Sermon on Joel 3:12-16
Text: “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. 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 heavens will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.
We often mark dates on a calendar or put reminders on our phones so that we will not forget important dates. At the moment, we are so careful not to forget a birthday or anniversary or important meeting. However, it often happens that we get distracted by the many things that are going on in our lives that the date still catches us unaware. This happened to me recently. I had put all of my family’s birthdays on my phone. I didn’t want to forget any of them. However, in spite of my best intentions, I got catch flat-footed. One morning, I got a notice on my phone that it was my father’s birthday that day. I quickly ran out and got a card and put it in the mail, but I felt bad for having forgotten until it was too late. I got busy with other things and missed the day. As we study God’s Word this morning, God gives us a reminder of an event that is coming, so that we don’t get distracted and give it little thought. The event is the end of the world. We are reminded that THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NEAR. 1. The Lord Will Come To Judge. 2. He Will Crush The Ungodly. 3. He Will Deliver His People.
The day of the Lord is announced in verse 16. “The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem.” The announcement of that day will be broadcast far and near. He uses the picture of a lion roaring. A lion’s roar, which is the loudest of all the big cats, can be heard up to 5 miles away. He also uses the picture of thunder, which can be heard 10 miles away. No one will miss the call on the Last Day. In addition, there will be signs in creation. “The earth and the heavens will tremble.” Jesus also tells us about this in Matthew 24:19, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” There will be no doubt that the Last Day has arrived.
God tells us who will be affected by the announcement. It says in verse 12, “Let the nations be roused.” Later, in verse 14, it speaks of “multitudes.” Lest some be tempted to think that they will somehow be exempt from this event, God says, “I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.” What will happen on the Last Day will be felt by all the people who have ever lived on the earth. God, also, tells us the purpose for this gathering. “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.”(Verse 12) In verse 14, it says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” God speaks of all people being brought into the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of Judah. God gave him a great victory over the Moabites and Ammonites in a valley just outside of Jerusalem, which came to be known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat. However, God isn’t telling us a physical location where all of this will take place. The name “Jehoshaphat” means “The Lord judges.” The location isn’t what is being highlighted. It is the activity that will take place. The Lord will sit on his throne and judge all people. It is also referred to as the “valley of decision.” A judgement will be rendered on that day. There will be no delays. There will be no appeals process. A decision will be announced and the judgement will be carried out. Whether or not people want to believe it, the Lord will come to judge all people.
There will be two groups that will stand before the Lord on that day. The first group is spoken of in verse 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!” These are the wicked people. God uses some very graphic pictures to describe what will happen to the wicked. God has given them every opportunity, but they have refused to change what they are doing. They continue in their lives apart from God. Now has come the time for the harvest of their evil ways.
Even here we see the patience of God. He did not want any of these people to perish. He didn’t wipe them out as soon as they turned their backs on him. He continued to send them opportunity after opportunity to see what they were doing was wrong. Eventually, the time for that patience reaches its end. Now, the winepress is full and the vats are overflowing with their wickedness. After the grapes are harvested, it is time to crush them in the winepress. Now it is time for the wicked to be crushed.
This is a concept that many people just cannot comprehend. They refuse to believe that, if there is a God, he would actually punish people. They like to think of God only as a God of love. To their way of thinking, God would never really send anyone to hell just for a couple of mistakes. That wouldn’t be very loving. However, while it is true that God is a God of love, he is also a just God, who will not overlook any sin. Even one breaking of his law is enough for a person to spend their eternity in hell. This will be the justice that God will carry out on the Last Day for the wicked. They will be crushed by the Lord in hell for all eternity. For the wicked, the Day of the Lord will be met with great fear and trembling.
When we hear about the events that will surround the Last Day, it would be easy enough for us to be afraid, as well. After all, the sun and moon will be darkened. The stars will fall from the sky. As terrifying as those things would be, we also know that we deserve the crushing in hell that we just spoke about. When we stand in the presence of the holy God all on our own, we see the many sins that we have committed. We, also, know how many times that we have downplayed our sinful actions, thoughts, and words. One might think that the Valley of Jehoshaphat would be a terrifying place to be.
However, listen to what God says at the end of verse 16, “But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.” The Lord promises to be a refuge and a stronghold, in other words, a place of peace and security. This peace does not come from us, but from the Lord, who loved us so much that he came down to the earth to take care of those sins that would otherwise destroy us. He lived a perfect life in our place. He never gave in to one temptation to sin. Jesus, then, went to the cross bearing all of the sins that we have ever committed. He acted as our Substitute, enduring the crushing blows of his Father in our place. He suffered the torments of hell, so that we would never have to. He exchanged our sins for his perfect life. Jesus’ resurrection is the exclamation point on his work for us. When we are brought to faith, we become God’s people. As a result, instead of being terrified on the Last Day, we have the peace and security of knowing that our sins are forgiven. That’s why, after Jesus described the events of the Last Day, he said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) We will be delivered on that day from all of the terrors that so many others will experience. It is interesting to note that the Valley of Jehoshaphat was also known as the Valley of Berakah, which means “the valley of praise.” What a fitting name for the Christian to call this place! On that day, we will praise our God for his pronouncement of innocence that will be rendered on our behalf because of the work of our Savior.
In addition, we don’t have to wait until the Last Day to experience God’s deliverance. God promises to deliver us as we walk along life’s path. During our life time, we will face many difficulties. They may seem to gang up against us so that we are overwhelmed by them. However, God promises to be right there beside us each step of the way. He makes this promise in Psalm 50:15, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” We come to God in prayer, confident in the fact that he hears us and will always do what is best for us. He promises to deliver us. This is not to say that our lives will always be free of difficulties. Yet, we know that God continues to be with us and promises that whatever may come into our lives, he will use it for our benefit. Knowing this, we echo the words of Psalm 46:1-3, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” God promises to deliver us during our lifetimes.
This deliverance is a foretaste of what we will experience when we reach heaven. Then, all of those things that threatened us and made our lives difficult will be gone forever. Listen to the how heaven is described in Revelation 7:16&17, “‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” As God’s people, we look forward to this final deliverance. We praise our God for the deliverance that he brought about through our Savior, the deliverance that we experience today, and the final deliverance that we will enjoy for all eternity.
It may seem a bit odd to be talking about Judgment Day today. Normally, that theme is reserved for the last Sundays in the church year, usually in the first weeks of November. In addition, we are reminded of Judgement Day every time we speak the words of the creeds during our worship services. However, it is a subject that needs to always be in the back of our minds. We want to be ready for the Day of the Lord to come. We don’t do this so that we don’t get into trouble. We want to be ready as another way of thanking God for all that he has done for our salvation. This is also a good reminder for us to reach out to the people that we know who don’t believe in Jesus as their Savior. It is so easy to put it off until another time. Yet, we do not know when the Day of the Lord will happen. We want that person to spend their eternity in glory with us. May God give us ready hearts and mouths to tell others about Jesus’ love for them. We, also, pray that the Lord would continue to strengthen our faith as we keep in mind the fact that the Day of the Lord is near. Amen.
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