Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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December 18th, 2010 by Vic

Joel points beyond Christmas

December 19, 2010

For a few weeks we have been reviewing the OT prophets who looked forward to Christmas.  Micah declared that the Messiah was coming (4:6-9).  But first God would clean up His people by sending them into captivity in Babylon.  When Micah was preaching this, Babylon was not a world power.  Assyria was the dominate world power.  It would be 100 years before Babylon comes to capture Jerusalem.

Micah says (5:1ff) the Messiah will come from Bethlehem, the house of bread, an insignificant village.  This Ruler to be born in Bethlehem is from everlasting.  He will be the Good Shepherd and His sheep will live in security throughout the earth.  There will be peace where He reigns (5).  Jesus said that in the world we will have tribulation, but in Him we have peace.  He is our peace.

Over 700 years after Micah had written his prophecy Herod heard from a group of scholars from the east about a king of the Jews being born.   Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where this would happen and they immediately turned to Micah’s prophecy (Matt 2:4).

Jeremiah was another prophet who preached during the time just before, during, and after the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon.  After preaching the covenant law of Moses for most of his life, God shows Jeremiah the old covenant is going to be superseded by a new covenant.  The new covenant will not be written on paper or stone.  It will be written by the Spirit of God on the hearts of those that believe.

Jer 31:17  The Lord replies, “Your children will return.”  There is hope for your children.  Our culture has trouble with deferred gratification.  We want everything now.  The whole message of Jeremiah is about the hope that our children have if we repent and obey God’s covenant.  The promises in Jeremiah are for the children and their children’s children and our children.

In Malachi God promised to send 2 messengers (3:1).  The first will prepare the way for God.  The second will be the Lord of the new covenant suddenly appearing in His temple.

When Jesus was brought as a baby to the temple to be dedicated, 2 people recognized Him, Anna and Simeon.  They were expecting Him.  Why were they waiting in the temple?  Because of this prophecy in Malachi.  They knew the Word of God and were expecting God to keep His promise about a Messiah.  Are you pregnant with the hope of His coming?

We scanned the book of Zechariah.  Both Haggai and Zechariah had predicted that the glory of the Lord would come with great blessing after the temple was rebuilt.  The temple had been rebuilt by the grandparents over 80 years before Zechariah prophesied.  The walls had been rebuilt by the parents, but the Messiah still had not come.  This generation did not remember seeing any glory.  They had heard the stories, but their lives were routine.  They enjoyed good government and security, but they were apathetic about the things of God.  Worship had become meaningless rituals.  The feasts and sacrifices were not practiced with a loving heart.  Priests were distorting the Word.  In peaceful times we tend to get apathetic toward God.  We study God in books.  We argue about God.  We treat worship as a hobby.  There is no crisis.  Nothing seems really important or significant.  So God may create a crisis for us.

Zechariah 2:10 promises that God would come and live among us.  The greatest gift we have received from God is the present of His presence.  The greatest gift we can give may be the present of our presence.  Zechariah saw a new relationship that we would have with God.  He will clean our house whether we want Him to or not.  But for Him to forgive us of our sins, we have to put off the old ways/garments and put on the new.  1 Peter 2:1-12

Zechariah 9:9 (“O Jerusalem, your King comes riding on a colt”) is quoted in Matt 21:5.

Zechariah 11:12, 13 (“They paid me 30 pieces of silver”) is quoted in Matt 27:9-10.

Zechariah 12:10 (“They will look on me, the One they pierced”) is quoted in John 19:34.

Today we will look at Joel’s prophecy.  He mentions the day of the Lord at least 5 times.  That phrase occurs only 20 other times.  The day of the Lord is a time coming in the future.  Joel looks beyond his time and sees God active in the future.  Joel really points beyond Christmas.

Joel does not tell us when he preached.  Tradition places him between Hosea and Amos.  He never mentions Israel or Samaria.  He does not mention any other prophets.  He does not mention any kings.  He emphasizes that God is sovereign over all nations of the earth.

The book describes an enemy’s invasion of Jerusalem and Judah, calls the people to weep, repent, and fast, and then offers restoration and hope in the new democratic age of the Spirit.  The Spirit will introduce some radical changes in our relationship with God and with each other.  Other OT writers tell us that the Spirit was present with or came upon selected individuals, such as prophets or kings, but not on everyone.  Joel sees a time when everyone can experience God and know His will.  Joel points beyond Christmas to the coming of the Holy Spirit.

1:1 Joel means “Yahweh is God.”  Pethuel means “Vision of God”.

The Lord is teaching a lesson that needs to be retold to our children and grand children (2).  It is a crisis greater than an Aumsville tornado, a Molalla earthquake, a Columbus Day storm, or a Twin Tower collapse.  The land has been desolated.

Drunkenness was a problem (5).  God has acted.  A crisis has occurred and some still don’t see.  There is a complacency that ignores the crisis.  Sin had blinded them from seeing God working in their lives.

The agricultural devastation caused by the invasion means there is no wine, flour, or oil.  These were required for the twice daily thanksgiving offerings in the Temple.  The priests are mourning because they are hungry and unemployed (9).  There is no joy in the land (12).  The feasts cannot be celebrated.  So, why don’t you celebrate with a fast?  If you don’t have an offering to bring, come to God in fasting (13).

Some argue that the locust plague was a conquering army.  Joel says the invasion was God’s day of judgment (15).  He describes the invasion with locusts, drought, and fire.  God is the ultimate source of the invasion.  The invasion affected humans, plant life, and animals (18).

2:1  Blow the shophar from the highest hill in Jerusalem.  See if the drunkards will wake up.  Another invasion is described (2-11) and the people are called to repent and lament (12-17).

The day of the Lord is coming with destruction and judgment.  The first world wide judgment came with a flood.  The next day of the Lord comes with fire (3).  No one will escape.  This invader will not be stopped with arrows or military might (8).  Like the plagues in Egypt there will be no defense against the invaders (9).

The Lord is commander of the army (11) and ironically also the ally to whom the people must turn for help (12).  The only hope for deliverance is to repent and return to the Lord with all your heart.  Ritual worship with sacrifices, fasting and mourning are easy.  Righteous living is not so easy.

Human repentance and ritual do not control God (14).  Call the people again to come together and fast (15).  They can only hope that God’s mercy will restore them.

2:18 The rest of the book predicts the blessings of restoration.  The prophet has seen the future and there is hope.  Your enemies will be driven away from you and divided (20).  Rejoice for the Lord is going to surprise you (21).  All nature will benefit when God blesses you (25).

If the people will keep the covenant, God will dwell among them and will be their God (27).

2:28-32 is chapter 3 in the Hebrew Bible.

“And afterward” is interpreted by some to refer to the second coming because they don’t want women preaching in church.  But Peter says in Acts 2:16, Pentecost is what was spoken of by Joel the prophet.  And at the end of his explanation Peter says, the promise of Joel is for you, for your children and for those who are far off (2:39).  Peter quotes Joel only through the first part of 2:32.  He did not fuel any fires of nationalism or political rebellion.

This is a radical prophecy by Joel.  He is saying if the people repent, God will restore the fertility of their land and send His Spirit on all people.  The Jews knew what the Spirit of God could do.  They knew the protection and blessing of God’s presence.  But you had to be a special person to be anointed with the Spirit of God.

Now everybody was special.  Now all men and women could preach.  Men and women would receive the Spirit equally.  God will demonstrate His power over creation.

2:31  Some think this refers to a war being fought on the moon.

2:32  Everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved from the wrath of God.  Everyone includes whom?  The ministry of the Spirit cannot be restricted to a particular group.

God will punish all the nations who have taken Jews into captivity or trafficked in the slave trade of Jews (3:1-6).  He will punish them in the ways they have persecuted the Jews (7).  All people must repent and call on the Lord if they expect to escape the judgment.  The unrepentant will not receive the gift of God’s presence.  The unbeliever does not really celebrate Christmas.  Jesus is the gift.

The nations will fight a war with God in the valley of Jehoshaphat, but they cannot win (9).  They will convert farm implements into weapons.  When all the people are gathered, God will sit down.

The Lord roars and the world trembles, but the same roar is a refuge for His people (16).  God spoke.  His Word is Jesus.  To Mary Jesus was a special child.  To the humble and sick, Jesus was healing.  To the religious hypocrite Jesus was a heretic.  To king Herod Jesus was a threat.  To the righteous He was the answer to their life long prayers.  To the wise Jesus was a heavenly sign.  To the repentant Jesus was peace.  To all of us Jesus is the Gift from God.

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