Sound the Alarm

Joel 2:1-11

Said last week: “Need to be more concerned about offending God than whether proclaiming truth offends people.” Believe one reason Christians unconcerned as they are – don’t think highly enough of God, don’t take God and his word (all of it) seriously. Find too many ways to either deflect or minimize what Bible says – applies to them, not us; meant that in their culture, means otherwise now, and on it goes. Shows up in lots of places – stated beliefs, choices and priorities, conversation, humor… true of both professing Christians and unbelievers.

Particular composition came to mind. Sometimes gotta wonder if had some happy pills, then wrote the music! e.g. Integrity Music, Gaither Band, etc. – v.1, 9, 11

“They rush on the city / They run on the wall / Great is the army / That carries out His Word / The Lord utters His voice / Before His army / Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion / Sound the alarm on My holy mountain / Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion / Sound the alarm”

And then the comments — “I love this song it brings back old memories of dancing at mind body & soul Christian dance school back n the 90’s!!!” “My 7 year old and I love to sing this together, and my one year old tries to dance a little. Lol. Fun worship song.”

Not sure which the winning force is: power of music, reason put away in storage. Joel’s exhortation in our text not call to celebration, not cause for joy. To think so equivalent to looking for marshmallows when told house is on fire. Warning of impending disaster, yet is not inevitable… see that clearly in next week’s text. Also implied in scenario of warning – those who heed warning often able / enabled to escape doom that is about to fall. Joel issues two calls to “blow the trumpet” v.1 and v.15, for different purposes, consider only the first now. Then describes what is about to take place… in unmistakeable graphic terms.

A. blow the trumpet v.1-2

danger is imminent (1)

task given to priests, this kind of call intended to awaken to danger, requires immediate response… no time for delay

is the kind of warning given when invading army has begun to attack – already on the move, getting closer by the moment

serious enough danger that justifies sounding the alarm – series of staccato notes with shofar – lets hearers know what’s coming not good

Joel confirms that – tremble / shake with fear; going to be something you want to avoid at all costs

first indication that what’s coming is big – “let all” – further description in next verse rules out possibility of “maybe won’t come this way, my way”

identifies the danger

threat may look like locusts, may appear to be human army, real Mover and Shaker is God himself – is His day coming

further confirmation later in passage – this is God moving in judgment, not empty threat… must be taken seriously

highly unpopular concept, that God of all beings represents a threat, especially to people he promised to protect

Christians pull back from idea that God treats enemies like enemies and not as last resort because he ran out of options

C S Lewis had that right about Aslan – “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, repeated theme in OT wisdom literature; more interested today in friendship than fear!

must remember though, God will do all that is necessary to make us holy even when painful or costly – separating us from what we hold more dear than God

it will be awful, unprecedented (2)

sure you have experienced – middle of the day, starts to get dark, wonder about it, look up and see black clouds… know it’s not good, then hear sound of it coming… grab stuff and run for cover

day of the Lord like that only inconceivably more awful and terrifying – closest parallel, storm that brought Flood

follow the logic here: just like locust plague that destroyed Israel’s economy was nothing to this DOL, so that DOL nothing compared to one yet to come

locusts were bad, Assyrians and Babylonians were worse; armies were bad, God himself coming on that day really bad

B. the invaders described v.3-9

nothing escapes (3)

stark contrast here – Garden of Eden vs. scorched earth; place of perfect provision and plenty vs. what cannot sustain life

God’s purpose – to do thorough housecleaning, removing everything that polluted land, accomplishing complete purification… certainly will be achieved on future DOL

1812, Napoleon – 600,000 into Russia; between what they and horses all ate, what they and Russians destroyed, 27,000 escaped 6 months later

no time to escape (4-5)

best efforts don’t count, simply do not have personal resources adequate to deal with this kind of opposing force

see images of individual standing up to tank – not warfare; consider instead mechanized unit attacking infantry on foot… truly no contest

paralyzed with pain and fear (6)

just in case you think it’s imaginary, listen to those who have actually encountered or experienced this army’s onslaught

writhe in horror/fear/pain just at the sight of them; faces turn pale with fright – something to be taken very seriously

nothing can stop them (7-9)

blitzkrieg – shock and awe of previous conflict: overwhelm with speed and force, reach point where reputation accomplishes much on its own

resistance melts away, opposition disappears even before armed force actually arrives; just to know they’re coming was enough

completely dominate territory they invade – have the run of the place, nothing to prevent from doing as they please

description of a mighty army that is almost supernatural in its ability – so frighteningly overwhelming as to remove all hope of resistance

while description of invincibility may be exaggerated, final outcome certainly not – given who is speaking, commanding the army, picture painted is intentionally hopeless

for God to deliver, he must be the only hope of his people – declares 2x “I will not give my glory to another” (Isa. 42:8; 48:11)

was true for Israel in Joel’s day, still true in our day, will be on great Day – confidence must be in Christ alone

C. unprecedented scope v.10-11

cosmic effects (10)

what is ultimately in view here is more than local disturbance – rattles entire universe with its magnitude: must be greater than human agents responsible

common way of describing events occuring at the end, when Christ returns and restores order throughout entire universe

commander identified (11a)

think about this from first audience’s perspective – ok, so will be bad, really bad, devastating, nearly hopeless, wait, what?? who?

what is God doing here? and what do you mean “his army”? locusts we get, Assyrians we get, but Yahweh thundering as he leads his army?

changes analysis of the whole thing, need to go back to beginning and rethink entire scenario – is not some kind of natural disaster, neighbor-nation land grab

is in reality God, his army carrying out his commands – purposeful, intentional, nothing random about it, actually God keeping his promise: if you obey, then…, if you do not obey, then… Deut. 28ff

too terrible to endure (11b)

should be no surprise given who Commander is – DOL awesome and terrifying, ultimately irresistible: God will do as he said

applies to DOL occurring near to Joel’s day, for certain applies to DOL that comes at end of this age – only those who are in Christ will endure that one

D. let’s review

starts with a warning of imminent danger, then rest of the story

without context of bad news, good news has little meaning; if are basically comfortable where you are, little incentive for change

true, am speaking from perspective of human reason; important note: God does not convert sinners apart from human reason

no sense of danger, no movement – must have at least basic awareness of need before any interest in hearing about help

not only OT phenomenon – see Acts 17:30-31

God has been patient, overlooked your ignorance; jig’s up, commands to repent because DOL, Judgment Day is set and coming

that is message, in outline form at least, that Paul used on audience much like that of average 21st century unchurched American

Let’s close the loop, where we started with contemporary music. True… will be element of rejoicing on that Day, justice will be served, Christ glorified and acknowledged, etc, etc. But for all those still in their sins, will be “terrible and dreadful”. As we think about those we know and love who will arrive at that day hopelessly lost, should cause great sorrow. Is far too serious an event to think of in any way as “fun”.

Sound of the alarm should be sufficient to wake us up to gravity of need, closeness of that last DOL and what it means for people we encounter. Should inflame our passion to see souls saved, lives transformed by Gospel.

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