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The Valley of Decision

Notes & Transcripts

The Valley of Decision

Joel                  Aug. 17, 1997

Scripture:  Acts 2:1-4, 14-21

Introduction:

          Devastation comes as a tragic, monumental, seemingly one-time event in life.  There are many things that can devastate us.  It could be the loss of a job, the loss of financial resources, the loss of a home, the loss of a marriage, a terminal illness, a natural disaster, an accident.  We received a call from some friends in Iowa where we moved from on Monday a couple weeks ago.  They asked first if everything was all right.  They heard on the news that a teenage girl with the name of Glover was shot and killed in Chicago the night before and wondered if it was Selena.  Thankfully, I had just talked with her on the phone a few hours earlier.  It was some other Glover.  These are things that occur often enough in people’s lives, but we hope, and never expect, that they should happen in ours.  We grieve our loss or perceived and expected loss.  We know that what we had desired is now delayed, gone, or will require extreme effort to regain.  These things do happen in life without any direct fault of those involved.  But we should always be open to what God may be telling us.  Sometimes these events are not as sudden as they seem to appear.

          Just as very small creatures like termites can ultimately destroy a building, Solomon tells us in his Song of Songs 2:15 that we should catch the little foxes that destroy the vineyards.  These are the little things in our lives that can, if left unchecked, add up to disaster.  They can destroy or delay God’s plan and will for our lives.  We must repent of these things as we seek to understand what God may be saying and trust his promise to bring renewal and restoration in his way and time.

          The prophet Joel speaks of a day of unparalleled judgment and blessing.  Two events occupy center stage in the book of Joel:  a great plague of locusts and the Day of the Lord.  Joel calls upon the people of Judah to repent in light of the disastrous devastation brought by the locusts.  They had fallen into sin against his covenant with them.  The Lord’s promise to bring new restoration and blessing to his people when they repent serves as the backdrop for a sweeping message about the future Day of the Lord.  The Day of the Lord in the first of the book threatens to engulf Judah, but in the second part overwhelms the nations as God re-establishes Judah as his eternal possession.

          The practical value of prophecy is discovered when God’s people live righteously in the face of opposition and struggle.  Prophets like Joel show us the cosmic dimensions of life.  God’s people can cling to the general and universal promise of Joel that they will find deliverance ultimately when the powers of this world are judged.  God longs to show his lovingkindness and mercy through good gifts to his people.  The locusts brought devastation on the land of Judah, and we may have had some experience with such insects in our own lives.  They represent sin’s destruction.  But the Spirit will bring a new age of prophecy and blessing as we live in humble recognition of God’s sovereignty and persevere in righteousness.

          Even though the date is uncertain, it is likely that Joel is among the first of the 12 minor prophets.  The minor prophets were so called because they had shorter messages, not because their messages were any less significant than the major prophets like Is., Jer., Ez., Dan.  Joel’s message was to the southern kingdom of Judah about 830 B.C. after the nation divided about 100 years earlier.  The people had slipped from the worship of God during the reign of Joash.  This was tragic because he had started out so well.  But then he turned to foolishness which we see in 2Chron. 24:17-22.  There we see that they were given warning by Zechariah which we can take back to what Moses told the people in Dt. 28:15, 38-42.

          This was the nature of their covenant relationship with God.  It is not necessarily the same for us today in the church or as Christians.  We see that good things can happen to bad people and bad things to good people.  God’s covenant with us is that he will give us strength in Christ to persevere however we must in this sinful world, having the hope of eternal life through saving faith in Jesus.  But there is consistency with God and general principles apply.  When we are plagued we should search our hearts before God for cause and seek to learn what we can as we humbly renew our commitment to him and submit to the outworking of his power in our lives.

          Joel’s message too, is like this.  He reminds the people of a very real present disaster and what it teaches about God.  He merges past, present and future together in a near and far view of God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord and issues a wake-up call to repentance.  We too, should live in constant light of God’s presence, for in David Jeremiah’s words as he introduced his teaching series on Revelation, “An eternal God only operates in the present.  There is no past or future with him.”  It is we who are time bound.  God is leading history in a sovereign course that calls for a decision.  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” as Joshua says.


I.       Joel’s Present Instructions:  Based on the Locust Plague (1:1-2:27)

          A.      The Occasion:  the Locust Plague (1:1-4)

1 ¶ The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.

2  Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?

3  Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.

4  What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.

          B.      The Instructions:  Based on the Locust Plague (1:5-2:27)

                   1.       Warnings in the light of the present crisis (1:5-20)

                             a.       Joel’s plea for penitence (1:5-13)

                                      1)      A warning to pleasure seekers (1:5-10)

5  Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.

6  A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.

7  It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.

8 ¶ Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth.

9  Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD.

10  The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails.

 

                                      2)      A warning to the farmers (1:11-12)

 

11  Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.

12  The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree-- all the trees of the field-- are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.

 

                                      3)      A warning to the priests (1:13)

 

13  Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.

 

                             b.      Joel’s plea for prayer (1:14-20)

                                      1)      The call for an assembly (1:14-18)

 

14 ¶ Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

15  Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.

16  Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes-- joy and gladness from the house of our God?

17  The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up.

18  How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.

 

                                      2)      The example to the assembly (1:19-20)

 

19  To you, O LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.

20  Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures.

 

                   2.       Warnings in the light of the coming conflict (2:1-27)

                             a.       Joel’s plea for preparation (2:1-11)

                                      1)      The general conditions (2:1-2a)

 

1 ¶ Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand--

2  a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.

 

                                      2)      The coming army (2:2b-11)

 

Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.

3  Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste-- nothing escapes them.

4  They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry.

5  With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle.

6  At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale.

7  They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course.

8  They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks.

9  They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows.

10  Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.

11  The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

 

                             b.      Joel’s plea and prescription (2:12-27)

                                      1)      The plea to turn to the God of mercy

                                                (2:12-14)

 

12 ¶ 'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'

13  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

14  Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing-- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

 

                                      2)      The plea to implore the God of grace

                                                (2:15-27)

                                                a)      The cry of the faithful (2:15-17)

 

15  Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.

16  Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.

17  Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, 'Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?''

 

                                                b)      The response of God (2:18-27)

 

18 ¶ Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.

19  The LORD will reply to them: 'I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.

20  'I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.' Surely he has done great things.

21  Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things.

22  Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.

23  Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

24  The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

25  'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-- the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm--my great army that I sent among you.

26  You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.

27  Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

 

II. God’s Future Intentions:  the Eschatological Program (2:28-3:21)

          A.      The Promise of His Personal Provision (2:28-32)

                   1.       The outpouring of the Spirit (2:28-31)

 

28 ¶ 'And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

29  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

30  I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

31  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

 

                   2.       The outworking of salvation (2:32)

 

32  And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

 

          B.      The Prediction of His Final Triumph (3:1-21)

                   1.       The tribulation program (3:1-17)

                             a.       The coming of judgment (3:1-8)

                                      1)      Its basis (3:1-3)

 

1 ¶ 'In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,

2  I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.

3  They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine that they might drink.

 

                                      2)      Its execution (3:4-8)

 

4  'Now what have you against me, O Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done.

5  For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples.

6  You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland.

7  'See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done.

8  I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.' The LORD has spoken.

 

                             b.      The challenge in judgment (3:9-17)

                                      1)      The call to judgment (3:9-12)

 

9 ¶ Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.

10  Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, 'I am strong!'

11  Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD!

12  'Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.

 

                                      2)      The course of judgment (3:13-17)

 

13  Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow-- so great is their wickedness!'

14  Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

15  The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.

16  The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.

17  'Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.

 

                   2.       The millennial prosperity (3:18-21)

 

18 ¶ 'In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias.

19  But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood.

20  Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations.

21  Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.' The LORD dwells in Zion!


Conclusion:

          What present or immediately past events have placed your life in the valley of decision?  God is calling you to himself.  You can come to a God of wrath or a God of mercy.  The Day of the Lord can be judgment or blessing.  It depends on our attitude of humility, worship, reverence and obedience. Perhaps it is time once again to stagger before the awesome power of Almighty God and fall on our faces in repentance.  As Jesus said in Mt. 21:44, “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

          In the valley of decision it is God who ultimately decides.  We either agree with him or become destroyed by him.  There is no way out of the valley of decision except to agree with God about sin, righteousness and judgment.  In John 16:8-11 it is the H.S. who convicts us.  For us today in the valley of decision, the way to the mountain top experience is faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In him the mountain of sin can be moved and you can see your way out of the valley.  It is by faith for he said, “Anyone who has faith as small as a mustard seed can say to this mountain ‘move from here to there’ and it will move.  That mountain of sin moved from me to Jesus by faith as it says in 2Cor. 5:21, “God made him who knew no sin ---.”

          The Jews will never again stray.  Why?  Because they will finally have realized the great and awesome power of God on their behalf - his profound grace and forgiveness.  Just as we Gentiles have received these things in Christ, so also the Jews will see what they have been given, and believe it.  It will have taken thousands of years for them to believe God in overcoming sin.  Look at the patience of God - his persistence.  God will accomplish his purpose in your life - and in those you live.  But when will you make your decision?  Will it be after God makes his?  (2Cor. 6:2)  Or will it be while there is still time?


The Valley of Decision

Joel             Aug. 17, 1997

I.       Joel’s Present Instructions:  Based on the Locust Plague (1:1-2:27)

          A.      The Occasion:  the Locust Plague (1:1-4)

          B.      The Instructions:  Based on the Locust Plague (1:5-2:27)

                   1.       Warnings in the light of the present crisis (1:5-20)

                             a.       Joel’s plea for penitence (1:5-13)

                                      1)      A warning to pleasure seekers (1:5-10)

                                      2)      A warning to the farmers (1:11-12)

                                      3)      A warning to the priests (1:13)

                             b.       Joel’s plea for prayer (1:14-20)

                                      1)      The call for an assembly (1:14-18)

                                      2)      The example to the assembly (1:19-20)

                   2.       Warnings in the light of the coming conflict (2:1-27)

                             a.       Joel’s plea for preparation (2:1-11)

                                      1)      The general conditions (2:1-2a)

                                      2)      The coming army (2:2b-11)

                             b.       Joel’s plea and prescription (2:12-27)

                                      1)      The plea to turn to the God of mercy

                                                (2:12-14)

                                      2)      The plea to implore the God of grace

                                                (2:15-27)

                                                a)       The cry of the faithful (2:15-17)

                                                b)      The response of God (2:18-27)

II. God’s Future Intentions:  the Eschatological Program (2:28-3:21)

          A.      The Promise of His Personal Provision (2:28-32)

                   1.       The outpouring of the Spirit (2:28-31)

                   2.       The outworking of salvation (2:32)

          B.      The Prediction of His Final Triumph (3:1-21)

                   1.       The tribulation program (3:1-17)

                             a.       The coming of judgment (3:1-8)

                                      1)      Its basis (3:1-3)

                                      2)      Its execution (3:4-8)

                             b.       The challenge in judgment (3:9-17)

                                      1)      The call to judgment (3:9-12)

                                      2)      The course of judgment (3:13-17)

                   2.       The millennial prosperity (3:18-21)


 

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