From the Book of Joel
"The Valley of Decision"
by Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Sermon Five: There's A Great Day Coming
"The Valley of Decision"
Joel is one of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament. 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!
In Joel 1, the prophet Joel uses the recent destruction by an invasion of locusts, to picture the coming day of the Lord. The locusts served to teach them that God can use anyone or anything, even nature, to chastise His people. Joel urges his people to repent and return to the Lord. They must lament and weep over their sin, evidencing "godly sorrow," which leads to true repentance.
In Joel 2:1-27, Joel looks to the distant future, and speaks of an invading army from the north, that shall swoop down on Israel. He describes this army, comparing them to the locusts, and prophesying this future threat to their existence. Joel goes on in verse 20 to reveal that this army will be intercepted and destroyed by God, sparing Israel. Could Joel be speaking of the future invasion attempt made by Russia and her allies, described in Ezekiel 38-39?
Joel once again cries out for his people to repent both individually and corporately as a nation. They must rend their hearts, not just their garments! In verse 13b, Joel reminds them that God is "...gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil."
In Joel 2:28-32, we were taken by the prophet Joel to the end of the Great Tribulation, when those Jews who survived the wrath of God, will witness the second coming of Jesus to the earth. Recognizing Jesus as their Messiah, they will repent and receive Him into their hearts. Israel shall be saved! What a moment!
In Joel 3:1-8, we saw the future judgment of nations, (a time after the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, and before the Millennium,) when the Gentile nations of the world will be separated according to their treatment of the Jews. This is not the setting of war, but post war as it will occur in the valley of Jehosophat, the place where the nations had previously gathered to come against Jerusalem and King Jesus.
Sermon Five: The Valley Of Decision
Text: Joel 3:9-17.
Introduction: The challenge with studying prophecy is two fold.
First, with few exceptions, it is scattered throughout the Scriptures. Often to get a complete picture of prophetic events and their order, you must find the pieces, and then piece them together.
Second, once you find the pieces, it is a challenge to keep up with the time frame. Sometimes these prophecies have an immediate, near future, and distant future fulfilment. The prophet can move from one time zone to another and back again in a single verse, if not a single sentence. The prophets were not always big on chronology. Such is the case in our text. Joel 3 begins with the judgment of nations, which will occur after the second coming of Christ, and before the Millennium. One day, God will judge the nations of the world for their treatment of the Jews.
As we begin verse 9, we are going back to the time frame of Joel 2:28-32, only the focus is different. Before, the focus was the remnant of Jews who survived the great tribulation and witnessed the second coming of Christ. In that moment, they will recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and be saved. The Lord forgives their sin, and gives them a new heart.
The passage before us, focuses on the Gentile nations which will be gathered together for the great battle known as Armageddon. This is retrospect. The scene before us now, is showing what precedes the judgment of the nations.
As this passage opens, the Lord issues a call to war. The Lord shouts in verse 9, "Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about." Usually when a king or head of State calls for war and challenges the military to assemble, he is addressing his own people and forces. The Lord is actually calling the Gentile nations to war!
The word "prepare" in verse 9, is a Hebrew word meaning to sanctify or consecrate. This has spiritual or religious connotations. While this warfare involves real nations, armies, and weaponry, the greater conflict is between God and Satan! Every nation, every individual involved, has sworn allegiance to one side or the other. There is no neutral ground.
Sometimes we forget that we are in a war. We know of individuals, organizations and nations that are openly opposed to Christians, but there are also unseen, spiritual forces involved behind these entities, moving them, directing them, empowering them. Ephesians 6:10-12 says, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
The Lord challenges the armies of the world and the forces of Satan, to give it their best shot. In verses 9-11, the Lord is saying, "Bring your biggest, mightiest, most experienced warriors, your champions! Pool all your resources, every scrap of metal together you can find to throw at me! Let your weakest nations and warriors psych themselves up, thinking they are invincible!"
During Word War II, American citizens were called upon to save and sacrifice everything they could for the war effort. Every scrap of metal was converted into weapons! The Lord will challenge the gathered nations of the earth to use their latest, most deadly hi-tech weaponry!
Isaiah 2:4 prophesies that during the Millennium, they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They will learn war no more! The scene before us however, is not the Millennium! There will be no lasting peace between the nations, until Jesus returns and establishes His rule!
We must always beware of utopian thinkers, if their utopia is not based upon the return of Jesus Christ. People like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Fidel Castro, were utopian thinkers. They had great, idealistic dreams that turned into nightmares! They promised prosperity for all, but delivered poverty and a failed economy. They promised freedom, but delivered bondage. Today, there are political leaders and candidates running for office, who are at best naive, and at worst foolish in denying the existence of evil that is in this world. Somehow they believe that they can sit down with those who hate us and want to destroy us, and reason with them or appease them. Utopian types are high-minded and view people with a biblical world view as simple, backward, non-progressive, and pessimistic. They say we have given up on hope, that we refuse to dream. God's people are a people of hope. We have a vision of a bright future, but it is centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ! There is sin and evil in this world that will not go away, except by force!
This scene of warfare corresponds to the great battle of Armageddon, which takes place at the end of the Tribulation. Revelation 19:11-19 gives us another account. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. 13 And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army."
Can you imagine what Joel is thinking and feeling as he receives this prophecy? In verse 11b, we get an idea. As God challenges the nations of the earth to come against Him, Joel shouts back to God, "..thither cause Thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD." Joel looks toward Heaven and cries for vengeance! He cries, "Let them have it, O LORD. Give them a taste of Your ‘mighty ones,' Your power!"
When Satan, the Anti-christ, and the kings of the earth, along with their armies come up toward Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus Christ will release His fury upon them. Notice verses 12-13. The Lord says, "Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 13 Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great."
Wars have what they call, theaters. A theater is a place or area of enactment, where significant events occur. In World War II, there was the European theater, and the Pacific theater. The theater for this great war is a series of plains or valleys. We have already established that the phrase, "valley of Jehoshaphat," is more of a statement than a location. Jehoshaphat means Jehovah judges. Some believe that this is the Kidron valley, just outside Jerusalem. Others believe that Jesus will create a valley of His own, as He touches down on the Mount of Olives.
A description of this same event in Revelation 16:16, speaks of another theater called Armageddon. Revelation 16:16 reads, "And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." Oddly enough, this speaks of another valley! Armageddon, is a Greek transliteration of two Hebrew words, "Har" meaning mountain, and "Megiddo," meaning to crush, kill, strike, or massacre. Megiddo, an ancient fortified city, is one of the most famous battlegrounds in the world. Historians believe that more battles were fought at this location than anywhere else on earth.
The ancient city of Megiddo is located on the southern edge of an oval-shaped valley called the Valley of Megiddo. This famous valley is also known as the Plain of Esdraelon, and is now commonly known as the Valley of Jezreel. Armageddon, which is about 15 miles from the Mediterranean port and industrial area of Haifa, will serve as the gathering place, a natural staging area for the world's military force. From there, they will advance southward toward Jerusalem.
The focal point of the battle is the "Valley of Jehoshaphat," also called by Joel, the "Valley of Decision," situated between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. The Messiah, will engage both eastern and western forces in battle, when He returns and stands on the Mount of Olives.
The execution of the Lord's judgment, is pictured in verse 13, as a double harvest of wheat and grapes. The image of a harvest speaks of God's patience in judgment. He waits until the situation is ripe, until the wickedness of the earth reaches a certain level, demanding His judgment.
Revelation 14:14-20 gives this same imagery. "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. 16 And He that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. 17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." The combined military might of the entire world, doesn't have a chance. The life blood of the nations will drench the earth!
In verses 14-16, the prophet Joel responds to this scene by saying, "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of His people, and the strength of the children of Israel." The word "multitudes" is repeated to emphasize the great number gathered in the "valley of decision." These nations are not gathered at Armageddon to make a decision, ...but to hear one! The Lord Jesus Christ will be roused and roar like a lion out of Zion. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will roar! His voice will be felt in creation. The sun and moon will be darkened; the stars will cease shining, the earth with shake, and the wicked, defiant armies will be destroyed from Jerusalem! At the same time, He will be a refuge for His people. The Lord concludes in verse 17, "So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more." The people who fall under the judgment of God as well as those who are left standing, will know that there is indeed a God who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and that it happened in a particular place. Jerusalem will no longer be divided and trodden over.
What can we take away from this future event for our present benefit?
This passage presents four realities.
Reality one: Humanity presently stands in it's own valley of decision. Everyone must make a decision about Jesus Christ before its too late. Look around for someone to influence for Christ. Witness to those who are lost; who have no hope, or have embraced a false hope.
Reality two: We must wake up to the "signs of the times," all around us. Don't be naive or deceived. Be informed. Ask God to help you see through the rhetoric before you vote. Develop and hold to a biblical world view.
Reality three: There is spiritual warfare taking place all around you. Wake up to the fact that you cannot stand or fight Satan on your own. Be strong in the Lord! Everyday, put on the whole armor of God!
Reality four: Realize that today, God's dwelling place, His Jerusalem, is within your own heart. When trouble comes, when people rise up against you, the Lion of Judea is your refuge. His voice calms the storm and stills the raging waters.