The Nations Judged

Joel 3:1-16

Why do the wicked prosper? Often, appears doing what is right a handicap enabling wicked to get ahead. Like to think will eventually get comeuppance. Doesn’t always go that way – teflon coating, nothing sticks, keep prospering in spite of laws and rules that should prevent such. Is that just the way of it, maybe God gets tired of dealing with wicked, God’s standard of justice different from ours. Is there any hope righteous will be vindicated and wicked punished?

Text assures us there is hope – God is faithful and just, not only with respect to forgiveness. God will do as he charged his agents:

Rom 13:3-4For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

If God expects his ministers/agents to carry out consequences on evildoers in limited sphere, should expect God to do same globally. But wait, there’s more! God does execute perfect justice, rarely instantaneously. And that’s good thing… for all of us. God more than patient, is longsuffering, and provides clear testimony to his character for every generation. This text and following have at least two focal points – one in near future (to Joel) following exile in Babylon, second in distant future… still future to us!

Is important because gave hope to God’s people in exile that captivity would come to end and enemies would be justly punished. Yet all promised in text not completely fulfilled in 6th century BC. Means must be another DOL when God will act again… with finality. Just as surely as God is God and acted first time, will surely act again on that great and awesome day. Gives all generations hope that justice will ultimately prevail, and at same time, serves as strong warning that wicked will not prosper forever.

Evangelist to Pilgrim: Then he gave him a parchment roll; and there was written within, “Flee from the wrath to come!”

We have the parchment, know the message it contains – serves to give us hope, encourage us to warn those who have cause to fear for their lives to run to Christ. Is God himself who issues challenge to his enemies, charging them with wrongdoing and promising consequences for evil behavior.

A. prepare for judgment v.1-8

the timing (1, 13)

round 1 – when Israel’s captivity ends… after repentance: see Joel 2:32

captivity, consequences for Israel’s rebellion doesn’t end simply because right number of days have passed

right change has come about in people – have turned from their idolatry back to true God; have not done a lot right, but have never returned to Baal and Molech

no surprise: is God who took their fortunes away, God who restored them – in both instances, used pagan leaders: Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, along with their people

round 2 – when harvest is ripe, winepress is full (see Rev. 14:15ff)

similar language, theme seem to point to time of final judgment on all nations – sickle/harvest/winepress and sun/moon/stars/shaking

precedent: conquest of Canaan (Deut. 9:4-5); end will come when God has had fill of wickedness against him and against his people in all the earth

the initiator (2)

God himself – moving behind scenes and in plain sight

God takes credit for moving nations to place of judgment – individuals involved and secular historians credit other forces

is essential in our reading of history: try to see God’s fingerprints so we get the whole picture – e.g. Cyrus

on account of his people

good news: God defends his people, uses variety of means to bring about justice and push back evil in world

the culprits (4, 12)

singles out Tyre, Sidon, Philistia

those who persisted in harassing Jewish people, most often unprovoked – enriching themselves at great expense to Jews

eventually all the surrounding nations

whatever nation/government/ruler decides to persecute God’s people playing with fire, will eventually pay price

e.g. – Nero so hated by the senators of Rome that they forced him to kill himself; Domitian was butchered by his own soldiers; Trajan died of a foul disease; Severus died miserably on a military campaign in Britain; Maximus was cut in pieces, together with his own son; Decius died as an exile in a far country; Valerian was whipped to death by the King of Persia who captured him; Aurelian was killed by his own soldiers; Diocletian poisoned himself; Maximum hanged himself

the causes

disrespect for God’s people (3a, 6)

treating as material possessions to be bought/sold/traded; no thought for them as people bearing image of God

consequently no consideration for heritage – sold and transported, little or no hope of returning home

disrespect for God’s principles (3b)

breaking up families – selling children to different owners, very like slave trade of previous century: wrecking ability of families to follow God’s mandates

use profit gained from mistreating God’s people to satisfy sinful desires – pursuing pleasure in ways clearly contrary to God’s commands

disrespect for God’s person (4)

God identifying with his people here – “why are you doing these things to me?” NET similar question as asked of Saul

showing disrespect for God’s people, Christ’s body viewed by God as disrespect for him – not family member, lifelong friend, is God himself who takes part of his people

disrespect for God’s place of worship (5)

things set aside, consecrated, for God’s use truly belong to him – to take furnishings from place of worship and repurpose to secular use (Belshazzar) also an affront

not sure exactly what that means in our day re: former church buildings, but certainly bears careful consideration… when “disposing” and when using; e.g. Spire 29

the consequences

retaliation (4b)

one of common ways God acts – arranges circumstances so evil intended for another rebounds on perpetrator

retribution (7-8)

repayment in kind – eye for eye form of justice – God’s enemies will experience same kind of unjust treatment they brought on God’s people as their just compensation

B. prepare for war v. 9-15

God tells the nations to prepare for war. (9-10)

this one involves people from all walks of life – no one escapes or avoids this call to war, e.g. farmers drafted into army

God calls the nations to assemble together. (11-12a)

God moves among men in response to prayers of his people – v.11 a prayer for God to execute justice, v.12 God’s response

notice again – really is God who is calling/moving nations, God who is carrying out his purpose while leaders/armies have own agenda

God commences His judgment

God the one who judges the wicked (12b-13)

on “intermediate” DOL’s, God works through means; will be the judge in view on the Great Day, all will know the Judge

He proclaims the imminence of His judgment. (14)

will be signs of Great DOL… as it arrives – cosmic upheaval associated with Second Coming as universe trembles before Lion of Judah

like all who have gone before us, don’t know the time of his appearing – do know it is nearer now than ever before

knowing what we know of God and of mankind, God’s judgment is warranted now – his mercy and longsuffering only reason have not experienced it yet

He judges from Zion. 3:15-16a

will not judge from a distance, will be up close and personal; will be clear God’s purpose is to judge wicked and vindicate righteous… his people, the church

C. prepare for defeat… unless v.16

the Lord will roar – against his enemies

in presentation of the Gospel, must communicate in way that is truly relevant to listener; but… must not sacrifice God’s justice on altar of his love

at same time, God often pleased to make enemies his friends – must warn his enemies, persuade if possible to become friends

a shelter and strength for his people

God is only effective in protecting/sheltering his people because he roars against his enemies… and is not an empty roar

must remember: only one source of shelter, strength – God himself; should not attempt to make own shelter, act in own strength

Are additional, greater blessings promised for God’s people… next week, DV. Meanwhile… where do we go, on whom or what do we rely for strength, hope, help, peace? In Christ Alone. The Christ of the Bible is one we must trust in. Is the one Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists must run to in order to find shelter and strength in face of God’s fierce judgment.

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