Joel 2: 23-32
Dreams come in two forms, they come to us as mental desires or mental wishes having to do with future events and they come to us as very short yet vivid mental dramas in which we are personally involved. The first, we often refer to as “Day Dreams” the second are visions which we encounter at the point of awakening following a very deep sleep.
We tend to see “Day Dreams” as the hopes and wishes of how we would like to walk our physical journey. We tend to wonder about our sleep dreams because it would seem that we have little or no control over our role within them.
From a biblical perspective they are mentioned several times and they are usually connected to God’s direct interaction with the dreamer! They are also connected to some degree with prophecy because they tend to present God’s word or direction to the one having the dream. But reality tells us that the majority of our dreams are just dreams, not necessarily connected to anyone or anything other than our own mental processes.
Because of the location of the little book of Joel we get a bit confused about what was happening during His time. We’ve been looking at Jeremiah who was in Judah when it was taken but this morning as we look to Joel know that he wrote much earlier. It is said that Joel wrote his prophecy during the reign of the child king Joash in Judah, and Jehu in Israel. While Jehu, king of Israel, rid the nation of the remnants of the evil Ahab and Jezebel, he failed to turn away from the practice of pagan worship but Joash on the other hand sought to do what was right in the eyes of God even though he didn’t rid the nation of all the pagan practices. To his favor, Joash did seek to repair the temple of Solomon and restore the priests to their former position of leading the nation in their worship of God.
So the word of Joel comes to us this morning as an example of how God reaches out to warn us of our need to prepare for our future.
As Joel begins his prophecy he does so with a powerful warning about the destruction that lies in Judah’s future as the result of their sin against God.
In our world today we would call it “Hellfire and Brimstone”, because Joel was a pulpit pounder! He warned the nation of terrible things to come and in fact if you go back into chapter 1 he calls for the priests to put on the sackcloth of mourning and he calls for the nation to declare a holy fast and to cry out to God for redemption.
Now if we would stop at this point in Joel’s message it would seem that he wasn’t anything other than a fore runner of the preachers who proclaimed the good news of the gospels from their inception up to the 1980’s. The message was simply; because of your sin you are going to be punished! If you go back and look at most of the ministry from the founding of the church until the 1980’s the message was, “You are a sinner and you are going to be punished”.
But moving on in Joel’s letter we find the other side of his prophecy which says, God is going to give you another chance! Look again to verse 23, “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains, as before.” The point that Joel is making here is that God is not a God of punishment but rather a God of grace and when we respond to His grace blessings will abound.
But I’ve said it many times before; this is not a carrot and stick trick. God does not hand out rewards for good behavior, instead we experience goodness when we seek to submit ourselves to His plan and walk our lives according to His direction. In short, blessings flow when obedience is lived rather than followed!
By this I mean, I can follow the law so that I won’t be punished but my real desire is to break it so each day becomes a fight to do what I know is right. On the other hand I can live the law and as the result each day is not a fight but rather an adventure.
The Old Testament worship practice is an example of legal domination, by this I mean people did what they were told out of fear rather than desire. Instead of serving God, they sought to satisfy Him. But the point of Joel’s letter is to encourage them that there is a better way of life and that way is submission. This is what he refers to in the latter portion of our text this morning as he writes, “And Afterward”.
Joel’s letter begins like a typical pulpit pounder sermon, you are all sinners and God is going to punish you if you don’t change but then it switches gears and brings the message of hope that with submission life doesn’t have to be a burden.
When Joel speaks of dreams and visions in verse 28, he does so with the hope of a coming Christ who will introduce believers to the Holy Spirit and provide an opportunity for all to be saved.
While he begins his message with a threat he closes it with a promise, which extends to all and not just a few.
When I survey the history of the church, it began with this idea of threat erased by hope but soon changed only to a world of threat. If you go back to the era of the pulpit pounders the message was that of threat, change or else, which began to build a body very similar to that of Israel. A body that responded out of fear rather than respect, a body that sought to avert disaster by blind obedience. But with time that message seemed to get lost and most recently we’ve begun to hear a message which eliminated the threat because we didn’t like it and replaced it with and the message, “it’s going to be ok”. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t encourage life style change but instead encourages doing what seems to be right in your own eyes.
I don’t know about you but living in a world that operates under a moral system of doing what is right in one’s own eyes is very scary!
It makes those in charge mini gods because they are the ones who now decide what it is or how it is that you and I will make our life choices.
This is the whole issue of imprisonment, the fact that prisoners don’t get to decide which options they want to choose from, instead their lives are dictated and set before them.
Understand that it our world isn’t going to be ok; that it will not change unless we seek to make those changes in our own daily lives.
Listen to what Joel writes in verse 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.”
The shame that Joel speaks of here is that of being taken captive, held hostage against your will by someone or something other than the God of your creation.
Our world today has submitted itself to being held hostage by false desire and immediate gratification. We think we can satisfy the void which the absence of God makes but in all reality it is the very thing that ends up overwhelming us.
This is what is missing today, the realization that God is in charge!
What Joel writes about in verses 28 and following seems to be the result of God’s presence within us, the promise of the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we are no longer just individuals walking an earthly journey but rather we are children of a living God walking according to His directions.
When this happens we shall see the wonders of God and we will rejoice in the salvation that He extends to all who believe.
Hear the word and let it set you free.