A Promise of Restoration : Part 2

The Voice of Hope
The Voice of Hope
A Promise of Restoration : Part 2
8 27 23 sermon qt

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A Promise of Restoration: Part 2

Joel 2:18-27

Another Outcome (that results from God’s promise of restoration) is,

The Assurance of Protection

            In verse 20 God says, “But I will remove far from you the northern army [literally, northerner] and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern sea and his back toward the western sea; his stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done [great] things.” In other words, God is saying, “I will protect you.”

            It is possible that Joel is still referring to the locust plague here, but it is also surely more than that. For one thing, locust swarms usually came into Israel from the south or southeast, from the dry desert regions. The term northerner is never used elsewhere to describe locusts, nor does the Scripture ever refer to the locust performing “great things”. Neither would locusts perish in a desolate land because they would keep on flying. More likely, God is speaking of enemy armies. 

            Enemy armies usually entered God’s land from the north because of the major trade routes there. Those routes generally followed flat terrain and ready access to water. So, a northern army would be invading the land of Israel and Judah. This phrase, northern army, is a recurrent theme used in the prophetic books to describe God’s judgment. In Ezekiel, the turbulent whirlwind comes from the north, revealing the LORD and a message of destruction to the prophet Ezekiel. Through Jeremiah, the LORD declared, “Out of the north the evil will be unleashed on all the inhabitants of the land.”

            Miraculous deliverances are part of God’s modus operandi and part of Israel’s history. One of them is the account of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, recorded in Isaiah 36 and 37. Threatening Israel with a great army, he was so confident in his ability that his army commander actually taunted the leaders of Israel. But godly King Hezekiah and the people cried out to God for His protection. That very night the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Not only that but when Sennacherib returned home, two of his sons assassinated him. For the time being, the northern threat was eliminated.

            If there is another “northerner” yet in the future, and that seems likely, the army described in the final chapter of Joel may be the same army described in Daniel 11:40 and Zechariah 14:2. Some commentators liken the four kinds of locusts in verse 25 to the four major kingdoms that Daniel spoke of in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

            Daniel wrote, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” God’s protection will be assured!

            The defeat of God’s enemies will be total. The stench of their dead bodies will be stifling and sickening. Revelation 19 issues a call to the carrion-eaters to come and consume the corpses of those who will fight against King Jesus and the armies of Heaven that follow Him. One can hardly imagine the horror of such a scene.

            As one of God’s children, are you assured of His protection? If not, it’s not because God hasn’t promised it. It may be that you’ve failed to understand it or claim it. Don’t get me wrong, God’s protection doesn’t eliminate all pain and suffering from our lives. That’s not what I’m implying. I’m saying that, as those who have repented of our sins and embraced salvation alone through Jesus, we are invincible until God is finished with us here. If you question that, I urge you to read the book of Job.

            According to Romans 8:38 and 39, “…neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s just one of many similar promises we have as an outcome of our spiritual restoration. Be assured of God’s protection; you and I are safe in His care.

            So, thus far, we’ve looked at three outcomes that result from God’s promise of restoration to His people: assurance of identity, assurance of presence, and assurance of protection. There is yet one more outcome.

The Final Outcome (that results from God’s promise of restoration) is,

            The Assurance of Prosperity

            God’s relationship with Israel was connected to the land. In seeing the repentance of His people, He is, according to verse 18, filled with righteous zeal for His land. Material prosperity was one of the results of God’s people walking in obedience to His commands. Deuteronomy 30 relates God’s promises of restored prosperity to His repentant people.

            Remember, the locust plague and the various invasions of enemy armies had stripped the land bare. Normally, it would take years to recover from a locust plague. The impact of the plague on the ground and even on the seed for a future crop was devastating. But God promised to miraculously restore the crops of the fields and vineyards. In addition, enemy armies often stripped the land as they foraged for food or destroyed crops as a military tactic.

            Productivity will be restored. Again, we see the importance of grain, new wine, and oil, both for the blessing of the people and the restoration of true worship. From starvation to plenty, from rejection to acceptance, from reproach to acclaim (see the prayer of verse 17). These crops indicate food, refreshment, and plenty. God doesn’t respond with “barely enough” but with full and abundant measure!

            In verses 21 to 23, God addresses the land, the animals, and finally human beings. The land is commanded to exult in joy and gladness by becoming verdant and productive again. Even though the locusts, the drought, and the invading armies had wreaked havoc on the land, God’s restoration will be so much greater than the destruction.

            In chapter one, verses 18 to 20, we learned about how the brute beasts of the field groaned under the locust plague. They were bewildered by the calamity that surrounded them and they were noisy in their protest. Now they’re instructed to rejoice in the newly verdant pastures and the fruits of the land. There was plenty to eat and drink.

            Look at verse 23, “Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you.” What a contrast, from weeping, and lamentation, and wailing to gladness, joy, and rejoicing. Granaries that had fallen into disrepair are now restored because the threshing floors are full of grain. The vats are overflowing with the juice of grapes and the oil of the olives as the presses are filled with the ripe fruits of the land.

            Psalm 104 proclaims the greatness of God like this, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”

            Further, God promises to restore the years that the locusts have eaten. It seems likely that this prediction will have seasons of fulfillment. Obviously, one of those fulfilments was in the near future, but there will be an ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age when the Messiah’s kingdom is set up on earth. (See Zechariah 14, Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Matthew 24, and Daniel 2.) It doesn’t seem likely that any other explanation would fully make up to Judah for the years of damage done to the land by the invading armies.

            Today, the promises of God under the New Covenant are not connected to a specific land or to abundant material blessings, though some teach otherwise. The entrance into the kingdom of God doesn’t mean guaranteed health and wealth. In fact, Paul warned the newly planted churches of Asia Minor in Acts 14 that “…through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Later, in Second Timothy 3:12 Paul reminds us “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”

            So, is there an application that can be made for us today from this assurance of prosperity? What’s really in focus here is not the material blessings that Israel would receive as an assurance of their restoration. I’m sure those things were wonderful and the cause of much rejoicing. What really mattered was the fact that God was once again dwelling among His people who love and obey Him! This material prosperity would call forth heartfelt praise and worship to God for His abundant mercy and His marvelous lovingkindness.

            Just like ancient Judah, the church today needs to experience genuine repentance and revival. God’s plea for repentance was the focus of two earlier programs in this series. In Joel’s time, Judah repented, they turned away from their sin and turned toward God in obedience to His law. God heard their cries of lament and confession and He responded with gracious forgiveness. He will do the same today.

            The evidence of repentance today isn’t increased crops and material prosperity, it is the abundance of the fruit of the Spirit and the joy of finding life’s satisfaction in our relationship to our Heavenly Father through the Vine, Jesus Christ. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the marks of spiritual prosperity and the blessing of God. And that “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

            I challenge you to take this list of spiritual fruit and evaluate your life before God. Don’t be mistaken or misunderstand me. These fruits of the Spirit are not something we try to produce to please or impress God, so He accepts us. In the natural world, it is the inner nature and life of the tree that produces the fruit. The same is true for us. Through our attachment to the Vine, Jesus Christ, it is His nature and His life that produces the fruit of the Spirit in and through us.

            The promise of restoration is just as valid for us today as it was for the people to whom Joel was prophesying. Repentance is the requirement that makes this restoration possible. You and I can experience the outcomes that result from God’s promise of restoration to His people.

            We can have the assurance of identity; God will put His seal of approval on us by giving us His Holy Spirit. People will look at your life and say, as they did of Peter and John, “this person has been with Jesus.” Living life with a spirit of repentance assures us that God will say, “these are My people.”

            We will also experience the assurance of presence. Do you have the confidence and the assurance that you will never be put to shame? “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.” The Holy Spirit is the presence of God Himself living in you. How amazing is that?

            Further, we have the assurance of protection. Though the enemies of God may threaten us, attack us, and perhaps even destroy us physically, we are protected by the power and the promises of God. Nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God in Christ. We are safe in His care, so let’s live that way.

            And finally, as part of this promise of restoration, we will experience the assurance of prosperity. I close with these words from the apostle Paul from Ephesians chapter one. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” 

            God the Father longs for each of us as His children to experience these outcomes that result from His promise of restoration to His people. I pray you will find them real in your life!