Archive for December, 2015

Joel: Locusts & Spirit (part 5 – 3:1-16)

JoelAfter announcing grand promises of deliverance and restoration to his people, the Lord turns his attention to the nations who have been pictured in the previous metaphor by the swarms of locusts. If God is going to restore what the locusts destroyed (2:25) then he must deal with the locusts. 3:1-3 announces that the Lord will restore what has been lost by way of judging the nations responsible. The Lord reminds the people that despite his discipline of them they are in fact still his people, and he will be their advocate and their protection.

3:4-8 announces the reason for Yahweh’s anger, “You have taken my silver and my gold, and you have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their own border” (Joel 3:5-6, ESV). The nations have taken what the Lord held as precious and have stood against his promises, so he will vindicate his glory, his people, and all that they need to live and restore them to the land.

When we consider this act of justice on God’s part certain questions are raised regarding the very justice of God. How can he at one time send the nations to stand against his people in judgement for their sin and then turn around and judge those same nations for what they have done to his people? On the one hand, we must recognize the mystery of how God’s sovereignty relates to the responsibility of man. On this topic, I recommend Jerry Bridges’ book, Trusting God. Bridges reminds us, “The sovereignty of God is often questioned because man does not understand what God is doing. Because He does not act as we think He should, we conclude He cannot act as we think He would” (Trusting God, 27). This statement is a helpful reminder that we do not have the whole picture. On the other hand, we can easily recognize that the actions of the nations against Israel were actually sinful, and no sin will go unpunished by a just God. We don’t like it, but we cannot give ourselves the freedom to step beyond our place and sit in judgement on God. Paul teaches us, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this’” (Romans 9:19-20, ESV)?

The next eight verses, 9-16, are God challenging the nations to come with all the might they have that he may sit in judgement on them. The Lord is non-flinching before the powers of this earth as he carries out his just judgments. However, he is a refuge for his people (3:16). These verses are reminiscent of Psalm 2 wherein we are reminded of the sovereign authority of God over the nations and the gracious protection he offers his people.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2, ESV).

| Permalink
Joel: Locusts & Spirit (part 4 – 2:18-32)

JoelGoing back to Joel chapter 1, we remember that Israel had experienced near total devastation via plagues of locusts (1:4), destruction of crops by drought (1:12, 17, &20), and destruction of field and forest by fire (1:19-20). The destruction that had come would have certainly brought with it social, economic, and spiritual devastation. Following the announcement of the day of the Lord and the Lord’s call to repentance, we find the announcement of restoration in 2:18-32 in which each and every layer of devastation is turned back.

Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people (2:18, ESV).

The restoration of the people of God is always and entirely and act of God’s mercy who is jealous for his glory and his people. For his own sake and for the sake of his people, the Lord will keep his promises, even to a sinful people. He restores Israel, and us, only out of pity on us. He does not bring redemption because we have made ourselves worthy. The Lord brings a gracious and merciful redemption to those who are unworthy and incapable, and the redemption he brings is full.

As we read through 2:18-32 we find each layer of devastation restored. Grain, wine, and oil will be restored and reproach removed (vv 19 & 24). Occupying forces will be banished (v 20) (Don’t worry Rob, this is a different kind of northerner. You’re safe). Fields and forest will be restored (vv 21-22). The land will once again produce crops. With the coming rains, the drought will be brought to an end (v 23). What the locusts destroyed will be restored (v 25). The full restoration is staggering and designed to fill Israel with hope. However, God’s merciful words do not stop with restoration, but he promises such shame will never come again because God will be in their midst and they will know him (vv 26-27).

As the Lord has been in the midst of his people before, we are right to take this as a promise of a new presence. He had been there, but the people had not known him. Now he will be there, and the people will know him. This promise of spiritual restoration sets the stage for what comes next. God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, a hope found as far back as Moses in Numbers 11:29. He will show wonders in heaven and on earth marking the coming of the eschatological day of the Lord. He will bring salvation in his own name. He will provide the way of escape, and he will direct his people in it.

Peter points back to these very verses in his sermon at Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 to explain the fantastic events of the day.

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: (Acts 2:14-16, ESV) .

Peter follows this statement by quoting Joel 2:28-32 before announcing the mighty works and wonders and signs that God had done in their midst, he did to bear witness to the Jesus Christ, the promised One through whom God brought to fruition the promises of Joel. In Christ, the full restoration of the people of God is found. The King has come and he has brought with him the first tastes of the eschatological kingdom of God.

| Permalink
Ephesians 3.14-21 – Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians (round 2)

The sermon recording from December 27, 2105.

| Permalink
Ephesians 3.1-13 – No, Really, This is a Christmas Sermon

The sermon recording from December 20, 2105.

| Permalink
Ephesians 2.19-22 – The Church’s One Foundation

The sermon recording from December 13, 2015.

| Permalink
Ephesians 2.11-22 – But now in Christ

The sermon recording from December 6, 2015.

| Permalink