The Day of the Lord

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The Voice of Hope
The Day of the Lord
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The Day of the Lord

Joel 2:1-11

            By the grace of God, I have never lived in a part of the world wracked by war. But because I enjoy studying and learning about history, I have read many books and watched many movies about World War II. During that war, both the Axis and Allied powers used saturation bombing as a technique to demoralize the enemy and to destroy manufacturing centers and lines of transportation.

            Beginning on September 7, 1940, the German Luftwaffe bombed the city of London daily for 56 days, almost 2 months. During the entire war more than 20,000 civilians in London died as a result of the bombings. More than a million houses were damaged or destroyed.

            On the side of the Allies, Major General George Doolittle supervised the repeated bombing raids of Berlin. Over the course of the war, thousands of tons of bombs were dropped causing massive fires and widespread destruction. Both sides lost countless airplanes and crew members in the destruction. Many civilians also died from hunger, disease, or injuries.

            Most of the air raids were not carried out with total surprise. Early in the war, coastal watching and listening posts alerted citizens of an impending raid. Later, radar became more prevalent and reliable. But the wailing of sirens announcing an imminent air raid was a sound that aroused fear in even the most stouthearted.

            We’re conducting our study from the book of Joel under the theme; “The Day of the Lord.” Today’s teaching, like the title cut from a music album, carries that same title. My opening comments gave a bit of insight into some of the damage done in World War II. But according to Joel, the effects of the coming day of the Lord would be much more severe. I can imagine that Joel’s words struck fear in the hearts of those who heard his message.

            So, I invite you to listen and follow along as I read our text, Joel 2:1 to 11.

In this proclamation by the prophet, Joel, we see the sequence of WARNINGS that will precede the Day of the Lord. We ignore these warnings at our own peril.

The First WARNING (that will precede the Day of the Lord) is,

            The Alarm Sounded

            You may recall that in ancient times, every walled city had watchmen stationed at strategic places to warn the people of any approaching danger. One prominent example of this practice comes to us from Ezekiel chapter three where the prophet outlines the responsibilities of the watchman and the consequences he faced if he failed to warn the people of danger.

            In our text, Joel is sounding the alarm. He cries “blow the shofar, the ram’s horn, in Zion, and sound the alarm in my holy mountain.” So, this alarm is not from a soldier on the wall of Jerusalem, but from a priest on the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah. This is primarily a spiritual warning. He is vehemently warning the people that the day of Jehovah’s terrible judgment is approaching. In fact, this judgment is so certain that Joel refers to it in the past tense; it has come.

            This sounding of the ram’s horn should cause all the people of the land, Jew, and non-Jew alike, to tremble. Like the air raid sirens of World War II, it was a frightening sound that motivated people to seek cover. In fact, Amos wrote, “If atrumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?” Even today, observant Jews say that the sound of the shofar should inspire the hearer to be in awe of Yahweh.

            What was the cause of this fear and trembling? The day of the Lord! A day filled with darkness and gloom. It will come, blocking out the light like the locust plague blots out the light of the noonday sun. The locust hoard is compared to a great and powerful army unlike anything that preceded it in the history of the land of Judea and wouldn’t be seen again for many generations. It is a harbinger or a foreshadowing of the final Day of the Lord which, according to Jesus and Daniel, will be unlike any other day ever.

            As we saw in chapter one, this day of the Lord is localized and is not far removed from Joel’s time in history. But the prophet clearly reveals to us later in this book that there is an ultimate, or final day of the Lord coming.

            There is a need for the alarm to be sounded in our day too. Like the people of Joel’s day, we too have strayed from the Lord. We have broken His covenant and ignored His laws. We have given our strength to the gods of wealth, lust, and pleasure. We love comfort, ease, and entertainment. We do all we can to avoid suffering, hunger, discomfort, and the crucifying of our flesh. Men of God must, as it were, sound the trumpet and warn the people.

            God will not be mocked. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Yes, if you and I are ignoring God, if we are following our own path through life regardless of what He wants, then we too should be fearful of the coming judgment. The alarm has sounded.

The Next WARNING (that will precede the Day of the Lord) is,

            The Army’s Strength

            These next several verses rehearse the appearance of the locust hoard and the effects it will have on the land. “A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been nor will there ever be any such after them, even for many successive generations.” Wait a minute! I thought we were talking about locusts, but Joel uses the word, people. Does this imply that the actual locusts are a symbol of a conquering army coming over the land? We shall see.

The beginning of chapter two seems like a repetition of chapter one; what’s the point? If you compare the two chapters, chapter two includes many more frightening details about this locust invasion and its effects. It reminds me a bit of Genesis chapters one and two. In chapter one you have the daily sequence of creation. In chapter two you have some repetition but with added details, especially in the details of the creation of mankind.

            The appearance of these locusts will be like horses and their riders. Interestingly, in German, locusts are called heupferde (hoop-fer’-day). That means hay horses, and if you look closely at the head of a grasshopper it really does resemble a horse’s head. The rapid motion of the locust swarm is likened to a formation of running horses. The ground trembles beneath them.

Next, Joel describes the sounds of the locust swarm. The noises made by their flying and the noise of their foraging are different. When they jump and leap, it sounds like the rattling of a chariot on stony ground and the sound of their wings seems to make the very heavens tremble. When they begin to devour the vegetation the noise of it sounds like a crackling fire.

Notice beginning in verse 7 the descriptive picture of a well-disciplined and unstoppable army. They are tireless and relentless in their progress and not one of them breaks rank. They march in order without jostling each other; each one stays in his allotted space. Even if one of them falls, the others close ranks and keep moving forward. The weapons used against them are ineffective because they can actually alight on the edge of the sword! The vastness of their numbers and the clouds they produce blot out the light of the sun, moon, and stars.

Compare this darkening of the sky with what Jesus said in Matthew 24. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Do you see the similarities between Joel’s day of the Lord and the final Day of the Lord?

And what about the locusts themselves? Let’s compare them with the locust invasion pictured in Revelation chapter 9. “The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.”

These are not real locusts because they don’t destroy crops, in fact, they’re forbidden to touch any green thing on the earth! Instead, they are to torment men with a sting like a scorpion; not all men, but only those who don’t have the seal of God on their foreheads. They are demonic spirits so vile that, according to Jude 6, they have been chained in the bottomless pit for centuries. Now they are unchained to do their painful and destructive work.

The people who lived through the locust plague in Joel’s day probably thought they were living through hell on earth. But their experience was nothing compared to this vicious locust plague that will come upon the whole earth during the time of the Great Tribulation. The saddest part of this picture in Revelation is that there is no repentance. Even after experiencing this horrible torment, wishing for death but unable to die, they refuse to repent but continue to blaspheme God and live in extreme wickedness.

So, what are you and I to make of all this? First of all, the day of the Lord is coming. Make no mistake about that! Like a woman in the pains of childbirth, once it begins, there will be no stopping it. Joel and other the Old Testament writers prophesied about this day. John the Baptist and Jesus both spoke about the day of judgment. The apostles and the writers of the New Testament also speak of this terrible day that is coming. And Peter warns us about those who deny the coming day of the Lord.

 He wrote, “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

The warning is clear, the day of the Lord is coming. The question is, “are you ready?” So, the alarm has been sounded, the strength of the army has been described, what’s next?

The Final WARNING (that will precede the Day of the Lord) is,

            The Army of the Savior

            Notice that this army is designated as the Lord’s, it is His army, He commands it. It is great in both numbers and might. It carries out His commands with great power and precision because strong is the One who executes His word.

            The locust plague Joel describes in this text is literal, but it foreshadows a future judgment that was to come upon Israel. The Lord’s army of judgment on Israel was comprised of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The Assyrians uprooted the ten northern tribes in 722 BC, and in 586 BC the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar reduced the Temple to rubble and carried the people captive. They would languish in Babylon for 70 years as punishment for their sins.

            And as I mentioned earlier, both the literal locust plague and the invasion by Assyria and Babylon were harbingers of a greater day of the Lord yet to come. In words addressed to the Jewish people, the prophet Zechariah states, “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”

            Jesus warned us about this coming day in Matthew 24. “Therefore, when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),“then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

            Did you hear that? Jesus said “unless those days were shortened, no one would survive.” Consider yourself warned. The Day of the Lord is coming, and it’s closer than it’s ever been before. No one who is unprepared will escape. Now is the time to prepare.

            Jesus Christ died on the cross, the death of a common criminal as it were, taking the punishment we deserved upon Himself. When you and I, by faith, accept His sacrifice as the only acceptable payment for our sin, we are freed from the judgment we deserve. We are redeemed, we are pardoned, we are forgiven! We become God’s sons and daughters, members of His family.

            Have you accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation? If not, this is your warning, the Day of the Lord is coming. The alarm has been sounded, the army’s strength has been described, and the army of the Savior will be irresistible and unstoppable. Make your choice today.

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