Multitudes, Multitudes in the Valley of Decision
May 17, 2015
The Book of Joel is very relevant to our day. Not only does it prophecy the greatest event in human history, recreation in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but it speaks to us of the dangers of refusing this great blessing.
In Joel’s day, the elders, the priests, the farmers were all in need of repentance. God sent a swarm of locusts to devastate their land in order to get their attention. The locusts were a judgment from God but also a blessing. They were a pre-cursor to a far more severe judgment. If they got the warning from God and repented, then He would relent from further calamity that was to befall them. That calamity would be invading armies that utterly wasted the land, killed their wives and children and hauled them off into exile.
We are not certain of the date of Joel. Many dates have been put forth. I believe an early date makes the most sense. Joel is thought to be an original author with many other Major and Minor prophets picking up his language in their writings. This makes an early date likely.
He is speaking to the Southern Kingdom, to Judah. But his message works just as well if he was speaking to the Northern Kingdom.
Chapter one opens with the advent of a locust attack and this theme carries on through the middle of the second chapter. As a result of the locust plague, Joel calls the nation to repentance.
1:2 Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?
11 Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.
13 Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.
Joel 1:14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD, 15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Valley of Jeshoshapat near or at Temple Mount. This is likely where the disciples were gathered when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost. This is the very place the Lord gathered people to pour out His Spirit upon them.
Joel 1:5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. 6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. 7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.
It is sad times for drunkards and gluttons because there is no wine or wheat harvest. The vines are all eaten. Even the bark is stripped off the fig tree.
Joel 1: 13 Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.
The devastation is so total that there is not even meat offering or drink offerings. This means that there is no way to draw near to God. They cannot bring God anything. He must extend His grace and mercy to them.
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
The day of the Lord is a destructive event. The locusts provide the day of the Lord. They bring God’s wrath upon the land.
The text expressly tells us that this destruction is from the Almighty.
Throughout the Major and Minor prophets, the Day of the Lord is associated with God’s wrath both upon His own stubborn and rebellious people, as well as the heathen.
In Malachi, we are told expressly that Elijah will come to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the Earth with a curse. This was to happen before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord.
The New Testament tells us that the prophesied Elijah was fulfilled in John the Baptist. He proclaimed repentance for the Kingdom of God was at hand. For those who would not repent, coming of the Day of the Lord was at hand.
Joel 2:1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; 2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. 3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
Day of the Lord is darkness and gloominess. A great people and strong. This is the locusts. In front of them, the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them a desolate wilderness. Nothing escapes them.
Imagine the landscape as after a tornado roars through. You have seen the pictures on television. The trees are stripped bare. All the leaves are gone. Everything looks grey and gloomy. Imagine the building all intact, while the trees and shrubs are nothing but sticks. There are no leafing plants left. All flowers, grass, wheat, and all crops are completely devoured. What is left is brown and dead.
9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: 11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
The day of the Lord is great and very terrible. God utters His voice before His army of locusts. That is to say that the Lord calls them to this work.
Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
Turn to the Lord. Rend your heart, not your garments.
He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. When you repent, the Lord relents.
21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. 22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. 26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. 27 And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
V. 25- The brings life where there is no life. He brings the pastures back. He brings rain to relieve the drought. He gives increase to our future to make up for the past, restoring the years the locust has eaten.
You shall know that I am in your midst. When God restores, there is no doubt that it is Him.
Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
This is the passage quoted by Peter on Pentecost.
Furthermore, Peter says,
Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
He then quotes the verses so the people know what he is talking about. It was the locust infestation. But they also understood that God judged Samaria and Jerusalem with armies that were more fearsome than the locusts because they killed, besieged and destroyed the cities.
Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
David was the king who ruled over Jerusalem but his day was already over when Joel prophesied. Peter points out that the promises of a perpetual Davidic Kingdom cannot point to David. They have to point to someone else.
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
They got the point. If they do not repent and believe in Jesus who is the King, then they will be destroyed. They are gathered by God for destruction but God is slow to anger and quick to forgive and He restores the years the locust has eaten, the years of disobedience and unbelief.
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Peter tells them to do what Joel told the people to do. Repent. In the Old Covenant, they were to repent to Yahweh because He was gracious and merciful, slow to anger and quick to forgive.
The Jews gathered in the Valley of Jehoshaphat at Pentecost get the allusion. We are like those Jews of that day. We need to repent. If we do not, then God’s wrath will be poured out on us just like it was poured out on them.
Joel 3:18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. The Joel passage is also full of water. The rivers of Judah shall flow with water. A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord and shall water the valley of Shittim.
From Jesus come the rivers of the waters of life. He gave to the woman at the well rivers of living water. Here, the temple produces waters of life. Peter declares that these waters are the Spirit that is now poured out.
The way to receive this water of life is through repentance of sin and belief in Jesus and submission to Him.
Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Joel 3:1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
No doubt the gathered Jews had this Scripture in their minds, as well. The nations were gathered at Jerusalem. There were people from all over the world at Jerusalem for Pentecost. It is true that these people were Jews but they also spoke many different languages from around the world. These are the scattered people brought back to partake of the living waters.
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 the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. 17 So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
Just as there were multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision in Joel’s day, so there are multitudes, multitudes in the Valley of Decision in Peter’s day. The Lord has come upon them like a storm of locusts.
The Day of the Lord is at hand. What will you do? Will you repent and believe in Jesus or will you stand with the nations who will be judged by God? The language of sun, moon and stars being darkened speak of God’s wrath. The locusts darkened the sky as God’s host. So, here, judgment draws near but all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Now, we understand that the name of Yahweh is Jesus. So, call upon Him for salvation.
Joel 3:18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim. 19 Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. 20 But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. 21 For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.
In Christ, new wine, hills flowing with milk, rivers flowing with living water, a fountain of life from God’s temple. Jesus is the Temple!
Judah will dwell forever, Jerusalem from generation to generation. This is the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is the heavenly Jerusalem.
We really should pay attention to the day of the Lord. The Lord calls His army, locusts, clouds, hurricanes to do His will. Of course, in any one situation, we are at a difficulty to explain what God has done. Did the tower fall upon them because they were greater sinners than the rest of you? No, but unless you repent you likewise shall perish.
The message? Take stock of God’s judgments and repent lest you perish in the way.
The church and civic leaders have everything backwards in our time. Instead of repenting, they argue for more of the same sins. More adultery. More debauchery. More perversion. And no dissent allowed. For the dissenters who speak against sin are troubling the land. If we rid the land of them, they argue, then we would be blessed.
But the word of God speaks prophetically. Elijah was not the troubler of the land. Ahab was. Jezebel was.
1Kings 18:17 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? 18 And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.