Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Given A Choice

Joel 2:1-20

“Blow ye 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 cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. “ (Joel 2:1-2)

Joel warns they need to sound the alarm in Jerusalem and the surrounding area because God’s judgment is coming.  The judgment would be such as had never been seen before and it’s like would never be seen again for many generations.   The description relates to the Babylonian invasion and destruction of Jerusalem.    

“A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.  The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.  Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.  Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.” (Joel 2:3-6)

When Babylon conquered Jerusalem, initially they tried to leave the nation intact, carrying away only the rebellious leaders.  After repeated rebellions they came back and completely destroyed the nation, carrying off everyone except a few of the poorest who were left as caretakers.  Even those rebelled, fleeing to Egypt and leaving the land desolate and unoccupied.  The land was as empty as if it had been burned with a fire.  The Babylonian forces moved from country to country like a forest fire leaping from mountain top to mountaintop.  Their attack would be as fast and unstoppable as fire burning a stand of dried weeds, turning everything black. 

“They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:  Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.  They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.” (Joel 2:7-9)

The Babylonians would develop tactics used centuries later by the Greeks and Roman. Marching in close order so that their shields overlapped, making it almost impossible to get a clear shot at an individual.  Stones from a Ballista or catapult would knock men down but the close packed shields would absorb much of the impact preventing injury.  Because they were so well disciplined and trained they were unlikely to accidentally stab or cut one of their own men.  They would be equipped with scaling ladders and grappling hooks to climb over the walls or into second story windows. 
“The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” (Joel 2:10-11)

As terrible as the invasion and defeat by Babylon was, it was only a precursor of the judgment that Jerusalem and Israel will suffer during the last half of the Tribulation period.   At that time, God will bring forth his army to deliver Israel, as described in Revelation 19:11-16.  “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?” (Joel 2:12-14)

Even at the point of the pending invasion, God was still asking Judah to turn to him.  He stresses that he wants a real turning of the hearts, not just a symbolic tearing of their clothes as a display.  He is a gracious and forgiving God. and had put up with a great deal, but was still willing to forgive if they would turn, blessing them instead of punishing them. He could miraculously supply even the crops for food and enough for sacrifices as well. 

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.  Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:15-17)

If they wanted God’s blessing, they needed to spread the word and setting aside a period for getting close to God and setting themselves apart to hi,  They would to get everyone together, from the infants and children to the engaged couple to spend time getting close to God.  The priests and ministers needed to get down and pray, asking God to forgive their sins and deliver them from their enemies, because they had so completely turned away that other groups were asking where their God was. 

“Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.  Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.” (Joel 2:18-20)

If they would turn to him wholeheartedly, God promised to forgive them and answer their prayers.  He would send them abundant food.  People would no longer make fun of them.  The invading army would be defeated and driven away, and ultimately destroyed.  As we know from History, The Jews never turned to God and were conquered by Babylon.  In the Tribulation, they will turn to God and their enemies will be destroyed.  

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