The scene in Joel is heavy. There is a plague for the ages through these vicious locusts. It appears according to chapter 1 that the effect is far-reaching and debilitating. In the midst of this, God looks ahead to a day of greater calamity and judgment. He looks ahead to the Day of the Lord.
We read of a gathering together of people in verse 14. However, instead of a gathering for a party or a celebration it is a gathering for judgment:
“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14)
This word decision could be translated cutting. It is a valley for judgment. There is a verdict that will be read and a sentence that will be executed.
Baseball pitchers need to have a “go-to” pitch. This is their best pitch. And, it is their most important pitch because it sets up effectiveness and it compensates for under-effectiveness. How do you know what a pitcher’s money pitch is? It is what he throws when he is down in the count or in some trouble with runners on base. It is his “go-to” pitch when he gets into jams.
As Christians we have something of a spiritual go-to pitch. When we are in a jam or need answers we shake off other pitches in favor of what we think will get the job done. Whether at work or in the home, physical or emotional, in the church or in your neighborhood—we get into jams. What do we do?
“And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.” (Mark 14:53)
At the trial of Jesus we have him being led to the chief priest. Here we have a very ironic scene that is both historically and theologically charged.
In the Bible we understand that everything ultimately points to the person and work of Christ (Lk. 24:26-27, 44-47). The Old Testament is laden with shadows pointing forward to the substance which is Christ (Col. 2:16-17). As question 19 in the Heidelberg Catechism say, “God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.”
So here in this scene we have Jesus standing before the high priest. Or, we might say, the substance (Jesus) standing before the shadow (high priest).
We will always get in trouble when we think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of our sin.
One way we do this is to weigh our attitudes and actions on the scale of a fallen world. So the reasoning follows, “A little frustration is normal….Who doesn’t feel lazy?…Sharing with a friend isn’t the same as gossip…Looking isn’t bad–as long as I’m not touching…I have “it” under control.
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22)
The final words of the first chapter of Job are extremely powerful, but they are particularly so when considered in light of the entire chapter. It is clear that Job is a very blessed man and a very godly man. In the midst of this God permits an onslaught of affliction. In a brief period of time Job’s family and property were raided by marauders, fire, and a windstorm. His kids were dead and his business destroyed. Here at the end of the chapter he is mourning this tragic day.
When you listen to believers talk about the Christian life there is a common theme: prayer is important and difficult. This is not a new phenomenon, even the earliest disciples requested some classes on prayer (Luke 11:1). Therefore, it is encouraging and instructive to hear Jesus’ teaching on how to pray from what is called “The Lord’s Prayer.”
What is interesting to me is the way he begins: “Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9). In this Jesus calls us to the family room for a conversation with our heavenly Father. Before we go further, however, it is important, even imperative to acknowledge and overcome a major obstacle that this opening presents.
Our family recently moved to a new home in a new neighborhood. We lived in our previous home for over 10 years. During those years our family saw four children born, major medical trials, a church planted, and a plethora of daily events that produce a range of reactions. Whatever the situation I would always tend to find myself in the same place, leaning against a wall in the family room looking out our back window. This spot proved to be extremely versatile. It was there that I wept for fear, excitement, regret, answered prayer, and joy. Now we live in a new home, in a new space. My familiar wall and view are not there. Sometimes I catch myself roaming about the house like Noah’s raven looking for a place to land. I’m sure the time and space will come.
As a believer do you have a place in the Bible that you return to for particular gospel encouragement? Is there a Scripture that is so versatile that it is able to meet and greet you in every one of life’s events?
An interesting thing happens when we watch a movie or read a book. We are able to simultaneously live amid two realities. On the one hand, we are wrapped into the movie or the book. We lean forward in our seats, clench our fists, perhaps even shed a tear or two.
But, at the same time, we know that it is not real. After all, we paid for a ticket to the show! Regardless, we can effortlessly live between what is real and what is fantasy. In the wisdom and kindness of God’s creative design, we can enjoy refreshment amid our daily life while still living in it. It is something of a recreational vacation without having to travel.
And, we don’t really feel the tension, we certainly don’t ask questions–we just enjoy the entertainment benefits.
I’ve observed a similar dynamic with the Christian life. We know that we sin—even as Christians, we sin. We know also, that God is holy. We have these two realities side by side: our sin and God’s holiness. Do you feel the tension? These two realities don’t seem able to coexist.
How can they?
Every man desires to be considered a “good man”. If God has given a man 75 years of life and he looks back at it, nothing would give him more joy than to know that it wasn’t in vain. Further, the church is in desperate need of good men. The reason of course is that good men honor God and multiply themselves. Good men make more good men.
But, what do they look like?
The Scriptures teach that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). This is a staggering fact. He, the unchanging, ever-perfect, always good God–gives gifts to imperfect, weak, needy people.
Why does he do it? Well, one could rightly say, it is because he has abundance and we are needy. This is true. God needs nothing and we need everything. However, his giving is more than a cold, mechanical, divine donation. God gives because God loves. He loves us. And, his giving is the overflow of his love in sharing himself and his creation with us.