Joel 3: 13-16 (Pentecost 9 - 2014)
“Wake Us Up, Lord!”
The Tones of the Alarm are Here
Jesus told us what the signs of the end are. Many will come in my name and deceive many ... You will hear of wars and rumors of war ... There will be famines and earthquakes ... You will be persecuted and put to death ... Many will turn away from the faith and betray each other ... Many false prophets will appear ... Because of increased wickedness the love of most will grow cold ... And the gospel will be preached in the whole world. (Matthew 24: 4-14).
Are we tempted to slumber while the world unravels into wickedness? Yes! Does the Lord promise to wake us up? Yes! The words Joel spoke are mirrored by Jesus and there fulfillment continues to be carried out before our very eyes today.
The Harvest is Ripe
The prophet Joel warned his contemporaries “The harvest is ripe.” It was a message repeated by the forerunner of Jesus, John, who said “the ax is already at the foot of the tree” (Luke 3:9). In other words, these signs have always existed for each generation as reminders of our own mortality and God’s readiness to judge between faith and unbelief.
Today you and I witness these signs as reminders that the harvest is ripe. The Day of Judgment is coming. It could be today, it might be tomorrow, it may not be in my lifetime, but it is coming. We see the signs. False teaching abounds among those who claim to be followers of our Savior. Wars seem almost impassible, unnecessary evils in matters of necessity. Christians are still being put to death around the globe, and even now in our beloved nation, are persecuted for the truth. Global calamities and natural disaster have become a nightly report on the evening news. The word “news” is almost laughable for nothing is news anymore. The love of most grows coldly into isolated lifestyles, absent customer service, and failed acts of kindnesses even by God’s own children. We have stopped caring, calloused by what Joel so prophetically spoke …
But the ripe harvest for the Lord is not just about the signs of the times which stand for for evil. There is good news in the last days. There is the completion of God’s Elect. God tells us that the time will come when he has gathered his Church here on earth. Christ and his believers will be safe and be brought perfectly into his kingdom. Because of his promise “The Gospel will be preached” you can be certain that the believers will face judgment day with safety and security in his blood and righteousness. As we continue to hear the gospel and receive forgiveness we know the blessing of his Supper to be true: “Keep you in the true faith until life everlasting!”
So Great is Their Wickedness
Even in Joel’s days God’s anger burned against a world of evil. From Joel’s perspective, God’s destruction of Jerusalem will dawn on people who fell into bad theology, wicked behavior, families broken by filth and greed. God’s kingdom work and temple worship was left for dead in Jerusalem. Even the leaders were just going through lazy motions, complacent because, they thought, no one else cared either.
We don’t have to look far for those prevalent signs of the times. Smut permeates the internet and sadly our own living rooms. What used to be cause for shame is now championed as acceptable behavior. Wickedness becomes so prevalent that even the faithful begin to say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
How true today are Paul’s words “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is their destruction, their god is their stomach, and the glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3: 18-19).
The Valley of Decision
God says that he is ready to judge. He was prepared to send a flood on Noah’s contemporaries. He was prepared to rip down the Temple of Joel’s time so that not one stone was on top of another. He is ready to judge a harvest of souls that are ripe for judgment today. The Valley of Decision does exist. As Paul reminded the people of Athens, God has indeed appointed a Day and raised his Son from death as evidence of eternity (Acts 17:31). That Day, in that valley, God will separate from himself all those who rejected his Son, and gather to himself all those who were brought to faith in his Son. He won’t have to think too hard, or ask for a jury deliberation. He will simply separate the wheat from the weeds and be done with it.
Our prayer is that Lord continues to rouse his people to that fact and lead us believe, teach, confess and defend that truth at this place and everywhere. Our prayer, or confidence, is the Lord of the Church and the Prince of Peace keeps his promise that none of his sheep are missing from his loving arms on the Last Day. In spite of the many negative signs, the one positive rings true. The Gospel is being proclaimed around the globe and the Spirit is calling the Elect to faith. They will not be destroyed.
The Lord will be the Stronghold of his People
The message for God’s blood-bought people is simple. Be ready. Be prepared. Have your lamps of faith lit with oil of Jesus’ words and promises. Joel’s picture is so beautifully profound. Like a captain on a ship in a storm he shouts “Brace yourselves! Batten down the hatches!” We are like people watching the water teaming down into the valley because the levy has broken. What shall our hands of faith hold? What will give us a footing? What will be the stronghold securing us in the Valley of Decision?
Joel’s answer? “The LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold people for the people of Israel.” Like an immovable bolder in a raging river, Christ is our solid foundation. He is a firm foothold. He is the anchor of our faith. His perfect sacrifice is the evidence in the Valley that God has declared us not guilty. He has washed us and made us ready in Baptism. He has bound his love to us in giving us his very body and blood as a constant assurance of his saving love.
It seems more than ever lately I have been a part of a discussion that begins, “I think Judgment Day is getting closer.” The signs are all around us. They are there as reminders to be deeply rooted in Christ and his Word. They are reminders to be deeply concerned about our loved ones and their relationship with Jesus. They are there as reminders to encourage one another and all the more as we see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).
They are there also to bring us joy: Our Savior says, “When you see these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21: 28). Unlike the enemies of the cross, “our citizenship is in heaven and we await a Savior from there, who will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3: 20-21). That certain promise of Jesus, makes the Day of Judgment one to look forward to. Wake us up Lord, our Refuge and Stronghold, our Lord Jesus Christ, wake us up to defend you truth and to rejoice in your coming Day. Amen.