Sunday, March 08, 2009

Where is God when you need Him?

Joel 2:12 – 17

Where is God when you need Him?

The context for these words is “the Day of the Lord.” (vv 1 – 2).

It is a day filled with fear. It is a day of darkness and gloom. The symbol of this day, for Joel, was an army of locusts. Maybe they were suffering from a massive swarm of locust that had moved in and was eating everything. God pointed this out and said, that’s how bad this is going to be. Locust are destructive, devour everything in their path, and leave nothing behind.

“The Day of the Lord” is a “type.” It reflects when God is on the move to bring His people back to himself or set all wrongs right. The images reflect the crucifixion (darkness), the second return of Christ (unstoppable army), and the day of judgement (wrath). Theologically they are all connected.

During Lent, it has been the historical practice of the Christian church to prepare for time of darkness and gloom as a purging of our sinful desires.


I.         God has a purpose for the gloom.


            A.        God wants His people to “return.” [v 12]


                        1.         “Even now” shows us there is a time frame for response.


                                    a.         Wesley’s idea of “awakening.” There is a point where we are aware that God is trying to get our attention. If we respond then we “awake” to God. If we do not then we go back to sleep in our sin.


                                    b.         “Limited time” offer: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, [8] do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert.” [Hebrews 3:7 – 8]


                        2.         Hardship has its positive side: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” [Hebrews 12:7a]


                                    a.         Discipline can be punishment for sin, more often it is CORRECTION.


                                    b.         The idea is that God does NOT have our attention. Something has to happen to knock us out of our comfortableness. We tend to enjoy physical comfort and being free from financial worry. (God does not have our attention, we are not listening.)


            B.        God wants His people to really meant it.


                        1.         The theological word is “repent.”


                                    a.         Jesus demanded that “repentance” be preached FOR the forgiveness of sin. (See Luke 24:47 TNIV)


                                    b.         Theologically, you cannot have forgiveness without repentance!


                        2.         Joel suggests disciplines to help:


                                    a.         Fasting , weeping, and mourning [v 12]


                                    b.         “Rend your heart.” [v 13] (“Let your broken heart show your sorrow...” GNB)

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. [11] See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” [2 Corinthians 7:10 – 11]


            C.        God wants His people to prove it.


                        1.         “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” [v 15]


                                    a.         Private sins come from social sins.


                                    b.         The way to deal with social sins is to do it publicly and deliberately.


                        2.         The idea is that NOBODY is left out, everyone is in agreement.


                                    a.         The elder to the nursing baby.


                                    b.         Even the bridegroom and the bride. Weddings are a time of joy. In the OT the bridegroom is exempt from many duties (such as military service).

II.       God extends the possibility of relenting.

“Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.” [v 14]

            A.        God MAY turn.


                        1.         We are going to let God be right about everything, then we are going to have trust God.


                                    a.         Maybe, God will not “turn and relent.”


                                    b.         Why? Pity to one is cruelty to another. Some lines once crossed can only be purged.


                        2.         The choice is ours, but it is also God’s. True repentance throws itself on the mercy of God and does NOT demand (possibly even expect) forgiveness.


                                    a.         We cannot manipulate God to relent from planned or necessary purging.


                                    b.         (Ill.) When I had the flu, I became alarmed at the amount of fluids I was losing. I was disoriented, dizzy, and drifting in and out of being consciousness. I called the Dr. who told me to not take anything to slow down the body’s purge... or it would just extend my misery.


            B.        Not only may God turn but God may leave a blessing!


                        1.         This is dramatic... to go from the purge of God’s discipline to the blessing of God’s discipline.


                                    a.         Part of the difference between people who passively let things happen to them and people who do good things is how they handle adversity.


                                    b.         Are problems obstacles or opportunities?


                        2.         God’s blessing is not like what we might expect.


                                    a.         Jesus talked about “abundant” life. (See John 10:10)


                                    b.         “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” [2 Corinthians 4:17]


III.      God offers promises to those who respond.


            A.        God’s promise of restoration, AFTER, the locust have gone through.


                        1.         [v 23] God promised timely rain.


                                    a.         Even though it may have looked like there was no hope, not everything was gone.


                                    b.         The promise of the rain was the promise of a crop... fruitful abundance returned.


                        2.         [v 25] God promised repayment.


                                    a.         God is not bankrupt. God does not lack means. God is ready, willing, and able to restore and repay well beyond what was lost.


                                    b.         Here again is the issue of trust. Are we going to trust God or shake our fist at God?


            B.        God’s promise is also spiritual.


                        1.         [v 28] This comes in the form of the Holy Spirit.


                                    a.         Everyone is included: Sons, daughters, old and young.


                                    b.         This is the continual presence of God given to believers (the church) at the Day of Pentecost.


                        2.         [v 32a] This comes from salvation.


                                    a.         Everyone, yet there is a condition. “Call” reflects back to repentance. (We do not believe in a universal salvation.)


                                    b.         Here is the condition of the heart. If it is hard toward God, we will not respond positively. This salvation will be impossible for us if we harden our heart.


IV.      God reveals the passion for us during the gloom.


            A.        Consider the personality of God. [v 13]


                        1.         God is gracious. In other words, kind when we don’t deserve it.


                        2.         God is compassionate. Another word for this is mercy. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Mercy is NOT getting what we do deserve.


                        3.         God is slow to anger. The idea is that God does not lose His temper.


                        4.         God is abounding in love. This love is “unfailing” and “extravagant.”


                        5.         God is eager to relent. The impression is that God is looking for any excuse, any way...


            B.        It starts with the mercy and justice of God demonstrated at the cross.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- [26] he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” [Romans 3:25 – 26]


                        1.         Jesus took our penalty to satisfy the demands of justice.


                                    a.         Someone had to pay. We could not... our eternal destiny was eternal Hell.


                                    b.         We could not save ourselves by observing the law. Something more powerful and effective than the law had to intervene.


                        2.         Lent is the time we look forward to that sacrifice of atonement.


                                    a.         As we look forward to that sacrifice, something dawns on us... This was a heavy price to pay for OUR sin.


                                    b.         We become sorry for our sin, we mourn because someone completely innocent suffered and sacrificed himself for us.

(Ill.) Arlington. The first shock is to see the simple white crosses. Crosses as far as the eye could possibly see. As you read the names it starts to sink in that each cross was someone that someone loved. As you read the dates of the their deaths, it hits home. These people put someone else, us, above even their own lives.

Vietnam sundial in Kentucky. It is a sundial that will tell you the time of day and the time of year. As you walk over the bricks and figure out the date and the time, you notice, inscribed on various bricks names. These are the names of the people who died in that war. The day of their death and the time (if known) of their death is marked by the shadow of the sundial. Families will sit and wait for the shadow to cross the name of their loved one.

Where is God when you need Him? Trying to get your attention!

Before any of these existed, the cross of Jesus Christ was set up on a hill for all to see. Many people mocked Jesus that day, not realizing it would extend a shadow into all of history. As Jesus blood flowed that day to cover the penalty you and I justly deserve, just was done. The only question is do we have courage enough to throw ourselves on the mercy of God?

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