“The foolish Children of Men do miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in their confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to do nothing but a shadow. The bigger part of those that heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell: and it was not because they were not as wise as those that are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If it were so that we could come to speak with them, and could inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of that misery, we doubtless should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here; I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive as well for myself; I thought my scheme good; I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time and in that manner; it came as a thief; death outwitted me; God’s wrath was too quick for me; O my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter, and when I was saying Peace and Safety, then suddenly destruction came upon me.”
Commentators will tell you that the British Colonial Christian congregationalist who authored this quote, namely Jonathan Edwards, was, at the time, America’s greatest theologian and thinker. This particular segment is taken from his famous sermon – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. A sermon that he delivered in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8th, 1741. This was during the period known as the Great Awakening. A protestant revivalist movement which spanned the 1730s and 1740s. It was an age of renewal during which many were said to have come to faith under the preaching and teaching of men like Edwards. Men whose milestone messages resonated with the shaking power and the quaking effect of life-transforming thunderstorms. Messages that were interrupted and sometimes discontinued due to the shrieking, and the crying, and the weeping with which they were received by their convicted audiences.
It makes sense then that some people in today’s evangelical America, might unreservedly consider Jonathan Edwards to be a hero of the faith. For others, however – especially those of African descent –the legacy of Jonathan Edwards may be tainted by the reality that he was both an owner of slaves and a sympathizer of slavery. These other evangelicals might therefore raise the following pressing question: How can we listen to the message of the man if, in the life of the man, there is misalignment with his message? A valid point to consider. Yet, I think the very same sense of discomfort must arise when the legacy of arguably the greatest orator of the twentieth century is examined closely. By this I mean the legacy of none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On the one hand, who can deny the resonance with which Dr. King’s unforgettable Letter from Birmingham Jail shook the democratic foundations of the United States? And who can neglect the way his letter jostled the theological underpinnings of the day-to-day ecclesiology of the American church? But, on the other hand, who can ignore the cloud of controversy that was formed around the allegations of infidelity that many times were pointed in the direction of Dr. King? Surely the shadow of misgivings that is cast upon King is as tall and as broad as that which creates shade over the legacy of Edwards. To say it again, how can we listen to the message of the man, if, in the life of the man, there is misalignment with his message?
This is a crucial question. Especially for those of us who profess to be Christians. Christians meeting as we are in this historic neighborhood of Anacostia. Situated as it is in the South East of Washington D.C. In the District of Columbia, which is the very capital of our highly partisan, highly racialized, and largely apostate United States. Brothers and sisters, our country is in a fight about everything. About globalism and about nationalism. About liberalism and about conservatism. About abortion and about immigration. About black lives and about all lives. About reparations and about the universal minimum wage. We fight about things that appear to be much more trivial too. About Meghan Markle and about the British paparazzi. About Kanye West and about the Kardashians. About Lizzo and about Jillian Michaels. We even fight about Marvel Universe and about DC Comics – as well as other similarly inconsequential things. To our shame, we also fight about who we are and who we ought to be as Christians. And in the amidst of this cacophony of chaos which we have conjured up through our continual catfighting, our country is left without clarity as to whom it should give its listening ear. For, as readily as one hero might be raised up in the opinions of men, so readily might the ascent of that star be met by a countervailing set of reasons to bring him or her back down again. Sadly, as it goes for the world, so it goes for the church. But whereas the folly of the world is justification for the gospel, the folly of the church is a stain upon the witness of the saints. In other words, when we Christians put on the robes of hypocrisy, we give the world license to lobby its objection against us. How can we, the world, listen to you, the church, if, in the life of your church, there is misalignment with your message?
It is in this context and against this background that I believe the wrath of God needs be understood. The angry God that Jonathan Edwards describes is not an unstable, unhinged, or unpredictable despot. No, far be it from us to even think it. God is light. In him, there is no darkness. God is perfect. In him, there is no blemish. God is holy. In him, there is no sin. No, the wrath of God is justified, because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. He made us in his image, but we disobeyed him. He gave us priests and prophets, but we ignored them. He sent his one and only Son – and Jesus came (praise God) – to fulfill all righteousness, to suffer on the cross for our sins, and to defeat death by rising from the grave. But we rejected him as well. It is therefore well within the good pleasure of this sovereign God to be angry – angry with the selfish, sinful souls of men. Mankind already deserves his physical death, and he has more than earned his eternal death – because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Thus, it is appointed for man to die once and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). And judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).
The bible tell us that the final judgment will take place on the Day of the Lord, when the sheep and the goats will be separated (Matthew 25:31-46). The sheep are those who, by grace, have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. They will spend a glorious eternity with God. The goats, however, are those impenitent souls. Those who have remained obstinate and defiant even unto their very last breath. They will live out the ghastly curse of being utterly condemned. They will face the fearful, awful, and unrelenting wrath of God. They will be separated eternally. Separated from the gift, and the goodness, and the glory of God. To be sure, the goats are those whom God, in his good pleasure, will crush without mercy and destroy without remorse in the Day of the Lord.
Friends, this is the horrible horror about which the minor prophet, Joel, is urgent to warn against. He writes about it in his three-chapter chronicle. A magnificent manuscript that sits at the end the third quarter of the Old Testament books. Joel depicts a dreadful and inevitable conclusion to human life – at least that portion of human life which falls outside of the specific saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, book of Joel affirms that whoever is included in that portion shall be sinners in the hands of a justifiably angry God.
In parceling out its message, the book of Joel does so with stunning effect. It harnesses the power of a beautifully poetic structure, an energetic flowing cadence, and a dramatic collection of culminating climaxes. It employs strikingly vivid descriptions, poignant imperatives, and simple conclusions to translate the gravity and the immediacy of the message. And the message of the book of Joel has five essential themes. Firstly, that God is sovereign. Secondly, that the Day of the Lord is at hand. Thirdly, that judgment accompanies the Day of the Lord. Fourthly, that redemption is the reward of repentance. Fifthly, that destruction lies in wait for the impenitent.
Today’s sermon, which covers chapter one of the book of Joel, is the first in a three-part series. By grace, in a few weeks, you will hear from Pastors Dennis and George regarding chapters two and three.
Now, before we explore chapter one, it may be helpful to note one more thing. Which is that there is no small matter of grace and no small act of providence in the fact that God has permitted us to know very little about the author of the book of Joel. We know only that his father was a man named Pethuel. Besides that, we have no other information about the prophet himself. Moreover, theologians are largely split about when exactly the book of Joel was written and to which generation of Israelites its contents were addressed. It is as though God has intentionally mystified the man, so that the message might manifest mightily in both a timeless and timely manner. In a way that minimizes the potential for our flighty hearts and minds to be distracted. For, if we know nothing about the man, our attention has no choice but to rest upon the message. And in so doing, we should be stirred to reflect upon the messenger about whom, in whose authority, and in whose power the message is both crafted and sent.
Thus, as we explore this first chapter, let us be mindful of the fact that there is no coincidence at all – but only grace – in the providence that the name “Joel” literally means “Yahweh is God.” Also, right from the start, the book declares that its contents are not Joel’s, but the word of the Lord that came to Joel. In other words, this is God’s message. Friends, let this revelation brew in our hearts and percolate through our souls as a life-giving tonic. The Lord is God – and God is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should change his mind. Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and then not fulfill? No, there is no misalignment between the life of God and his message. There are no surprises. No letdowns. Only truth. We should therefore pay close attention to what God says.
With that in mind, let us read chapter 1 of the book of of Joel:
Joel Chapter 1
The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the Son of Pethuel:
Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.
What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.
Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up against my land, a powerful nation and beyond number; its teeth are lions teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white. Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord.
The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil languishes. Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished. The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, apple, all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man.
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. Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of your God, and cry out to the Lord.
Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near – and – as destruction from the Almighty it comes. Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seed shrivels under the clods, the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. To you, O Lord I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
Chapter one – as we see – describes a terrible desolation. It comes suddenly upon the house of Israel in the form of a plague of locusts. It is a colossal catastrophe that creates a range of negative effects which we see in verses 5 through 20. There is an environmental impact as the trees of the field, including the vine, the fig tree, and the olive tree, are laid waste. The fields themselves are destroyed, and the water brooks dry up. There is a social impact demonstrated by the cutting off of the supply of sweet wine. There is an industrial impact as the seeds under the clods of soil shrivel, and the harvest of the field perishes. There is a commercial impact, as the storehouses become desolate and the granaries are torn down. The marketplace is laid bare. It should be full of grain, and wine, and oil, and wheat, and barley, and figs, and pomegranates, and palm, and apples, and meat, and milk, and honey, and wool. But it is empty. There is an impact on wellbeing as food is cut off before the eyes of the people and they lose their gladness. There is a civic impact as everyone from the elders to the inhabitants are affected. Finally, there is a religious impact as the grain offering and drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The book of Joel leaves us without a shadow of a doubt that this is a monumental disaster. One which the Israelites are instructed to add to the folklore canon and to the customary tradition of storytelling. Children to the third generation need to know about this.
But notice the question in verse 2:
Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers?
At first pass, this may appear to be an innocuous question. But I think it is a zapping zinger of an interrogation. Some major shade is being thrown – award-winning, covert shade is being thrown at the Israelites. Did you catch it? “Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers?” The straightforward answer may perhaps be, “No, not in our days, nor in the days of our immediate fathers.” But, upon deeper reflection, Israel is not unaccustomed to locusts, is it? No. Remember Egypt and the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus chapter 10? Any Israelites familiar with history would have been left reeling by the implications of the question in verse 2. For in the days of Moses, locusts were a part of the Lord’s prescription to judge Egypt for its abuse of God’s people. But in the days of Joel, locusts had become a part of the Lord’s prescription to judge God’s people for their abuse of him. What an indictment! I think the question in verse 2 serves as a warning. A signal that the word of the Lord is poised to do battle. Battle with the hearts of the Israelites, in the name of the Lord, for the sake of their souls. The message is this: the Israelites should be prepared to meet their God.
That is why verse 4 brings up the locusts:
What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten. What the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.
If you know nothing about locusts, it may be difficult to understand how they might be capable of this degree of devastation. Well, allow me to make four points that may bring verse 4 into more vivid light.
Firstly, the word “locust” is a collective term for various kinds of short-horned grasshoppers. Grasshoppers which, under the right circumstances, go through morphological and behavioral changes. Changes that cause them to become one highly destructive whirlwind of a force of nature. In other words, locusts are the dark side of grasshoppers – the Mr. Hyde to the grasshopper’s Dr. Jekyll. Locusts – are herbivores, which means they only eat vegetation. However, unlike other herbivore insects, locusts have an unrestricted diet. Anything that grows out of the ground it is game for them. Rather than bite their food like some insects, locusts eat by cutting through vegetation in small chunks with their mandibles and then by chewing it thoroughly with their jaws. It is therefore appropriate, as Joel has done, to describe these creatures as cutting locusts.
Secondly, under suitable conditions of drought followed by rapid vegetation growth, serotonin in the brains of these insects triggers astonishing changes. Behaviorally, the grasshoppers adapt from solitary to gregarious. They develop a strong affinity for each other and they converge in very large and very proximate social groupings. When together in such close contact, to the point of overcrowding, higher levels of serotonin cause these locusts to eat much more, breed more abundantly, and even change color. This phase of their existence is known as ‘swarming.’ And swarming locusts can number billions of insects spread across thousands of square kilometers.
Thirdly, their constant breeding results in millions of baby locusts, called nymphs. Unlike butterflies, which are born as worm-looking larvae, nymphs – from the start – look and behave a lot like their parent locusts. The only difference is that they cannot fly. They therefore get around by hopping. And these young hopping locusts have a ravenous appetite. They eat absolutely everything in sight.
Fourthly, as they move together, these cutting, swarming, and hopping locusts are like a rolling fireball of consumption. They maintain a cohesive structure that makes them appear as a nation, or as an army. They have no king, but they march in rank (Proverbs 30:27). A military unit with sharp, predatorial teeth, like those of a lion. Fangs which cut through and engulf all foliage in perpetual motion. When the locusts at the front-edge of their battalion stop to eat, the ones behind either fly over them or hop around them to devour the next patch of greenery. It is a process that keeps on going. Locusts can therefore rapidly lay waste to vast terrains of vegetation. And, given their large numbers, many of them die along the way. Their millions of carcasses emit a vulgar stench. Their cadavers attract rats, and vultures, and flies, and other disease-transmitting creatures. In this way, locusts and their corpses can cause the contamination of water sources; the drying up of grasslands; the wilting of both wild and horticultural trees; the equivalent of drought conditions across the land. All sorts of airborne, waterborne, food-related, and infectious illnesses can occur with a viciousness that can bring human communities right down to their knees. Given their propensity for devastation, calling these insects ‘destroying locusts’ is not at all out of place.
Now, I realize that I have given you a lot of information about locusts. But I have done so because I want you to see that verse 4 is neither arbitrary nor poetic merely for aesthetic reasons. No, the book of Joel is fully laden with a profound understanding of entomology (which is the study of insects), and with an extraordinary appreciation of environmental science as well. The marauding insects in this continual wave-after-wave of obliteration are called ‘cutting’ locusts, and ‘swarming’ locusts, and ‘hopping’ locusts, and ‘destroying’ locusts, because that is precisely what they are.
The Call to Repent
Given the magnitude of the tragedy that hits Israel, it is intriguing that there is dissonance between the reaction the people extend and the response that the book of Joel expects. It is clear from the text that the people are put out by the plague of locusts. They are dismayed. The priests mourn in verse 9, and that gladness dries up from the children of man in verse 12. Israel is definitely grieving. But the word of the Lord appears to be looking for something more than mere melancholy. We see this in the imperatives that are used in the chapter. The elders and inhabitants are instructed to “hear,” and “give ear,” and “tell.” The drunkards are told to “awake,” and the drinkers of wine to “weep,” and “wail.” The tillers of the soil are compelled to “be ashamed,” and the vinedressers to “wail.” Finally, the priests are required to “put on sackcloth and lament.” They are to “consecrate a fast,” and “call a solemn assembly,” and gather the people to “cry out to the Lord.”
What emerges is that the word of the Lord is concerned about repentance, not sadness. Yet, the text suggests that the people do not readily turn away from their sins. It appears that they behave just like the brood of vipers which John the Baptist would later accuse the Pharisees and Sadducees of becoming in Matthew 3 verse 8. They were not producing fruit in keeping with repentance.
Yet here is a question: How do we know that these Israelites had sinned and needed to repent? Well, the sweeping answer is that there is no one is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10), because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But the more contextual answer is that, although the locust invasion has ravaged the land, it appears to have done little to affect the hearts of the people. The drunkards continue in their stupor; the tillers of the soil persist in their arrogance; and the priests mourn selfishly, but do not attend to the repentance of the community as a whole. Thus, the word of the Lord demands the attention from the elders and the inhabitants because they do not give it. It orders sobriety because the drunkards do not show it. It mandates shame because the tillers of the soil and the vinedressers do not offer it. It calls for a fast, a solemn assembly, a gathering of the people to the house of God, and a collective outcry to the Lord, because the hearts of the people are not moving in that direction.
Let us look at the priests again. In verse 9, we see that the priests mourn. But the poetry of the text gives hint that these ministers of the Lord are not being pious. Their grief is not because they worry over the sacrifices that are no longer being offered to the Lord. Not at all. They are depressed because no offering means no portion for them. Deuteronomy 18 verses 3 to 5 clarifies that the share due to the priests from the people who sacrifice a bull or a sheep, includes the shoulder, the internal organs, and meat from the head. The people are also to give the priests the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, and oil, and the first wool sheared from the flock. In the book of Joel, the priests certainly mourn. But they do nothing else without Joel’s urging. That is a huge giveaway! The word of the Lord is concerned about repentance, but the priests are only concerned their livelihoods and their stomachs. At the same time, the children of man (i.e. the people) are no different. The language in verse 12 suggests that they only become depressed because the fun is gone, the work is gone, and the food is gone. But then, who are you if your joy only is proportional to the fatness of your wallet and the fullness of your belly? Who are you?
The book of Joel then cleverly compares the selfish people to the selfless creation. The creation grieves not for itself, but because it has lost its capacity to serve. In verse 10, the ground mourns because it can no longer contribute to the worship of the Lord through man’s offering. In verse 20, when the water brooks dry up, the beasts pant, but they do so for the Lord. This is another striking indictment on the people of God. They do not appear to have given the Lord even a single thought.
The book of Joel also offers an interesting reflection regarding a similarity between the locusts and the people. If you think about it, there is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation in both of them. In the case of locusts, the cause is serotonin. But in the case of mankind, the cause is sin. Sin transforms the children of man into the sons of perdition. They become objects of wrath; as Jonathan Edwards calls it – sinners in the hands of an angry God. A God who promises to wield his weapons of destruction in judgment against those who refuse to repent.
This is why verse 14 calls for a fast, and for a solemn assembly, and for a collective cry out to the Lord. Verse 14 has echoes of Solomon’s prayer of dedication. The one in 1 Kings chapter 8, when he finished building the temple. A portion of Solomon’s prayer says this:
If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind) that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.
Verse 14 also echoes the Lord’s response to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7 verse 13:
I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Friends, the good news of verse 14 is that if locusts are a prescription for God’s judgment upon his people, then the Lord also has a prescription for the redemption of his people when they repent. So in verse 19, the book of Joel models repentance as the Lord desires it. The word of the Lord says, “To you, O Lord, I call.” In other words, repentance is not complicated. All people need to do is express with their mouths that only God can relieve them of the devastation that comes by virtue of their sin. To you, O Lord, I call.
Unfortunately, mankind has a well-documented track record of not responding to God’s calls for repentance. We see this in the book of Amos – another minor prophet – just one book over from Joel in the Old Testament. In Amos chapter 4, the Lord explains how he took away bread from the Israelites; he withheld rain from them; he struck them with blight and mildew; he sent locusts to devour their gardens, vineyards, fig trees, and olive trees; he struck them with pestilence like the Egyptians; he killed their young men; he carried away their horses; he made a stench of their camp . . . and more! The Lord did this because Israel was in sin. And yet Israel still failed to return to him.
“Therefore,” says the Lord, “thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
Prepare to meet your God. That does not sound like the Lord is playing around. Friends, there is a horror that awaits those who continue to rebel against God. Those who ignore God’s warning and discipline. Those who self-style as goats. Because there is a final judgement when they will come face to face with the living God – the Lord of hosts himself! And when they meet him, they will do so as enemies of God. Friends, woe betide anyone whose life concludes in this terrifying way!
Which is why verse 15 in the book of Joel is urgent to cry out:
Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near – and – as destruction from the Almighty, it comes.
The writer of Hebrews puts the same thought a different way. In Hebrews 10, verse 31, the word says, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Why? Because the only outcome for the ungodly in such an encounter is destruction. I tell you, if the Israelites in the days of Joel understood how close they were to the flame of God’s wrath – how close to missing out on an eternity of joy with God – I have absolutely no doubt that they would have done what Joel chapter 1 verse 8 instructs: Lament like a bride for the bridegroom of her youth.
Well, what about you? Are you moved by the book of Joel? Or do the thousands of years between you and those Israelites make it difficult for you to relate? Friend, do not buy the lie. The book of Joel is as relevant today as it was then. The Lord was there then, and the Lord is here now. And Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13 verse 8). God is still sovereign. The Day of the Lord is still at hand. Judgement still accompanies the Day of the Lord. Redemption is still the reward for repentance. And destruction still lies in wait for the impenitent.
If you need proof that there is nothing new under the sun, then I have just the thing for you. You should know that, even as we speak, East Africa is facing its worst locust plague in 25 years. The crisis is huge. It is a massive threat to food security. In fact, some early estimates suggest that the desert locusts currently swarming in Kenya can, in one day, consume the same amount of food that 84 million people might eat over the course of 24 hours. That is scary. Thus, for many people in East Africa, these days, today are, in fact, the days of Joel.
Now some of you may be thinking,
“I feel bad for the East Africans. But in the words of the great philosopher, Childish Gambino – this is America. The greatest nation in the world. And we have not had a locust outbreak since the 1930s. I think that means we are pretty safe.”
Well, if that is what you really think, then I have news for you. The book of Joel is not about food security. It is about soul security. Do you remember the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 12 verse 15? One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. And do you remember the parable of the rich fool in the same chapter? The man wanted to tear down his barns and build bigger ones because he had a plentiful harvest. He said to his soul, “Relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night, your soul is required of you. And what about things you have stored up? Whose will they be now?”
Friend, the question remains: who are you if your security is directly proportional to the fatness of your wallet and the fullness of your belly? Who are you? In God’s sight it makes no difference whether you tear down your granaries because your grain has dried up. Or you tear down your barns to build bigger ones because your harvest is too plentiful. When the Lord requires your soul from you, your inheritance will be destruction. Unless, of course, you repent. That does not mean God is a harsh master. It just means you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Friend, if you hear the voice of the Lord today, do not harden your heart as they did in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:15).
2 Peter chapter 3 verses 8 to 10 says:
Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that, with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. . .
Friend, do not do the easy thing. Do not brush off the book of Joel. Instead, choose to do the difficult thing. Confront your soul! Listen to the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3 verse 2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I think it is fitting that John the Baptist lived on locusts and honey as he prepared the way for the Lord. Locusts and honey, as if to illustrate that Jesus is Lord over both the bitterness of judgment and the sweetness of redemption. So do not wait, friend. Act today. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. And believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. For, with your heart, you believe and are justified. And with your mouth, you confess and are saved. (Romans 10: 9-10)
Now, to those of you who already profess Christ, the book of Joel has a message for you too. Christianity is not a license for complacency. Remember that the Israelites in the days of Joel saw themselves as God’s people. No different from evangelicals in today’s America and across the world. Friend, do not be the goat who thinks he or she is a sheep. As it says in 2 Peter 1 verse 10, “be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure.” We are indeed saved by faith and not by works. But our works demonstrate our faith. Now, it is true that until we meet him face to face in glory, there will always be — for all of us, whether Jonathan Edwards, or Martin Luther King Jr., or you — some degree of misalignment between our lives and the message of the Lord. But that is because we are not yet perfected in Christ. So in the meantime, our responsibility is to repent continually and to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
So, if you find your passion for Christ failing, then friend, fan the flame of your faith into a fervent fire. Remember your first love. Repent and do the works you did at first (Revelation 2:5). Repentance will lead you to Christ. And Christ will lead you to love. And love will let the world know that we are Christians. And the ears of those who strain for the truth will find a pleasant sound in our voices. Because our voices will carry the word of the Lord. And our lives will reflect the message of Christ. And our witness will be a bounty, and not a stain, on the work of the Gospel in this world.
And all this will be to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Brothers and sisters, let us produce fruit in keeping with repentance – lest the locusts come take away our harvest. Let us pray.