties in with Ezekiel, that the army that the Lord destroys who comes against Jerusalem will be buried, according to Ezekiel, for seven months downwind of the Dead Sea by professional burriers. So it's interesting that it says his stench will come up and his foul odor will rise. So I see all these prophecys just interfacing with each other.
Fear not ole land. Be glad and rejoice. For the Lord has done marvelous things.
Do not be afraid, you beast of the field. For the open pastures are springing up. The tree bears its fruit. The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Be glad then, you children of Zion. And rejoice in the Lord your God. For he has given you the former reign faithfully.
He will cause the rain to come down for you. The former rain is called the yoreh in Hebrew. It comes from the fall into the winter time, from October to December. And the latter rain, the malqosh in Hebrew that comes from February into the beginning of May, end of April beginning of May.
In the first months, the threshing floors shall be full of wheat. And the vat shall overflow with new wine and oil. So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts has eaten.
I love this promise. I've loved it for so long, because I've seen God take this principle and use it in so many lives. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locusts, consuming locusts, and the chewing locusts.
My great army, which I said set you, you shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord, your God, who has dealt wonderfully with you. My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel.
I am the Lord, your God. And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.
The enemy, Satan, and all of his minions, love to destroy. Jesus said, Satan comes to kill, to steal, and to destroy. And so a person receives Christ, the work of God gloriously begins to change that person. The person discovers, now I have not one nature, but two natures.
Not just the old me, the flesh, but the spirit. And the flesh wars against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. And they're caught right there in the middle.
And they understand, I must sow to the spirit, so that I might reap of the spirit blessing and everlasting life. Because if I said sow to the flesh, I can reap corruption. And it's sad to see Satan get his talons in the life of a person like my friend Tony for that period of time, and decimate, and destroy, and steal.
And then ultimately, leave that person hopeless to where that person thinks, mistakenly, I can never return to the Lord. The Lord would never use me again. How could what I had or did ever be restored?
Here's that great promise. Oh, swarms came in and destroyed stage after stage of locusts. I will restore the years that all of these locusts have taken away.
At whatever stage you are or whatever age you are in your Christian life, God will meet you right where you are. There's a glorious promise in Deuteronomy 4. The Lord describes, they're going into captivity. They're being taken away from the very land of promise.
And there they are, God will predict. In captivity, crying out to God. He says this, but if from there you seek the Lord, your God, you will find him if you look for him with all of your heart and all of your soul.
I like projects. I like to take on projects that look a little bit messy, but you can see through the mess on into the future of what it might be. Whether it's working on something that's an old vintage vehicle, or an old vintage piece of electronics, or a person. To look at a person.
This is how God looks at a person. Ow, if I can get a hold of that life. If they let me cooperate, what I can do. He loves it.
On Friday afternoons, I meet with a group of people who want to be in the ministry. And we take them through some of the great servants of God of the past. The life of Samuel Rutherford. The life of G. Campbell Morgan, Charles Spurgeon, Moody, and all these guys who have gone before.
We call it the dead pastors society. And we study their messages. And we look at their lives.
And then we apply it to our life. Some of these guys in this group, a lot of us, look at and would wonder, oh, that's rough material. Think of the disciples.
Talk about rough material. Hey, the Lord has chosen the foolish things of this world and the weak things to confound the wise. So wherever you're at, whatever Satan has stolen from you, at whatever stage or whatever age you might be, if from here you seek the Lord with all of your heart, God has so much in store. Life becomes an adventure.
And it will come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams. Your young men shall see visions.
And also on my menservants and my maid servants I will pour out my spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Paul quotes that in Romans 10:3, so it shows that the gospel of the New Testament has a good grounding in the promise of the Old Testament. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
After that horrible dark day of the Lord, the light comes. It's interesting that the Jewish day doesn't start in daylight. It starts in darkness.
It starts at sunset not sunrise. That's the beginning of their day. And the day begins in darkness, and then takes through the night into the dawn of the next day into the daylight, and closes off when the light ends.
So like that Jewish day that begins in darkness, the day of the Lord comes in darkness. But it will eventually result in a glorious day of promise. And what was local and immediate just like that locust plague looked into the future of judgment, so too at Pentecost. What was poured out upon the early church didn't fulfill an end, the promise that Joel gave, that the Lord gave through Joel, but it was the start of it.
The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church in Jerusalem there, as the Lord will pour out his spirit in a great wonderful way in the future. They experienced the beginning of it. And that was the subject of this morning's message, so we're going to move on.
Joel, chapter three, for behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them on account of my people, my heritage, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations. They have also divided up my land.
This final take, this final episode, the scene in chapter three, depicts not just Israel, but all of the nations, and their being judged by God on how they treated the nation of Israel during the day of the Lord, principally. Now verse three, they have cast lots for my people. They have given a boy as payment for a harlot and sold a girl for wine that they may drink. Some people make a mistake in seeing the future judgment as just one single episode that everybody past, present, future sort of stands in one big field, and God is they're hovering over them, and judging everyone. That isn't how the Bible reveals the judgments of God.
First of all, part of the judgment of God has passed. As a Christian tonight, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the judgment for our sin is past. John chapter five, Jesus said, whoever believes in me will not come into judgment, but passes from death into life.
So you're not going to stand before the Lord, and he's going to say, now, in 1972 you stole that candy bar. You're going to have four lashes for that. Your judgment for sin was taken upon Jesus Christ. It's past. It's over.
Second, there's a future judgment for Christians, but not a judgment for sin, not a judgment for salvation, but a judgment for rewards. And that's in second Corinthians five. It's the Bemas seat of Christ.
We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. That's where we are judged for our service to the Lord and the motivations for our service. Jesus said, well, done good and faithful servant, you've been faithful and a few things. I'll make you ruler over many. And that, I believe, will establish our position in the kingdom age. But it is not a judgment for sin or salvation.
Then there will also be a judgment for the nations in how they treated the people of Israel. Specifically, during that period of the day of the Lord. Did they cast their lot with antichrist who persecuted Israel? Did they cast their lot with the Lord, God, and stand for Israel?
And just in case any government officials are listening tonight and you have any say so in policy, be careful the decisions made regarding the nation of Israel. Are they perfect? No.
Does God have a covenant with them? Yes. And I thank God for our support of the nation of Israel as a country and how God, I believe, has honored that.
Then there will also be a future judgment for unbelievers, as we know, after the 1,000 years are ended. Notice here the valley of Jehoshaphat. We'll also see that mentioned as we go on in this chapter, and we'll make note of it then.
Indeed, what have you to do with me, oh, Tyre, and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistio? Will you retaliate against me? But if you retaliate against me, swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head.
Because you have taken my silver, my gold, and have carried into your temples my prized possessions, also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem you have sold to the Greeks that you may remove them far from their borders. Behold, I will raise them out of the place to which you have sold them. And I will return your retaliation upon your own head.
I will sell your sons and your daughters into the land of the people of Judah. And they will sell them to the Sabians. These are trading merchants of Saudi Arabia or Sheba, ancient times, Sabians, to a people far off, for the Lord has spoken. Now once again, God goes back to these two nations, Philistia and Phoenicia.
Both who rejoiced when Judah fell, rejoiced because of the trade, because of the money, the advantage they would take when Judah fell. They profited from it. Their past hatred and animosity toward the Jews was indicative of the future animosity and hatred toward the Jews that is coming in the future.
Proclaim this among the nations. Prepare for war. Wake up the mighty men.
Let all the men of war draw near. Let them you. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weak say, I am strong.
Now, that's a reverse of Isaiah chapter two, verse four where it is a promise that they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. In fact, that's over the United Nations entrance today. But before the spears, the weapons are turned into implements of peace, there will first be implements of war. Because great wars are coming in the future.
Magog that comes from the north. Armageddon later on toward the end of the tribulation period. Yes, there is peace that is coming. Yes, God is for peace.
But I do not see our world through rose colored glasses. And though you march for peace, and you picket for peace, and you shout peace, and have bumper stickers, visualize world peace, there will be no peace until Jesus Christ reigns and takes over. So the notion that, oh, well, we should all be pacifists, because we should all be about taking our swords and beating them into plowshares, as soon as you do that in this present world, you'll have somebody waiting, lurking in the shadows with a bigger sword.
And that's why our policy of maintaining force to enforce peace is a necessary evil in this fallen world until Jesus comes. When Jesus comes, there will be the beating of the swords into plowshares. Assemble and come all nations. Gather all around together.
Cause your mighty ones to go down there, oh Lord. Let the nations be wakened and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat. For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
Put in a sickle. The harvest is ripe. Come, go down for the wine press is full. The vats overflow. For their wickedness is great.
You may want to write in the margin of your Bible Revelation 19. The same imagery, the same metaphors are used as illustrations for judgment. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The valley of Jehoshaphat, we don't know where that is. Jehoshaphat speaks of judgment. It means Yahweh will judge. It could be that it refers to the Valley of Kidron in part.
We know when Jesus comes back at his second coming his foot is going to touch the Mount of Olives. It's going to cause a great earthquake. The mountain will move half to the north, half to the south, and a great valley will go from Jerusalem, and a stream will flow through that valley down to the Dead Sea, and heal the waters of the Dead Sea.
We know that at Armageddon the nations gather in that huge Valley of Megiddo, the Plain of Esdraelon, Jezreel, and they make their march toward Jerusalem. Jesus will come back and destroy those who come against Israel at that time, these nations that gather together. Look at verse 15. The sun and the moon will grow dark.
The stars will diminish their brightness. The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem. The heavens and the earth will shake, but the Lord will be a shelter for his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
The Bible also predicts that during this day of the Lord not only will the sun and the moon grow dark and the stars diminish, but Revelation says that the stars will fall from heaven and the heavens will grow dark. This week on Monday I was flying east and I flew over that Barringer Crater in Arizona. 600 feet deep, a mile wide, it sustained a force of about 123,000 pounds of rock that created it.
We know that God created the heavens and the earth, and by that power and the strength of Jesus Christ, he holds all things together, Colossians chapter one. There will come a time when he is going to let go of that. And during this day of the Lord, great catastrophes will fall upon the earth. Pandemonium will break out.
And I imagine all of those people that worship Mother Earth and celebrate Earth Day, and they have all these catastrophes, the water supplies have been contaminated, and people are dying and vegetation, and all of this catastrophe, and there they are having a summit and their meeting. And they think they've got stuff under control. And then another judgment comes upon.
Now, I know that a lot of people say, well, we've messed up our planet. Listen, if you think we've messed it up, wait until you see what God does with it. He will utterly destroy this environment.
So if you worship the false God of Mother Earth rather than Father God, there's a judgment coming. That's for some people their only hope, our Earth. God has better plans. He'll remake it. And then make a new heaven and a newer earth.
So you shall know that I am the Lord, your God, verse 17. Let's finish it up. Dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain.
Then Jerusalem shall be holy. And no alien shall ever pass through her again. And it will come to pass in that day that the mountain shall drip with new wine.
The hills shall flow with milk. The brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water. A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord and water of the Valley of the Acacias. The Valley of the Acacias, known in Arabic as Wadi al-Nar is a place where these trees grow.
It is part of the Kidron Valley, that's why we think Jehosaphat may be somehow related, that, that flows toward the Dead Sea. So that the new and improved larger valley made larger and improved by the footprint of Jesus Christ is this place where that river will flow from Jerusalem toward the Dead Sea. Egypt shall be a desolation, Eden a desolate wilderness, because of violence against the people of Judah. For they have shed innocent blood in their land.
But Judah shall abide forever in Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of the guilt and the bloodshed whom I had not acquitted. For the Lord dwells in Zion.
Aren't you glad the book ends with that phrase? All of the judgment, all of that destruction, and decimation as seen through the lens of that locust plague would end up with the greatest news of all, the Lord will dwell with his people. There was once a couple who went on a honeymoon. They were late to the hotel. They got the keys to the honeymoon suite.
They walked up, opened the door, and were sorely disappointed, because they saw a very small room. No view. No flowers. No chocolates as promised.
Not even a bed, just a pull-out sofa. They spent the night, and their necks hurt, because they had to spend the night on that sofa. And they were miserable.
And they went the next morning to complain to the manager. The manager looked at them incredulously, and said, you mean, you didn't open the door. He said, what do you mean the door? You mean the closet door?
He said, no, it's not a closet door. That's the main suite. You were just in the foyer, the antechamber to the main suite.
The flowers are there. The chocolates are there. They saw a door and assumed it was the closet, and said, what a junkie little room when they were in something that was leading them to something much better. We read about the judgments that are coming, and that room looked so dark, so confined with all of these judgments.
But what they're leading to is the Lord dwelling with his people. And we'll be a part of it. We have front row seats.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, once again, thank you for the word that you have given, and the freedom we have to study, and to apply. What a wonderful book this little book of Joel is, and how many lessons are in it. Many that we haven't even touched on tonight. Father, I pray that if anyone has come and the enemy has ripped them off, the canker worm, the destroying locust, those messengers of Satan have destroyed and rip them off that from that place, this place, they would call.