A Promise of Restoration : Part 1
Not far from where I live is an old house. I first saw this house more than 40 years ago. It wasn’t in very good shape. The roof was sagging, some windows were broken, and in some places, the stucco was coming off the walls. The yard and grounds weren’t well kept either.
An elderly man lived in that house and his appearance was somewhat like the condition of his house. He didn’t seem to have family connections and he was a bit of a recluse. He had served for years as the custodian at a local high school, just across the road from his house, but it had been closed as smaller schools were consolidated into a new building in a nearby town.
Eventually, the old man died, and the house continued to deteriorate. Then one day I noticed that it was being repaired. It was purchased by a person who had an interest in local history. He saw value in preserving that house for its history of it as well as reclaiming it for future use. I remember watching with interest the progress of the renovations on that old house.
As I recall, the first thing they did was to replace the sagging, leaky roof to preserve the structural soundness of the building. Then there were major renovations inside the house to bring it up to current building code specifications.
But the most dramatic change came when the new owner decided to remove the stucco from the exterior of the building. Underneath the dirty white stucco were beautiful brown sandstone walls. A crew of masons spent several weeks cleaning those stones and then repointing them. It was an amazing restoration and today it is a beautiful specimen of local architecture and building methods from an earlier time.
In the same community, just about a mile down the road is another house. This one is made of brick; not brick veneer, but solid brick walls. This one was the scene of a terrible fire a number of years ago. The owner of the property has simply abandoned it. There it sits, year after year, the structure falling in and the landscape being overtaken by weeds, briars, and trees. It’s in such bad shape that it can’t be restored, it would need to be torn down so a new house could be built on the site. It’s an eyesore in the community.
There’s a very marked and visible difference between these two properties. Why? Because someone intervened, someone took an interest in the one house, but not the other.
There is a parallel between those two houses and our lives as human beings. As sinners, we are all in a state of disrepair and brokenness. Our lives are on a downward spiral of decay and eventual destruction. But there is Someone who can intervene. There is Someone who sees beyond the brokenness, the destruction, and the weeds that describe our sinful existence. He sees the potential that He created in us and the glory we can bring to Him if we respond to His plea for repentance. That Someone is God.
In our previous study, we looked at Joel 2:12 to 17 and God’s plea for repentance to His ancient, chosen, earthly people, Israel. He reminded them of His lovingkindness, His mercy, and His gracious forgiveness of sin. He urged them to repent so He could bless them. We noted that this is the same God we serve today, and He hasn’t changed.
In our text for this teaching, we turn to Joel 2:18 to 27 to look at God’s promise of restoration to a repentant people. One of the things we learn quickly in reading the messages of these Old Testament prophets is that human nature hasn’t changed. Our circumstances today are different from what they were in Joel’s day, but there are clear applications of the Scripture we can and must make to our lives if we want to experience the promise of God’s restoration.
So, follow along as I read our text, Joel 2:18 to 27, and then we’ll explore it together under the title, “A Promise of Restoration.” Here is the Word of God to us.
This text reveals four favorable OUTCOMES that result from God’s promise of restoration.
The opening verse of our text, verse 18, introduces a change of focus. This is the hinge point of Joel’s prophecy. From here to the end of the book, Israel moves from being the object of God’s judgment to becoming the object of God’s blessing – in the near future and also at the end of the age. I will approach this text a bit differently and rank these outcomes according to their importance, not the way they appear in the text.
The First Outcome (that results from God’s promise of restoration) is,
The Assurance of Identity
I go immediately to the final verses of our text, verses 27 and 28. Both of these verses end with this statement. “My people shall never be put to shame.” For right now, let’s focus on the two words, “my people.” Here, I turn to Hosea chapter one. I realize that Joel’s prophecy precedes Hosea and Hosea’s prophecy is primarily directed at Israel, the northern kingdom. But the issues are the same, both groups of people were shot through with moral corruption and spiritual bankruptcy.
God told Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children with her as an object lesson, an illustration of Israel’s broken and troubled relationship with God. The names assigned to these children by God were very specific.“Now when she [that’s Gomer, Hosea’s wife] had weaned Lo-Ruhamah [her name means, no pity], she conceived and bore a son. Then God said: ‘Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are NOT My people, and I will NOT be your God.’” Lo-Ammi’s name was representative of Israel’s spiritual condition and their estrangement from God, “not my people.”
In our text, God, through Joel, was foretelling a coming judgment of apocalyptic proportions. Judah would suffer because of their unfaithfulness to Him. By this judgment, the surrounding nations would conclude that Judah was NOT the people of God. If you’ve been with me for previous studies in this book you already know that God’s plea for the people’s repentance included specific wording that they could use in their prayer of contrition.
Part of that prayer was “Spare Your people, O Lord.” They were in danger of being cut off, of becoming, as it were, “not my people.” They were in danger of losing their unique identity as the people of God. The text here in Joel chapter 2 assumes that the people did repent. And as a result, God said “You are my people.” We know that whatever repentance occurred it was only temporary. About 250 years after Joel prophesied, the nation went into captivity in Babylon.
God’s discipline of His people, historically and today, is proof of their identity. Proverbs 3:11 and 12, “My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Would God say of you and of your church, “You are my people?” On what basis? How are the people of God identified? In Joel’s day, it was by their repentance from sin and their obedience motivated by their faith in God’s character and His promises. It’s the same today, isn’t it? Genuine faith in the salvation provided through Jesus and the embrace of God’s promises motivates a life of obedience to the commands of Jesus. That produces holy living.
In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love each other.” In Luke 6:46 He said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord [or master] and don’t do what I say?” And in John 14:15 He said, “If a person loves Me, he will obey My commands.” And in Acts 4:13 we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”
Are you assured of your identity in Christ? When other people look at your life, what do they see that convinces them that you belong to Jesus, that you’re one of His children? It’s obvious from this text that genuine repentance is the key. Genuine repentance results in a changed life and a changed lifestyle. We are rescued out of Satan’s kingdom, according to Colossians 1:13, and conveyed into the kingdom of God. When we genuinely repent of our sin and cast ourselves on His mercy, He will say to us, “You are My people.” So, the first outcome of restoration is the assurance of our identity.
Another Outcome (that results from God’s promise of restoration) is,
The Assurance of Presence
As a result of Judah’s sin, God had removed His presence from them, which was why they were experiencing such severe judgment. But now, Judah’s response to His discipline and their evidence of genuine repentance motivated God to act. Verse 18 says, “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and pity His people.”
The Psalmist, David, wrote, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust,” Psalm 103:11-14.
God’s pity for His people moved Him to be zealous for His land. The idea of being zealous is similar to the godly jealousy that a husband or wife has for their spouse. He or she wants to guard, protect, and nurture the relationship so that it can become all that God intended it to be. And indeed, God likened His relationship with Israel to a covenant marriage. Hosea’s experience was a real-life illustration of this principle.
In verse 27, God says, “you shall know that I am in the midst of you.” This was God’s desire from creation. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid, and God came looking for them. He knew where they were, what they had done, and why they were hiding. But He wanted fellowship with them. God didn’t need Adam and Eve in the sense that He was somehow incomplete without them. He is all-sufficient in Himself. But He obviously wanted the fellowship and love and worship of those whom He had created in His image. He wanted to be present with His people.
Why did Israel have the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple? It was so God could live among them. Both the Tabernacle and the Temple were the hub around which Jewish life was supposed to revolve. God was at the center, and everything flowed outward from His presence. That was what God intended then and it’s still what He intends for us today. He wants us to be assured of His presence, and today we have the advantage because the Holy Spirit dwells within our spirit. Think about that; the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy God lives in you! That’s mind-boggling.
The calamities Judah faced were ample evidence that God had abandoned them and that He was no longer present among them. In Deuteronomy 28:63, when the children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land, God warned them about the consequences of disobedience. He said, “And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be pluckedfrom off the land which you go to possess.”
And yet, in that context of judgment, two times, in verses 26 and 27, God makes the statement “my people shall never be ashamed.” That should alert us God was looking beyond their immediate or near future to a time yet in the distance. Judah did repent, it seems, but they eventually rebelled against God again and were carried captive to Babylon in 586 BC.
Nor was that the last time in their history that they were put to shame. From the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD until the founding of the modern state of Israel in May 1948, the Jews have been dispersed to the far corners of the world. They’ve been hounded, harassed, vilified, persecuted, and slaughtered, unlike any other nation or ethnic group.
No other group of people has gone through what the Jewish people have gone through and have still retained their language, their culture, and their religion. Even today, anti-Semitism is growing around the world and the people of the modern state of Israel live in a very dangerous neighborhood, surrounded by nations devoted to their destruction. But as we continue farther in our study of Joel’s prophecy, we’ll discover that the time is coming when this prophecy of God’s presence will be literally and finally fulfilled.
Is God’s presence real in your life? Do you have the confidence and the assurance that you will never be put to shame? Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-5. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
In verse 5, the KJV reads like this; “And hope maketh not ashamed…” The word in the original language means to humiliate, dishonor, disgrace, frustrate, or disappoint. If God’s presence is real in your life, then you can take this promise to the bank! Now, to be sure, this isn’t talking about your daily experiences living in a world affected by sin. What it means to you is just what God’s promise meant to the people of Judah – finally, your faith in Him will be vindicated. You will ultimately stand in His glorious presence! This is a reality my mind cannot fathom, but I accept it by faith. So, walk today in the assurance of His presence.