Call to Repentance

Joel 2:12-27

Hardship afflicting God’s people not random – part of God’s eternal purpose for their redemption! Need a refresher on that principle? Read James again… carefully. Our complete salvation is always at the end of God’s purpose for his people. He sovereignly uses hardship, trials to bring that about. Way we picture that: tough things that knock off sharp corners, smooth rough edges, polish tarnished surfaces. Is true, but God also uses affliction for other more immediate purposes.

Judah’s problem more serious. Were miserable, desperate, at end of rope (in theory), here’s what they needed to do. And how God will respond to that. As have said before, strong parallels between God’s ancient people the Jews, his modern people here in America. Once again is clear God expects church to lead the way – knows people on their own will probably not turn back to him, need to be called to repentance as he speaks through his ministers. Also clear that God wants genuine response, not simply outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). And… God cares about motivation – God’s glory of primary importance, above any expectation of blessing.

Without question, locust plague picture of devastating judgment. Certainly if that just a precursor, future would hold something even more horrific. Yet God’s mercy clearly evident, both in his self-revelation and his promises. In fact, get the idea that God desires to show mercy so much he pushes people into situation where they have to cry out for mercy… and he answers. Not meanness on God’s part – wasn’t that they were headed in right direction, God sent them wrong direction just so he could rescue. Jewish people already headed in wrong direction, coasting downhill away from God. He narrows the funnel, squeezes them to where it gets painful enough so they are ready to hear about options.

Through his prophet Joel, God informs of the action he requires, who he expects will participate in it, what he promises in return; then a second call, this time to rejoicing followed by God’s further response.

A. required action v.12-14

turn to Me

single-mindedly – God must be the only option, not one among many including self; no time limit, no escape clause, no plan B if for some reason God doesn’t come through

in view: comprehensive whole-hearted devotion to God alone, holding nothing back, involving mind/will/emotion in entirety

sacrificially – fundamental way to deny self, focus on God; purposeful putting aside of legitimate physical desire (for food) in order to concentrate on spiritual need

day of fasting not big sacrifice for us; Judah, otoh, were starving, yet God expected satisfying hunger to take 2nd place

is something even very young children can grasp – something really big must be really wrong to skip meals and go to church

sorrowfully – issue not one of inconvenience, physical hardship, uncertainty about future; issue is that God has been offended

bottom line motivation needs to be grief and sorrow (not simply sadness) over offending holy, gracious, patient, loving God

requires seeing God as he really is (to best of our ability), ourselves and our sin as God sees us (as best we can)

tear your heart:

“The heart is a figure of speech that stands for the very core of man’s being, the very radix (root or point of origin) of his personality, the very hub of his nature, and the very essence of his I-ness. …In Scripture the heart is the spiritual center of the embodied human soul. It is the wellspring from which all of life and its activities originates, takes its cue, and receives its propulsion, spiritual as well as physical. …As such it is also the seat and subject of the three internal functions of thinking, willing and feeling.” Krabbendam

tearing garment a traditional sign of sudden great distress – can also be done for effect but without right emotion/attitude

God’s perspective: right actions can mask a rotten heart; right heart will result in right actions; get the heart right first, actions will naturally come along

trust in the Lord

whatever the outcome, God will do right (Gen. 18:25) – may be that God does not show compassion in that circumstance, does not relent from his chastising hand

would not be unjust for God to do so – rebellion, delayed repentance deserves consequences; nothing we can experience in this life is adequate to satisfy God’s justice

at same time, what is God’s character? “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love”, same God toward his people has always been

has shown mercy to his people before, reasonable to think he might this time also; either way, will be present with his people supplying their needs whatever the circumstances

B. expected participants v.15-17

priests

make the announcement – blow trumpet, this time not for alarm but as summons: national day of fasting and prayer

since root problem nation has sinned against God, is proper that summons should come from religious leaders

call people together – is an individual problem, also a “whole people” problem and needs to be addressed that way

are individuals in community, members of a body – had sinned individually, also collectively and needed to repent collectively

yes, repentance and prayer and fasting at home in closet an important element, but not sufficient; btw, still true today

lead in repentance by example and intercession – weep and pray

clearly a “teachable moment” not to be squandered; also at that time in redemptive history, people dependent upon priests for their intercession

now are a holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) but still need leaders to lead, to teach by example and pray for their flock

people

full spectrum – elders to nursing infants – none would escape the wrath to come because of age, none should be overlooked in repentance

raises some other good points – how better to teach children way to respond to sin, seeing parents/grandparents/etc. showing repentance; also makes good case for parents taking children to church, having present in worship

if this kind of solemn assembly, comparable almost to a funeral, is suitable for children and nursing infants, why not worship?

also circumstances – no exceptions, even newlyweds – nation basically shut down, under state of emergency for this gathering

shows seriousness of offense, how much should be willing to forego in order to regain good standing with God

prayer

plea for deliverance from God’s anger, the nations’ oppression – spare your people further affliction, have mercy yourself, don’t turn us over to our enemies

key element shows sincerity of repentance: plead on basis of God’s glory, not personal benefit – don’t let pagans criticize God for inaction or inability… same “argument” Moses used with God at Sinai (Ex. 32:11-13)

prayer that God will glorify himself is a prayer God always answers (maybe not in way we think)

C. promised response v.18-20

compassion – when chastising has accomplished God’s good purpose, he does show compassion: purpose of affliction to cause change of direction (not just punish), when that happened God could/would “let up”

provision – clearly going to be a God thing: wasn’t just a bad crop, plants were destroyed and ground thoroughly parched

God doesn’t promise seed and seedlings, promises restoration – see v.22 is not a handout promised, rather return of means to support themselves, meanwhile enough to satisfy

protection – God doesn’t simply put up a force field around his people, he deals with sinfulness of the other guys

D. call to rejoice v.21-23

God paints with broad brush of blessing – land, animals, people – will be obvious that no longer need to fear punishment from God

he does marvelous things so all will know they have been restored to favor – looks forward to last great DOL when created order completely restored

confirm your repentance was genuine

rejoice in the Lord your God, not the other gods – would be real easy for Judah, especially at some points when worshiping fertility gods, to rejoice in false god

this is a test – response to restored prosperity: who gets the credit, will God still be first in their priorities and affections

E. further response v.24-27

God is not stingy – does not start out with bare minimum, wait for right response, then ramp it up

nor does he get them back to square one and then turn them loose – restores not only things that were lost, also what they would have produced in intervening time

important principle to keep in mind – we sin against God, miss opportunities for growth in godliness and service to others – God has power to restore what was lost when we repent

like prayer, purpose of blessing is that God would be glorified

God is glorified in their obedience, also in their repentance – obligation for them to give God alone the praise andstay devoted to Him

F. for us today

God exists, is present, is sovereignly directing redemption of his people

can count on that regardless of circumstances – nation and people may have largely abandoned God, he hasn’t abandoned them

must be repentant and dependent people, wholly devoted to God alone

keep short accounts – don’t let things build, repent, confess and seek forgiveness often to stay close / pleasing to him

our right response to God’s corrective discipline has implications for entire community

entire nation suffered because of sinfulness; was relieved of suffering by sincere repentance of those truly devoted to God

same could be true for our nation – enough sin to go around; perhaps if God’s people sincerely repented and devoted themselves whole-heartedly to him, might be pleased to bring about change, blessing once again

Theme for study in Minor Prophets – “Redeemed from Ruin”. Don’t always have good grasp on extent of our ruin. When God does reveal it to us, what then? Response should be repentance, rejoicing, reverence.

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