'The Lord will do great things.'
Joel Chapter 2 Verse 21
We are not sure about the time of the prophecy of Joel but most commentators believe it was around the same time as the prophet Amos.
The Jewish nation had inherited the land of Israel and Judah as the land flowing with milk and honey. For years the inhabitants of Judah had known great harvests of corn, wheat, oil and wine from the vineyards. They had grown to expect large crops and they had taken the Lordís goodness for granted. They had turned from God to serve idols, but God was to change all that. God was to devastate the country of Judah with a judgement of caterpillars and locusts. The judgement of God however came over a number of years. It was not a sudden judgement, like an earthquake or fire but a judgement that the nation had grown up with. The judgement was almost imperceptible because of the length of time that it took and the vastness of the harvests that the people had been used too. The people could see each year field upon field of crops ripening for harvest. They could take their ease because yet another bumper crop was due. Our churches are full; there is no need to evangelise. They could look all around them and expect great riches. But the little insects had started their work. The people either had not noticed or else chose to ignore the invading army of insects. Year after year they came, slowly but surely, bit-by-bit the crops were eaten until finally there were no crops, no harvest.
It was then that the man of God, Joel was sent to them. The people had lived in idolatry and they had not seen Godís hand in judgement upon them, yet the beasts in the field groaned under Godís judgement.
Joelís commission was to awaken the nation out of their slumber and to call them to repentance. The prophet calls the old men together to ask them if they can ever remember anything like it. Such was the devastation. He calls together those who had put so much of their effort into worldly gain to see how quickly it was destroyed. The husbandmen had taken care of their crops of wheat and barley and over their vineyards. They had got drunken with the wine of success. They had excess but they had turned their backs on the One who gave the increase. Judgement therefore came in the form of insects. Even those who served the Lord at the altar had lost their privileges because they could not provide a meat or drink offering. Joy and gladness had gone from the house of God.
The time had now come for the nation to repent and the prophet calls them to acknowledge their sins and Godís hand in judgement upon them. It was a public humiliation for them Ė they were affected by it and so they were all called to assemble in the house of God. The prophet reminds them again and again of their sins. They had the choice to remain hardened, or to turn from their sins unto God. This repentance was not to be done with an outward show of rending their garments but an inward repentance that would rend their hearts. They were to lament their situation as a young widow woman that had lost her husband. Sin is a great destroyer of happiness and peoples lives. The lament of the young woman describes the anguish of one who had looked forward to so much, yet the cruel hand of death had devastated her dreams. God has a perfect hatred for sin Ė He knows sin so as to hate it. The little insects had gone through the crops effortlessly and spoiled everything in their paths. How the little sins have caused devastation in our own lives and the spoiling of our nation as a whole. They come in almost unnoticed Ė just a thought perhaps. What harm can there be in this or that. It is not long before the thought becomes a deed. Then another thought and another deed. Well God let us off with that Ė it cannot be wrong. Youíve seen others do certain things that you know in your heart are wrong yet it is not long before you are doing them yourself. I cannot be bothered reading my Bible just now; Iím too tired. Not too tired for other things though! Prayers become shorter and more materialistic. I do not have time now; Iíll find time for God later. But later never comes.
The Bible becomes a closed book, as do other Christian books Ė magazines take over. Visiting others becomes a thing of the past after all Iíve done my bit? Instead of fellowships there is backbiting and bitterness. And if we are ever accused of the likes of that then pride raises its ugly head and more bitterness ensues. Where then is the likeness of Christ? Oh how the little insects destroyed the harvest. Iím not backslidden you argue with yourself Ė you even try to justify yourself Ė after all you attend church both ends of the day every Sunday and the Prayer meeting midweek so who can fault you, after all you are just as good, if not better than so and so.
When chastening comes from the Lord, the automatic reaction is to rebel against it. You get angry with God for making your life so difficult. How is it that God always seems to pick on you, when you look around you and it is easy for you to see the happiness and contentment in others. They have joy in their lives, but you feel like a leper, an outcast you just do not seem to belong anymore. The longer the people kept back from repenting the more hideous the stench of the rotten fields becomes. The lepers that are left untreated smell like nothing else on earth. It is foul; it is the smell of decaying flesh. The blood supplies stops reaching a certain part of their body and it slowly dies. It goes gangrenous and falls off. Sin when left unrepented off causes a hideous odour unto God. Sin has to be dealt with in Godís way.
Did God leave the people in that state? No. Listen to the words of our text. The Lord will do great things. Once the people had repented and mourned for their sins, God accepted their repentance and promised them that He would do great things. He would send them the former and latter rains, the threat from the Northern army Ė believed to be the Assyrians would be removed from them and He would restore unto them the years that the locusts have eaten. The former rains were necessary at the time of sowing the seeds usually in September, while the latter rains were needed for the ripening of the harvest, which was due in June.
Surely as we look at our own lives it is time for us to lament and then repent of our sins in order that God will restore unto us the years that the locusts have eaten. Then God will do great things. He promised to give the people an abundance of corn, wine and oil. He will give us corn Ė our daily bread. The Bible will once again be Godís word to us with instruction and guidance and food for our needy souls each day. We will delight in the laws of God; the preaching of the Word will once more become effectual in our lives. We will sit under it like beggars, eating in every word as honey from the honeycomb to us.
He will do great things Ė He will restore the wine. The greatest blessing that a Christian can know is the assurance of sins forgiven. We will once again hear His voice telling us that the blood of Jesus Christ the Son cleanseth us from all sin. Your sin and iniquities I will remember no more. We will once again find ourselves complete in Christ Jesus and accepted in the Beloved. As branches engrafted into the true vine. Branches of themselves cannot bear any fruit but when the feed through the vine then it is amazing how much one branch of the vine can actually bear.
He will do great things Ė He will give us oil. The spirit of heaviness will give way to thankfulness and joy. It will be a delight for us to call upon the Name of our God because God will give us the spirit of prayer and supplications. The joy and gladness that had been missing from our worship will return along with faith, hope and love.
The ambassadors of Christ will preach with new vigour, as they are unctioned from on High. Others will see, hear and obey. We will have holy boldness we will not be ashamed to have Christ as our Lord and Maker. We will be a people who cannot but speak of the things that they have seen and heard. Old things have passed away, behold all things become new.
When we think of the great things that God has done we may think of His wonderful works of creation, or the flood, or the Passover, or the Red Sea, or the birth of Jesus, His Life, the miracles, His death, resurrection and His ascension. These indeed are all great things but scripture throws a different light on things that God Himself has called in His own Word Ė great things.
Let me mention a few and they may surprise you.
These are all wonderful examples of Godís love and mercy unto His chosen people. We may have by Godís Spirit been awakened to see the devastation that the little insects have caused in our lives over these past years. We may realise our deadness and our need to repent Ė well if that is the case then my friends you can expect God to do great things.