"There's A Great Day Coming!" Series
Sermons From Book of Joel

"Northern Exposure"
by Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
<<==== Pastor Ron Thomas
Read Great Sermons
and Devotions

[RBC Photo]
Daily on Gospel Web
Preached 1/23/2008

Joel is one of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament. The minor prophets are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Joel's prophecy appears second in the canon's order of the twelve minor prophets.

It has been observed, that while the prophecy of Hosea reveals the heart of God, The prophecy of Joel reveals the hand of God. The course of history is determined by the hand of God, and is being directed to a culminating event known as "the day of the Lord." Joel warns the nation Israel of this coming great and dreaded day. Joel uses the phrase "the day of the Lord," to refer both to events in his own day, to events in the future, and a culminating event that will determine their eternity! Acts 17:31 says, "Because He (God) hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man (Jesus Christ) whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." The coming great day of the Lord, will be a day of calamity and accountability; a day of rejoicing and great sorrow! As the old hymn says, "There's a great day coming by and by. Are you ready?"

Sermon two: Northern Exposure - Text: Joel 2:1-27

Introduction: The Michaels family owned a small farm in Canada, just yards away from the North Dakota border. Their land had been the subject of a minor dispute between the United States and Canada for generations. Mrs. Michaels, who had just celebrated her ninetieth birthday, lived on the farm with her son and three grandchildren. One day, her son came into her room holding a letter.

"I just got some news, Mom," he said. "The government has come to an agreement with the people in Washington. They've decided that our land is really part of the United States. We have the right to approve or disapprove of the agreement. What do you think?" "What do I think?" his mother said. "Jump at it! Call them right now and tell them we accept! I don't think I could stand another one of those cold Canadian winters!"

One Canadian asked another Canadian if he had a good summer. He responded, "Yes indeed, we had a great picnic that afternoon."

This is the time of the year in Texas when we occasionally receive a cold winter blast from the north. As the Canadian or Arctic air punches deep into the south, it exposes everything from our thin blood and skin, to our water mains and pipes.

In our text, the prophet Joel is warning his nation and people of the coming day of the Lord. Chapter 1 revealed that because of their disobedience and rebellion, God had sent an invasion of locusts to devour the land. Speaking for the Lord, Joel points to the locusts as evidence of God's judgment against them. Joel speaks of the visitation as the "day of the Lord," a time when God intervenes in their lives to get their attention and turn them back to Him! Their only hope was to weep and lament over their sin; plead for God's mercy; and repent or change their ways! Evidently Israel repented, but it wasn't long before they returned to their former selves.

As we enter chapter 2, the prophet Joel calls for a trumpet to sound the alarm. Verse 1 reads, "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand." Joel is speaking of a "shophar" or ram's horn to be blown in Zion or Jerusalem. Why? The "day of the Lord" is coming, and is not far away! There is much speculation concerning what Joel is describing here. Some believe this is an elaboration of the plague of locusts in chapter one. The locusts plague however was a blast from the past. This new threat to Israel is in their future.

I personally believe that Joel is describing an advancing army of human beings, that would one day come upon Jerusalem. This army would come down upon Israel from the north. Notice verse 20. "But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea (Dead Sea), and his hinder part toward the utmost sea (Mediterranean), and his stink (stench, foul odor) shall come up, and his ill savour (stench, foul odor) shall come up, because he hath done great things." Like a cold Canadian air mass, a nation or nations will swoop down suddenly from the north upon Israel, exposing their vulnerability!

What northern army is the prophet Joel describing? Joel could be describing the Assyrians and Babylonians, who would soon come down from the north, first into Israel, and later into Judea. We know that in the days of Hezekiah, God did turn back the Assyrians as they came down against Jerusalem. The Lord delivered them on this occasion, but it does not seem to match up with verse 20. Ultimately, they were not delivered from the Assyrians and Babylonians.

There are some who speculate that Joel has in mind the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The problem with this view is that on that occasion, there was no deliverance from the Lord.

Another view asserts that Joel is speaking of an event that is yet in our future. Ezekiel prophesies in Ezekiel 38 and 39 of a coming invasion from the north, from the land of Magog. We believe this to be Russia who will be allied with several nations. We are told that they will come suddenly and swiftly against Israel, but will be destroyed by God once they enter the land! The invading armies will be slaughtered on the mountains of Israel, and it will take months to find and bury the dead. This seems to fit with what is described in verse 20b where it says "...and his stink (stench, foul odor) shall come up, and his ill savour (stench, foul odor) shall come up, because he hath done great (monestrous) things."

In verses 2-11, Joel goes on to describe this northern invading army, much like he describes the invasion of locusts in chapter 1.

The Northern Army

The dreadfulness of the army. Verse 2 reads, "A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations." When the weather is changing, often we can observe the incoming clouds. Joel describes this coming army as a overcast sky. The dark clouds speak of pending, looming judgment and destruction.

The destructive power of the army. Verses 3-5 continue, "A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. 4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. 5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array." It was not uncommon for an army to leave behind a scorched earth. As the army advances through the land, they destroy the trees and forest; they fill in the cisterns and wells of water, as well as burn productive agricultural fields and vineyards. Joel compares this destructive army to the locusts that had previously covered the land. Locusts look and behave like tiny armored horses. The Italian word for locust means little horse. The sight and sound of this invading army from the north with their troops, horsemen, chariots, remind them of the locusts! Both are highly destructive!

The relentless nature of the army. Verses 6-9 continue, "Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. 7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: 8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief." This invading army from the north is massive. Like the locusts described in the previous chapter, they just keep coming, ...wave after wave after wave!

The invincibility of the army. Verses 10-11 conclude, "The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: 11 And the LORD shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executeth His word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" It is obvious that Israel will be no match to stand against this invading force! Did you notice that it is God who is coming against them? In verse 11, the Lord is portrayed as the commanding general leading His army against His own people and nation! The Lord is using this army from the north, as an instrument of His chastening hand!

In my daily Bible reading, I read again how that God jumped Moses because he had not circumcised his son. His wife had balked at God's commandment. The last person you want on your back, is God! Paul said, "If God be for us, who can be against us." The opposite is true. If God be against us, who can be for us!

Once Joel communicates this future invasion by a northern army, he calls them to repentance on two levels.

FIRST, there is a cry for private repentance. Verses 12-14 says, "Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. 14 Who knoweth if He will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?" This is where the turn around begins! We must each take responsibility for ourselves, for our own sin. Speaking for the Lord, Joel tells us that He is looking for a genuine, heartfelt repentance. The Lord looks upon the heart. He will not settle for the mere appearance of repentance, He looks for inward, genuine brokenness. He says "rend your heart and not your garments." Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken (shattered, destroyed) heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite (devastated, crushed) spirit." Psalm 51:17 says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken (shattered, destroyed) spirit: a broken (shattered, destroyed) and a contrite (devastated, crushed) heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."

The northern exposure exposes more than the rebellion of mankind and the severe judgment of God, it exposes the very heart and nature of our merciful God! Our God is gracious and merciful. He is slow to wrath and quick to turn away from His judgment! What a beautiful picture of our great and gracious God. Yahweh gives people every possible opportunity to repent, right to the last. Judgment and destruction are His last resort! Ezekiel 33:11 reads, "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

Do we reflect the nature and heart of our God as believers and as a church? Are we gracious, merciful, and longsuffering toward the rebellious and wayward believer in our midst? Are we quick to judge? Do we pray for and seek after the repentance and restoration of those who are deceived and oppose themselves? Galatians 6:1-3 reads, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."

SECOND, there is a cry for public repentance. Private, personal repentance leads to public, corporate repentance. Joel calls upon the priest to bring the people together so that they might join their voices to plead for deliverance. Verses 15-17 continues, "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare Thy people, O LORD, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" No one is left out! Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, from the farmer to the priest, must assemble in a demonstration of repentance before God.

How does revival come to a church or nation? It begins with acknowledging our own sin before God! Peter writes in I Peter 4:17, "For the time is come that judgment (condemnation of wrong in a forensic sense) must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?"

As often happens in the giving of prophecy, Joel suddenly returns back to the time following the invasion of locusts, and perhaps even foresees the future restoration of Israel during the Millennium. Joel describes the restoration that follows repentance. When the people meet the requirements of God, the question asked by the heathen in verse 26b, "Where is your God?," will be answered! Notice verse 27. "And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed." Where is Yahweh? He is in the midst of Israel! Verse 18 reads, "Then will the LORD be jealous for His land, and pity His people." The Lord will prove that He remains jealous for the land of Israel, and has pity for His people! This is demonstrated in various ways! God's Restoration To The Broken and Contrite Heart

The Lord will bring a harvest to supply their needs. Verse 19. "Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto His people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen."

The Lord will remove the occupying armies. Verse 20. "But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea (Dead Sea), and his hinder part toward the utmost sea (Mediterranean), and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great (monestrous) things."

The Lord will cause the rain to return. Verses 21-24. "Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. 22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil." The productivity of Israel heavily depended on rainfall, which came in two separate seasons. There was the Autumn or October rain, which promoted germination of the newly planted seeds, and there was the Spring or March rain, which stimulated the ripening of the grain.

The Lord will restore all that was lost to the locusts. Verse 25. "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you."

The Lord will exalt His people and nation once again. Verse 26. "And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed." Sin brings with it a sense of shame and worthlessness. When God forgives and restores, He takes away our shame and guilt!

As we reflect upon the words of Joel, we can take to heart the following truths.

Truths To Apply To Apply To Your Life Today:

Truth one: God loves us too much, to leave us alone when we walk away from Him. When we are saved, we enter into a covenant relationship. We are bought with a price and are not our own! We belong to the Lord, and He does not throw us away!

Truth two: God is merciful and gracious toward us, desiring to restore us, rather than destroy us. What parent wants to condemn his or her child? Our desire is to see our children come home to a right relationship. We must give people in our lives every opportunity to do what is right!

Truth three: The offering or sacrifice God looks for, is a broken spirit and contrite heart. God desires us to rend our hearts, not our garments! My wife and I have some friends, who were not able to have children. Several years ago they adopted a little boy and gave him their name. They loved this boy and gave him every advantage, but he has broken and trampled their hearts again and again. I cannot begin to detail all the trouble this young man has caused over the years. Our friends attempted everything humanly possible to help him turn around, only to be disappointed. Years have passed, but they never ceased to pray for this son. Recently, our friends received a phone call from his wayward, rebellious son, and heard a different person. Before, this son would only rend his garments. Now, this son rends his heart!

Truth four: When we return to the Lord, He will restore us. In Luke 15, when the prodigal son returned home in true repentance, his father gave him a kiss, clothed him in the best robe, placed a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet, killed the fatted calf, and threw a party! God is always ready to welcome us back home! The prophet Joel reminds us that it is time to turn our hearts toward home, our heavenly home!

Have you left God out of your life? Have you gone your own way, as Israel did? Do you need to confess your sin and return to God?

Now is the time to repent! The day of the Lord is coming!

Go To Rodgers Baptist Church Home Page