Bible Order: Titus 1–3, Philemon
Chronological Order: 1 Timothy 1-6
New Testament Only: Revelation 6:1–7:8
The Day Of The Lord
My apologies guys. I thought I had put this post up last night but hadn’t. I’m pretty busy at work and I’m hoping to take some time off for the upcoming holidays so I’m shoveling as fast as I can – I’m bound to make mistakes. I hope my tardiness has not messed you up too much.
Hosea was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom Israel. We now flip back to the Southern Kingdom of Judah to whom Joel prophesied. It is believed that Joel was a contemporary of Elijah and Elisha, making him one of the earlier prophets.
Joel begins with a description of the effects of a locust plague. Locusts can be extremely devastating. They multiply at an incredible rate and eat everything in their path. A swarm of locust that crossed the Red Sea back in 1899 was estimated to cover 2,000 square miles! When a swarm like that moves through there is nothing left; all plant life is gone or at the very least dead. A swarm of locust is almost like a cancer upon the land, growing and voraciously eating everything in site until the body, or in this case the land, is nothing but a rotting corpse.
Joel begins with this imagery because his theme is “the Day of the Lord” and he is equating the devastation of a plague of locust to the devastation to be seen in the Day of the Lord. When I think of what is left after a mighty swarm of locusts has passed through I think of the emptiness of the horizon. No life, no green thing to be seen; all is death and devastation. Friends, that is the devastation of being separated from God. Life is hopeless and empty; there is no green thing, just death and darkness.
The following verse, however, reminded me of the state of many of our churches today. I fear that far too many Christians lead the life of a lost person; they view all that is in their possession as their own, and they desire more. One who has truly turned over their life to Christ views all that is in their possession as God’s, and they desire to be good stewards of all that God has placed into their keep. God has said that those who are faithful in a little will be given much so we know that reward comes from this way of viewing God’s blessings. The problem with viewing God’s blessings as our own resources is that we misappropriate those blessings and therefore miss out on even greater blessings.
Listen to the following verses:
Joel 1:13 ESV
“Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.”
I view these verses as a minister of the church mourning over the misappropriation of God’s resources. I heard of a preacher once who stood before the congregation and with anguish in his voice stated that he had some horrific news for the congregation. He had looked at the church books and realized that funds were missing. This was not an insignificant amount of money either. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were missing. He informed the congregation that he must unmask the culprit who was responsible for this theft from God. You’ll never believe who was responsible for this crime. It was a majority of the members of the church. The church members weren’t tithing! You saw that coming didn’t you?
I understand why many people today feel like they can’t tithe. The economy has been hard on everyone let alone the devastation experienced by the unemployed. Of course, if you are unemployed you really don’t have income with which to tithe. The fact of the matter, however, is that most of us haven’t been tithing for years. We live in an extremely materialistic world and many people view as necessity things that are really just luxuries. Many that qualify as poor in America today wear designer shoes and carry cell phones. Food, clothing, and shelter are necessities; cable television, cell phones, and computers are luxuries. Many of us also don’t want to wait until we have earned or saved enough to pay for the luxuries of life so we borrow heavily to obtain them and then feel the stress of living from paycheck to paycheck. We think we are barely getting by when in fact we are simply being poor stewards of God’s blessings.
In many ways we have become our own locusts eating up the blessings of God in an attempt to feed an insatiable hunger. I just got back from a visit to my mother-in-laws house and her guest bathroom has wall paper with various quotes printed on it. It is pretty handy if you forget to bring reading material with you to the bathroom. I’ve spent many a moment reading and pondering those quotable quotes. One of those quotes says this, “It is not he with little who is poor, but he who wants more.” We have a voracious appetite for stuff; so much so that we spend all of the resources God gives us in feeding our stuff habit. When it comes time to bring God’s offerings to His house of worship we have nothing left.
This is a problem. It is not simply a problem for the church; it is a problem for the individual. Christians were bought at a price. We surrendered our lives to Christ. We own nothing; it all belongs to God. The issue of skipping the tithe is an issue of poor stewardship and disobedience. We have elevated our desire for stuff above obedience to God and acknowledgment of His Lordship. This is idolatry; you know, that sin for which the Bible says we are to be stoned? Idolatry violates the very first commandment, “You shall have no other God before Me.” This isn’t a little problem for the individual Christian; it is a huge problem for the individual Christian. The only cure here is to reject the luxurious standards of the secular world and accept the role of trustworthy servant of He who owns it all.
Well, I’ve hit 1,000 words already and I haven’t discussed much of Joel have I? I’m afraid it won’t get a whole lot better.
Joel 2:1 ESV
“Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,”
What does God keep telling us in His Holy Word? He tells us that judgment is coming. Why does He keep telling us this? Because He wishes all who are willing to be saved. As I have said before in this blog, I have always been fascinated by end time prophecy though I have been a poor student of prophecy. Many of us think in terms of “Armageddon” as some future event that we are unlikely to experience in our lifetime. Armageddon is indeed a specific occurrence prophesied by the Bible, but I think we make a mistake in thinking of it as some far off event. I don’t mean to say that Armageddon is about to happen in a literal sense at this point in time in world history; it might happen at any time but I have not specific evidence it is eminent.
For me, Armageddon is that moment I stand before my maker. That is the time of judgment for me. Thankfully Jesus Christ will recognize me and step forward and say “Father, he is mine.” I’d love to hear after that “well done my good and faithful servant”, but if I don’t, do you know what other word I look forward to hearing? “Next!” My day of judgment, your day of judgment, could be today; it could be tomorrow; it could be another 50 years from now. Be that as it may, that day will come.
Joel 2:13 ESV
“and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
What a poignant phrase. God does not desire our crocodile tears. In Old Testament times a good Jew would show his mourning for loss by tearing his garments, placing ash on his head and walking around with a sad face and the occasional wail. The thing is, we can walk around looking like we are sorry for our trespasses while never really making a change. God does not desire the show, He desires the change. He doesn’t want us to rend our garments; He wants us to rend our heart. He wants us to truly mourn our sinful ways. It is only with true regret that we can come before God, confess our sins, and submit our lives to Christ. Once we have done this, God’s Holy Spirit will come to live within our hearts and mend that torn and sorrowful heart. No truly sorrowful heart means no salvation.
Joel 2:25 ESV
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,”
Here is the good news guys; when we rend our hearts and turn to God in obedience, He will restore what our locust-like lifestyle has wrought. While I have experienced times of discipline, my life has consistently been enriched year after year and I can point to the time when I started tithing as a beginning point for a wave of blessings. I don’t mean to say financial blessings, though God has certainly blessed me in that sense, I mean in the truly valuable currency of spiritual blessings. I no longer desire more. I desire to be faithful in what God has placed in my care and that desire makes all the difference in the world.
The end is coming for all of us. When that day comes I pray that we all will hear “Well done my good and faithful servant!”
Have a blessed day!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
(Originally posted 9/20/10)