The Valley of Decision : Part 1

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The Valley of Decision : Part 1

The Valley of Decision : Part 1

Joel 3:9-17

Think about the things you’ve experienced in life. I’ll venture to guess that most of them are the result of some sort of human decision or planning, decisions made either by you or someone else. Your employer has a specific outcome in mind when he assigns work to you. He decides what needs to happen today to reach the outcome he has in mind. If you’re self-employed, your customers make those decisions for you. If you’re a student, your teachers or the school system decide what you need to learn during the current school year.

But not all events are under our control. Insurance companies have a term for these events; they call them “acts of God.” Tornados, hurricanes, floods, lightning strikes, and other events fall under this term. We have no part in deciding where or when these events will happen. And even if we knew when and where we’d still be powerless to stop them. The recent earthquakes in Türkiye and Morrocco are clear examples.

God is gracious to us as human beings in that He allows us the privilege of making many decisions every day. But just like the weather-related events I mentioned a moment ago, there are other decisions God makes in which we have no part.

As we continue our study in the book of Joel, we come to verse 14 of chapter three. It reads like this, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” I’ve taken that phrase, The Valley of Decision, for the title of my teaching from Joel 3:9 to 17. So, I invite you to turn in your copy of the Scriptures, whether in print or electronic, to Joel chapter three and I’ll begin by reading verse nine.

Let’s follow the STEPS of decision that Joel lays out for us regarding the events of the last days.

The First STEP (laid out for us regarding the events of the last days) is,

            The Preparation

Human decisions are seldom if ever made in a vacuum. By that, I mean there are circumstances that surround the decision-making process. Information has to be gathered, sorted, and analyzed. Some pieces of information are discarded in the process while others are given greater weight. We look at the likely advantages or disadvantages that will result from our decision. Hopefully, we’re looking for the best possible outcome for everyone who will be affected by this decision. If we short-circuit this process, we’ll most likely end up with a poor decision. And even after the decision is made, we are sometimes prone to second-guess our decision.

But God isn’t like us. He knows everything. He sees the whole picture from beginning to end. Because He is eternal, He exists outside of time. With Him there is no past, present, and future; all time with Him is NOW! So, His decisions are always right and there’s no second-guessing His plans. He never says, “Oops, I have to go back and rethink that one.”

As God continues revealing His plans to the prophet Joel, He speaks of a time that’s coming when He will judge the nations of the world. Some of us believe that what Joel is talking about in our text is Armageddon. Now, Joel doesn’t use that term, but we see it in some similar phrasing from Revelation 16:16.  There, in the context of the “bowl” judgments, we read this description.

“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.’ And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” We’ll come back to this later.

One of the challenges of studying and explaining prophetic Scriptures is that not everything is in neat, chronological order. So, it can be challenging to understand and piece together how these things will unfold. That’s why we need to be gracious and not too dogmatic when we’re teaching in these areas. The people who lived during the time Jesus was on earth had misperceptions about His life and ministry. Most likely, those of us who live through the events leading to His Second Coming will also have some surprises in how things work out in the end.

But notice the preparation God is making through Joel. Verse 9 begins with the words, “Proclaim this…” Proclaim, foreshadows a word from the Lord, and the pronoun, this, refers to the command that follows. So, Joel has a word from God Almighty.

The command is “Prepare for war.” The Hebrew word used for “prepare” is kadhesh. Now, we’ve seen this word earlier in Joel’s prophecy. Flip back in your Bible to Joel 2:15. What does it say? “Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly…” The word “prepare” isn’t in there, is it? Well, it is but it’s translated as “consecrate.” It’s the same word used in Exodus 30:30, where God tells Moses to anoint and consecrate (or sanctify) Aaron and his sons to serve as priests. It means to set apart for a special reason or purpose.

How do you sanctify or set apart a war? Historically, we know that the nations of the Middle East offered sacrifices to their gods just prior to going into battle. They hoped to obtain the favor of their gods that would result in victory. In First Samuel chapter seven, we have the record of Samuel offering a sacrifice to the Lord as Israel went out to battle the Philistines. In more recent history during the times of the World Wars, chaplains would lead worship services and serve communion to soldiers before they went out to the front lines.

 I said earlier that this is most likely what is called the battle of Armageddon and it’s described in Revelation 16:14 to 16 and 19:11-21. Let me give you a few important details. Armageddon is made up of two Hebrew words; har and Megiddo. Har means mountain. Megiddo means to crush, kill, strike, or massacre. So, Armageddon is “the mountain of desolation.” As I mentioned in previous teaching, this area has been the scene of many battles throughout history.

Megiddo is a mound that developed over several thousand years with the destruction and rebuilding of 20 to 30 cities. It overlooks the Jezreel Valley. I’ve had the incredible privilege of visiting that site. It’s the crossroads of the Middle East and the ancient roads that went north and south. This is the place where Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanites and Gideon wiped out the Midianites. Egyptians, Crusaders, Turks, Persians, Arabs, and many others have fought battles here. Napolean in 1799 called Megiddo a natural battlefield.

Further, Armageddon, as I understand it, is not just one battle, but a series of battles that will end in the final destruction of the Antichrist and his armies as they make their final assault on Jerusalem. Perhaps the armies of the nations will gather on the plains of Megiddo in preparation for their final march on Jerusalem. There, they will meet their destruction in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. We mentioned that in our earlier teaching from this chapter.

Let’s look at more preparations. “Wake up the mighty men!” Does this imply a time of peace? According to First Thessalonians 5, where Paul is writing about the day of the Lord, “peace and safety” will be the precursor to sudden destruction. It seems like the Antichrist will bring temporary peace to the earth. But after he violates his covenant with the Jewish people and proclaims himself as a god, war will break out.

Part of these preparations is that the “mighty men” are to awake. The Hebrew word for mighty men is gibborim. This term is used in Second Samuel 23 where we have the listing of David’s mighty men and some of the exploits they performed. These were men of renown, men of extraordinary skill and ability. We could call them David’selite special forces. So, the skilled warriors are one group that is being summoned to this battle.

Let’s look at verse 10 in the context of this step of preparation. “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears…” What? Wait a minute! That’s backward, isn’t it? Isaiah 2:4 speaks of these same agricultural implements very differently. “He [that’s God] shall judge between the nations and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Micah 4:3 repeats this same idea, almost verbatim.

Evidently, then, this time Joel is predicting is a time for war, not peace. The mention of agricultural tools seems to indicate that even farmers will be mobilized for battle! Beyond that, those who are physically weak are told to say, “I am strong.” I don’t know if they’re supernaturally empowered by Satan or if it’s braggadocio, false confidence, or war euphoria. But all of them are called to hurry together to the battle site where they will be judged, according to verse two of this chapter. This battle is urgent! God will punish all those who have rejected His rule.

So, all the nations are commanded to assemble and come together. Some commentators take issue with the wording of “all nations.” They say it can’t possibly mean the nations of the world in totality. Ok, I get that. But it is possible that in that horde of people, all nations will be represented. In verse 12 God says, “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.”

Then look at what Joel says at the end of verse 11. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O Lord.” What is Joel asking God for? God’s mighty ones will confront the mighty ones of the enemy.

Listen to Revelation 19:11 to 16. Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

So, that’s the preparation; God is setting the stage to fulfill His plans. This understanding of the preparation leads us to the next step in The Valley of Decision.

The Next STEP (laid out for us regarding the events of the last days) is,

            The Presentation

In verse 14, Joel raises the loud and prolonged cry, “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision.” Now, I want you to understand right away that these multitudes are not being called to this valley of judgment to make a decision. No, they’ve already made their decision to oppose God Almighty. The hordes that gather in this valley are there to receive the announcement of God’s decision against them! God is making the presentation of His decision and it is unmistakeable. I think you’ll see that clearly as we move forward in the text.

The word multitude is hamonim. It is a picture of a confused, turbulent, noisy mob. Isaiah 9:5 uses similar imagery as the prophet introduces the coming Prince of Peace. Certainly, an army of this size will generate a lot of noise, dust, and confusion. And remember, in Hebrew, the repetition of the word, multitudes, strengthens the intensity of the meaning.

Notice once again the appeal to agricultural scenes in verse 13. The winepress is full, and the vats are overflowing during the time of grape harvest. The picture of abundance portrays the great wickedness of the nations. God’s mighty ones (verse 11) are commanded to “put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.” The apostle John saw a similar picture in Revelation 14:17 to 20.

“Then another angel came out of the temple, which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So, the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”

At that place “outside the city,” in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, in this valley of decision, there will be a great slaughter. There, the blood will be running so deep that it will come up to the bridle of a horse. The word translated decision can also be translated as “trench” which could refer to the place where the blood will flow so deeply.

When I think about these scenes, my mind goes to Genesis 6. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intentof the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So, God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” You know what happened after that, the flood of Noah’s day.

But after the flood was over, we read these sobering words in Genesis 8:21, Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” Did you notice what God said? Even after He cleansed the earth by way of the worldwide flood, man’s heart is evil from his birth.

So, if indeed, this battle of Armageddon is taking place at the end of the Tribulation period, and if the Holy Spirit (called the Restrainer in II Thessalonians 2:7), is no longer functioning in the role He now has, then we can surely understand why God would say that the time was ripe for His judgment to fall on unbelieving humanity. There will be nothing to check the unbridled evil that is raging in men’s hearts.

Part 2 of this message is now available!

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