Return to the Lord! – Joel 2

Return to the Lord! – Joel 2
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 15, 2016

Coming home is often never easy, especially after you have left and wanted to make it on your own and then you have to return and make amends. A good example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus related to his followers as found in Luke’s Gospel. Yet each of us could probably recount tales from our own lives at how we ran away when we were young or left home as young adults only to return and have to make some kind of amends or correction with those we returned to.

The Prophet Joel related to the Israelites that they had to return to the Lord whom they had forsaken. Whenever the Israelite people faced trials or threats the priests were to call the people out in order to gather them for whatever purpose was needed. Sometimes it was for battle, sometimes for a public announcement, and sometimes it was for spiritual purposes. Here, I believe it was for the later. The Israelites needed to return to the Lord or the results of their sinfulness would catch up to them, let’s discover what Joel declared and how it applies to our lives today…

READ: Joel 2:1-3; 12-17; 18, 27-32

In my home and in most houses there are smoke alarms and now many homes must have CO2 detectors as well. These devices go off when they detect smoke or gases that will harm the occupants of the homes they are installed in. Here we discover Joel telling the people…

I. We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord! (Vv. 1-3)

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. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the Garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste– nothing escapes them.

1. Joel wastes no time in telling the priests to “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill.” God wanted his people to be focused on what he needed to tell them and they needed to understand the importance of the message he was about to declare to them. The declaration was not going to be a good one. In fact, it carried with it disturbing news. Joel tells them, “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming.” This was going to be frightening news. The people’s sin had incurred God’s wrath and judgment. Judgment was coming. Joel declares that “It is close at hand–a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.” We often live like spiritual Pollyannas, thinking that God will only wink at our sin, pat us on our collective heads or bottoms, and send us on our way like wayward toddlers when we keep on sinning. When we do we forget how God views sin! Joel was not confused or deluded by the likes of the political correctness of our day. The Israelite’s sin had caught up to them and whether it was a swarm of locusts on the horizon or an invading army, “Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.” Just as our Nation’s pulling out of the world militarily has created a military vacuum that is being filled by Russia and China, when we sin we will inherit the results of that sin and the results of that sin is always devastating: “Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the Garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste– nothing escapes them.” The spiritual leaders were to sound an alarm to return to God before it was too late! We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Many pastors and others have been sounding the alarm of the deteriorating moral condition of America. The current Administration has done everything it could in the last eight years to tear down any opposition to its ungodly belief system. The Obama administration’s directive Friday that every public school provide transgender access — or face the loss of federal funds is just another attempt to force Americans into a belief system most do not agree with whether they like it or not. It is societal blackmail, ungodly, and not worthy of any President. Unless Christians take a forceful stand against this, we will face even greater attempts by the politically correct to force us to accept any perversion. We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord!

There is nothing worse than a phony kissy-kissy relationship between two people. You know what I mean, where two people outwardly say they “love one another” but in reality they hate each other’s guts. No one would like to have a phony relationship with another because they know it is based on nothing and is not true. Here we discover Joel telling the people…

II. We are to return to the Lord completely! (Vv. 12-17)

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “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, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing– grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?'”

1. God hates spiritual phoniness from his people! Jesus called those who thought they were spiritual but who were in reality totally devoid of God hypocrites, vipers, and whitewashed tombs! God is not fooled by our counterfeit Christianity. We can fool others and we can often fool ourselves, but God is never unaware of our foolishness! Joel relates, “‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'” God wanted the truth from his people and sometimes he has to drag us into admitting it! Truthfulness before God comes when folks are willing to “Rend [their] heart and not [their] garments.” Outward acts of contrition were just that, outward. God desires us to come to him without any guile. Joel tells us why: “…for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” Wow, this is why God desires our spiritual honesty. Joel goes on to state, “Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.” The only hope for sinful folks is a complete change of heart! But how is it possible when we are so willing to fool ourselves? Joel gives us the answer: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar.” The trumpet is to be sounded, a spiritual fast declared, and a sacred assembly called! All the people were to be gathered together from the oldest to the youngest, from those starting out in life to those who thought they knew it all spiritually. They were to “weep between the temple porch and the altar” of God! They were to be totally honest in their confession: “Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'” We are to return to the Lord completely!

EXAMPLE: Confession is more than good for the soul; it is where one begins to be honest before the Lord about their sin. Far too many believers in our day and age think they can smile and wink at their sin and God will overlook their ungodliness. God hates politically correct inclusion at the risk of promoting sin. He responds to our broken hearts. Ungodliness is only cleansed when we come before the Lord in complete humility and ask his forgiveness for our sins. We are to return to the Lord completely!

When we are honest about ourselves and face the truth of our lives we can then mature emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. In fact, where our relationship with God is concerned when we are honest we can return to him. Why is this true? Here we discover Joel telling the people…

III. God desires that we return to him! (Vv. 18, 27-32)

Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. The LORD will reply to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations… Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And 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.”

1. For the Israelites their land was just as important to them as their own lives. For them their relationship with God was also a relationship to their nation as a whole. If they repented “Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.” Joel knew that “The LORD will reply to them: ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.'” It was a promise by God to his repentant people. He promised that “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” The effects of the locusts or invading army would be completely reversed. Yet there is more that happens, God’s people would benefit spiritually as well! When God’s people are repentant and brokenhearted God heals them and their nation! Joel related that “afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Peter saw this as an answer from God on the day of Pentecost! And not just God’s people would be affected but the entire created universe as well! God “will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” Many believe that Joel was speaking of the coming Messiah; while others think that this might also refer to an end of everything or the end times. The former is more theologically precise because of what occurred during and following Jesus’ death on the cross and the fall of Jerusalem several decades later. We also know that now, because of Jesus’ coming as the Messiah, his death burial, and resurrection we are saved by his grace through faith. Joel’s promise from God tells us 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.” Joel teaches us that God desires that we return to him!

EXAMPLE: People have asked me many times over the decades if I thought we were in the end times. I respond that ever since Jesus’ resurrection and ascension we have been in the end of all things. Each day brings us closer to the Lord’s promised return. Usually what people mean is they want an answer from me if I believe in a series of convoluted charts and theological twisting. What many teach in our day concerning the return of Jesus has more to do with the heretical teachings of Seventh Day Adventists, Latter Day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses than with actual biblical theology. What Joel does clearly teach us is that sinful people need to repent or they will be judged for their sin and their nation will be affected by it. However if we do repent, God is gracious and forgiving. God desires that we return to him!

Conclusion:

We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord! We are to return to the Lord completely! God desires that we return to him!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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