The Valley of Decision
Scripture: Acts 2:1-4, 14-21
Devastation comes as a tragic, monumental, seemingly one-time event in life.
There are many things that can devastate us.
It could be the loss of a job, the loss of financial resources, the loss of a home, the loss of a marriage, a terminal illness, a natural disaster, an accident.
/We received a call from some friends in Iowa where we moved from on Monday a couple weeks ago.
They asked first if everything was all right.
They heard on the news that a teenage girl with the name of Glover was shot and killed in Chicago the night before and wondered if it was Selena.
Thankfully, I had just talked with her on the phone a few hours earlier.
It was some other Glover./
These are things that occur often enough in people’s lives, but we hope, and never expect, that they should happen in ours.
We grieve our loss or perceived and expected loss.
We know that what we had desired is now delayed, gone, or will require extreme effort to regain.
These things do happen in life without any direct fault of those involved.
But we should always be open to what God may be telling us.
Sometimes these events are not as sudden as they seem to appear.
Just as very small creatures like termites can ultimately destroy a building, Solomon tells us in his Song of Songs 2:15 that we should catch the little foxes that destroy the vineyards.
These are the little things in our lives that can, if left unchecked, add up to disaster.
They can destroy or delay God’s plan and will for our lives.
We must repent of these things as we seek to understand what God may be saying and trust his promise to bring renewal and restoration in his way and time.
The prophet Joel speaks of a day of unparalleled judgment and blessing.
Two events occupy center stage in the book of Joel: a great plague of locusts and the Day of the Lord.
Joel calls upon the people of Judah to repent in light of the disastrous devastation brought by the locusts.
They had fallen into sin against his covenant with them.
The Lord’s promise to bring new restoration and blessing to his people when they repent serves as the backdrop for a sweeping message about the future Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord in the first of the book threatens to engulf Judah, but in the second part overwhelms the nations as God re-establishes Judah as his eternal possession.
The practical value of prophecy is discovered when God’s people live righteously in the face of opposition and struggle.
Prophets like Joel show us the cosmic dimensions of life.
God’s people can cling to the general and universal promise of Joel that they will find deliverance ultimately when the powers of this world are judged.
God longs to show his lovingkindness and mercy through good gifts to his people.
The locusts brought devastation on the land of Judah, and we may have had some experience with such insects in our own lives.
They represent sin’s destruction.
But the Spirit will bring a new age of prophecy and blessing as we live in humble recognition of God’s sovereignty and persevere in righteousness.
Even though the date is uncertain, it is likely that Joel is among the first of the 12 minor prophets.
The minor prophets were so called because they had shorter messages, not because their messages were any less significant than the major prophets like Is., Jer., Ez., Dan.
Joel’s message was to the southern kingdom of Judah about 830 B.C. after the nation divided about 100 years earlier.
The people had slipped from the worship of God during the reign of Joash.
This was tragic because he had started out so well.
But then he turned to foolishness which we see in 2Chron.
There we see that they were given warning by Zechariah which we can take back to what Moses told the people in Dt. 28:15, 38-42.
This was the nature of their covenant relationship with God.
It is not necessarily the same for us today in the church or as Christians.
We see that good things can happen to bad people and bad things to good people.
God’s covenant with us is that he will give us strength in Christ to persevere however we must in this sinful world, having the hope of eternal life through saving faith in Jesus.
But there is consistency with God and general principles apply.
When we are plagued we should search our hearts before God for cause and seek to learn what we can as we humbly renew our commitment to him and submit to the outworking of his power in our lives.
Joel’s message too, is like this.
He reminds the people of a very real present disaster and what it teaches about God.
He merges past, present and future together in a near and far view of God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord and issues a wake-up call to repentance.
We too, should live in constant light of God’s presence, for in David Jeremiah’s words as he introduced his teaching series on Revelation, “An eternal God only operates in the present.
There is no past or future with him.”
It is we who are time bound.
God is leading history in a sovereign course that calls for a decision.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” as Joshua says.
Joel’s Present Instructions: Based on the Locust Plague (1:1-2:27)*
The Occasion: the Locust Plague (1:1-4)*
1 ¶ The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
2 Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?
3 Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.
4 What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.
The Instructions: Based on the Locust Plague (1:5-2:27)*
* 1. Warnings in the light of the present crisis (1:5-20)*
Joel’s plea for penitence (1:5-13)*
* 1) A warning to pleasure seekers (1:5-10)*
5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.
6 A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees.
It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.
8 ¶ Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth.
9 Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD.
The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD.
10 The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails.
* 2) A warning to the farmers (1:11-12)*
11 Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
12 The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree-- all the trees of the field-- are dried up.
Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.
* 3) A warning to the priests (1:13)*
13 Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar.
Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.
Joel’s plea for prayer (1:14-20)*
* 1) The call for an assembly (1:14-18)*
14 ¶ Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly.
Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.
15 Alas for that day!
For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
16 Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes-- joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods.
The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up.
18 How the cattle moan!
The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.
* 2) The example to the assembly (1:19-20)*