Know That I Am the Lord

Joel 3:17-21

Throughout all human history, God’s purpose in both judgment and restoration – that people, especially his people would know that he is the Lord our God. iow, that his people would know him as their Lord and God. And what does God link inescapably with knowing him – holiness.

Time spent with an acquaintance can develop into a friendship, and time spent with a friend can transform that person into one’s beloved. This is the way to move a human relationship from one of the head to one of the heart, and it also is the way to develop intimacy with God, getting to know him. Joel equates this intimacy of knowing God with holiness. David Baker, NIV Application Commentary

Much about present culture actively opposes pursuit of holiness. Too much hurry, too much distance/disconnect, social networking that is anti-social and superficial, seducing into thinking we can have friends without more than surface relationship. Apostle John got it, would not have relied on texting had it been available:

2 John 1:12Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Not that use of social media or texting is sinful in itself; is no substitute for face to face in your space communication. Is especially true of relationship with God – sound bites aren’t enough. Requires time, effort, diligence to get to know God as he should be known – as the LORD… our God. The one in whose image we are made, who we are to love with heart, soul, mind, strength.

As our love for God grows, his love for us transforms us – is active love, working through Word by his Spirit among his people to bring about change. God intends that he will have a holy gathering place of worship for his people. It will be in a land redeemed from the curse. And it will be populated by a holy people. This has been God’s intent and purpose from before creation – Eph. 1:4For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” NET

A. holy city v.17

here is “early” promise of unprecedented scope – starts with God being known by his people because he lives with them

settled down, taken root, made permanent home with no possibility of relocation… not in heaven, here on earth

obviously does not describe totality of God’s being and existence; does describe one real and important aspect of it – God’s immanence, his real nearness to his people

our challenge: limitations/hindrances to our ability to perceive God’s nearness because of sin’s veil; problem on our side, not his

God present everywhere, we get that – more significantly, present more “actively” among his people, even more in his people

city is holy because God is holy

certain people, enter room, change atmosphere in entire room… simply by their presence – change persists so long as they are in the room

same to infinite degree with God – profound change on all present when God “shows up” intending to interact with people

Acts 9:7Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.”

city remains holy because God declares it so… and makes it happen

on its own no city, no people would ever be holy – requires God’s purpose and intervention to make it holy

Paul said he was “carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14) – describes everyone after Fall, with no hope of change until God moves

this will be the church, made ready and presented to Bridegroom – “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27)

talking true church as Christ knows her to be – wheat without tares; is good basis for regenerate membership, credobaptism

see hints of this in OT – emphasis on Israelite distinctives, purification rituals, restrictions and boundaries approaching God’s presence… God mostly unapproachable dwelling among his people

scope enlarges in NT – parallel emphasis on Christian distinctives, elimination of veil and new ministry of God-Man-Mediator… God spiritually approachable and dwelling in his people

reaches fullness in ultimate fulfillment of our text – worldwide Eden/Paradise yet better… God totally approachable dwelling in and among his people… God’s big idea from the beginning

B. holy land v.18-19

holy city will be established in holy land made suitable by God himself

effect of God present in fullness with and in his people flows out throughout all surrounding land

church today is island surrounded by evil-minded enemies intent on doing harm – circumstances limited to this age

won’t have to lock church doors – will be no person or influence intending evil toward Christ and his people

land restored from result of curse, rolling back all brought on it by Adam’s sin

true, is strong spiritual application of promises in text… but have physical application also – think parable of talents and how applies to “heaven”

Matt. 25:21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your lord.'”

repeat: You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. – this life, responsibilities preparation for next

were designed for work… before Curse, will be productively occupied in eternity, similar to Adam and Eve – working only with God’s continual presence and no frustration

raised to even greater production/bounty than at beginning

“God will be so bountiful to his people, that no good things will be wanting to them either in abundance or variety” Calvin

all we need to reach maximum productivity as God intended will be supplied: knowledge, understanding, resources, ability

whatever potential for corruption existed in original creation will be absent from new creation

e.g., some creatures designed with potential to be pesty or predatory – no need for potential to exist in next age

instead will be fully restored to original design and purpose, able to carry it out under man’s oversight and management

every source of corruption will be banished, sent to their own eternal abode

iow, present cosmos as we know it will be purified – different means but same effect as for believers at death or 2nd coming

Flood primarily means of judgment; fire that is coming will be means of purifying this world from all vestiges of sin, corruption, curse – true whether fire literal or symbolic

as applied to Christ’s church, picture overwhelms with its largeness

Eden provided every good thing for Adam and Eve, same for Israel and “land flowing with milk and honey… God supplying physical needs of his people

church militant has her every spiritual need supplied by Christ who supplies sufficient grace to live holy and pleasing to him

church triumphant will experience eternal blessing of every need met in abundance without limit or exception, able to live perfectly holy lives without any frustration or hindrance

C. holy people v.20-21

see v.17c – no aliens ever again;

not referring so much to country of origin as kingdom citizenship – kingdom of God or Satan – only those from kingdom of God, never aliens in heaven; cf Eph. 2:12

that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

presence in holy city shows citizenship; in next age, no longer possibility of change, being transferred from one kingdom to other

holy city with holy God must be populated by holy people

God will not have it any other way – requires all who live in his house in next age to meet his standard… perfectly… and maintain it perfectly also

residents will become what they have been declared – truly righteous before God

all sinful and corrupting residue will be permanently removed; in that kingdom, will never be any source of evil that can re-corrupt

D. know him v.17a

Eugene Peterson, The Message, orig pub 1980 – “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society”

chapter titles incl. – Repentance, Work, Service, Perseverance, Obedience, Community… all under first chapter Discipleship

“One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirtv-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by thirty-page abridgments.

It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

to know God way he deserves only comes as result of “patient acquisition of virtue”, “a long apprenticeship” – no shortcuts

God does presently dwell in and among his people, although not in same fullness to be anticipated for next life. We his people have by no means reached full potential for intimacy with him even for this life. We need right attitude toward God, his word, his people – an insatiable desire for more. Need to be engaged in right activities – things that will nourish and encourage that desire. Need to be pursuing right goal – knowing God, not knowing about God. And ultimate goal: Christ’s church built, whole earth filled with his glory.


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