Sunday, May 29, 2016

The greeting! - Galatians 1:1-5

The greeting! - Galatians 1:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 29, 2016

Depending upon the reason for the message we may use the salutation of "Dear", "Sir or Madam", "To Whom It May Concern", "Folks", or the name of the person or persons we are addressing. Sadly, many greetings have gone out of vogue do to instant messaging or texting and email. And it is important to note that many young people do not understand the importance of a formal or business style of greeting when putting together correspondence for a job or college application. This is because our world has become way too lax in how it addresses others or the politeness, articulation, and education of what these kinds of greetings infer.

Galatians, though one of Paul’s shorter letters is highly respected as one of his greatest and most influential. Since both Romans and Galatians teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide), it has been seen as a shorter version of Romans. Paul begins this instructional letter with a greeting that focuses on who it is for, who it is from, and why he is writing it. Let's see what Paul's greeting contains and how it influences the entire letter to the Galatians.

READ: Galatians 1:1-5

On this Memorial Day weekend it is important for us to remember the men and women who fought and died for our freedom. It is fitting then that we study Paul's letter to the Galatians. Galatians eloquently defends Paul’s apostolic authority and contains in summary form what the apostle taught. In particular it contains a clear statement of justification by faith and builds on that foundation a defense of Christian liberty against any form of legalism. Right away we discover that..

I. Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority! (Vv. 1-2)

Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia:

  1. The opening of Paul's letter here is both normal and kind of abnormal. It does not contain the usual niceties of a standard greeting of the day. Rather it bluntly goes to the heart of the issue at hand that Paul wanted to put to rest immediately, namely his authority to be who he was in Jesus! Notice how the letter begins: "Paul, an apostle". Right away Paul reminds his readers of who he is: an apostle. Not just one of the many disciples of Jesus but a member of the innermost circle an apostle. One who was literally sent by Jesus himself for a specific purpose; because this is what the word "apostle" carries with it in its definition. One who is sent for a specific reason and this was Paul. He was "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ". This was important because Paul saw himself as equal to any of the other inner disciples of Jesus along with Peter, John, Matthew and such. And his reasoning was obvious: he was sent by Jesus himself and not by mere men! Paul had met Jesus in a life-changing event on the road to Damascus years earlier. He had been freed from his Pharisaic legalism. This would be extremely important in his later discussions with the early church concerning his authority and his theology. What is more is the fact that "God the Father, who raised (Jesus) from the dead" saw him as one of the apostles. If Jesus who died for their sins and God the Father who sent Jesus and raised him from the dead saw Paul as an apostle as well, they could not therefore reject his teaching or authority! And so Paul, the Apostle, now greets the Galatians, along with "all the brothers" in Jesus with him! Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority!

  EXAMPLE: We will learn that the bluntness of Paul's greeting was because of the heresies that had crept into the Galatians church. We will discuss these in the following weeks. Paul was being like a military drill instructor so-to-speak. When a person goes to boot camp their heads are shaved and their identities are stripped down and they learn to obey immediately the orders they receive from their drill instructors, their DIs. To do so will save their lives in conflict. Paul was a spiritual drill instructor. He needed to establish his authority immediately without question so his disciples in Jesus would follow his teaching concerning Jesus without question. Not mindlessly, but without illogical and irrational spirituality that would confuse them as new believers; which in fact was exactly what had occurred because of evil folks who came in wanting to pervert the gospel message of salvation by faith. Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority!

The great German theologian and pastor Martin Luther was especially attached to Galatians and referred to it as his "wife" and his Commentary on Galatians was widely read. On this Sunday before Memorial Day we would do well to take time to pause and pray for those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. In this Galatians is a good letter to read because it is often called the “Magna Charta of Christian Liberty,” proclaiming that salvation comes not by works but by grace through faith and in fact we discover that…

II. Paul's greeting contains God's grace! (Vv. 3-5)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

  1. Paul did not want his readers to forget who it was they followed and why. They all were believers not because they adhered to a set of guidelines, laws, rules, or regulations. Rather, it was by God's mercy. So Paul begins by writing, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". Grace and peace came not only from God the Father who had given the Hebrews the Law, but also the "Lord Jesus Christ" (the Messiah)! God had now given them Jesus who fulfilled the law! Grace is God's mercy that gives us more than we truly deserve and his peace is the peace that not only surpasses all the understanding of mankind, it brings us peace with a holy and righteous God the Father because of our sinful ungodly condition! This is why Paul continues his greeting with: "who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father"! Jesus willingly gave his own life as the ultimate sacrifice for mankind's sin. As Jesus taught Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18 NIV) Paul therefore wanted his readers to understand the significance of Jesus' sacrifice and how God, "to whom be glory forever and ever", viewed it! There is nothing that can be added to this or taken away from it! It is not Jesus "and" nor is it less than what Jesus had done! It is all because of Jesus! Remember this is not the peace the world gives, but the peace of God (John 14:27) but what is more it is because of the grace of God through Jesus! Paul's greeting contains God's grace!

  EXAMPLE: Far too many either think that they can just either just smile or wave at the grace of God or that they have to add something to it. Neither is true. God is not some sleepy-eyed baldheaded man sitting on a cloud smiling and waving at his creation below nor is he some terrible task master checking off the good things you do to see if they outweigh the bad things you do in life. Jesus established for us once and for all the grace of God through the gospel message. We are saved by grace through faith, not by anything we do. Our freedom from spiritual slavery was bought by Jesus' death and sealed by his resurrection! Paul's greeting contains God's grace!

Conclusion:

Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority! Paul's greeting contains God's grace!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The judgment of God! - Joel 3:1-3, 6-8, 9-13, 14-17, 20-21

The judgment of God! - Joel 3:1-3, 6-8, 9-13, 14-17, 20-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 22, 2016

None of us likes to be judged by anyone, and especially by God. In fact there is a societal heresy that thinks that God should never judge anyone. I oversee a blog that I have edited for over a decade now. It deals with my own comments on society, politics, theology, and I upload my sermons to it as well. I cannot tell you the number of times I've had folks argue that I could not counter their arguments because as a believer I could not judge them lest I be judged! This is utter hogwash. Jesus' command to not judge others dealt with a hypocritical judgment without first taking care of one's own problem in the same sin arena. We can in fact "judge" others by their words, actions, and deeds. And certainly God will indeed judge all people everywhere when he returns.

Joel had been up until now trying to get his people to repent and return to God. Now he focuses on all nations including Israel, those who had fought against Israel, and all other nations who refused to acknowledge the Living God. God is going to judge everyone whether we like it or not and whether we believe it or not the judgment of God is going to happen. Let's discover what this means for us...

READ: Joel 3:1-3, 6-8, 9-13, 14-17, 20-21

There are many of us who would like to have a fresh start in life. Joel begins by telling the Israelites that this is exactly what is going to occur. In fact we discover that…

I. The judgment of God includes his restoration! (Joel 3:1-3, 6-8 NIV)

"In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine that they might drink… You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland. See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away." The LORD has spoken.

  1. Whether the enemies of God, and thereby Israel itself, conceded it or not there would come a time of recompense for the crimes they had committed against God's people. So God through Joel relates, "In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the Lord Judges)." The idea here is that all people everywhere would have to assemble before God. Why? The reason was that it was there God would "enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land." This is personal as far as the Lord is concerned. He has not forgotten one crime against those he loves. Notice how often he uses the personal possessive "my" as in "my people Israel, my inheritance, my land". One of the many crimes these nations had done was in selling God's youth into perversion and the pornography of prostitution and sex slaves. Sound familiar? Today's "progressive" politically correct society has sold our children into things like transgender identity, homosexuality, sexting, unwed motherhood, and the adultery of living together before marriage. In fact, these nations, these governments, had "sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks (goyim meaning non-Jews or non-believers), that you might send them far from their homeland." It was a deliberate act to relocate captured youth to foreign lands in order to grow them into whatever conquering nation wanted them to become. Yet God was not blind, he knew what had occurred and who had done it to his own. He tells them, "See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away." It was a certainty, for "The Lord has spoken!" The judgment of God includes his restoration!

  EXAMPLE: God would bring his people home from far off places where they had been lead into captivity. This is a beautiful promise for us as well. We as believers are now the chosen of God, his people called by his name because of his Son Jesus. In fact we are his adopted children and he promises to return us to where we belong: to himself! It does not matter on what distant shore of sin we find ourselves, God desires we return to him. Why? We are the ones who have "washed" our robes in the blood of the Lamb, he has spread his tent over us, and never again will we hunger or thirst, and God will be our shepherd leading us to springs of living water where every tear will be wiped away from our eyes! (Revelations 7:14-17) This is God's promise to his people! The judgment of God includes his restoration!

There is nothing better for an agrarian society than a good harvest. Yet here in Joel the final harvest they would experience would be one where…

II. The judgment of God includes his mighty army! (Joel 3:9-13 NIV)

Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, "I am strong!" Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD! Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow-- so great is their wickedness!

  1. We forget that there is a great war being waged every moment around us. Paul makes mention of it and here Joel is told to "Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack." Interestingly this is not a message for a heavenly army but rather one for the people of God! We are to be prepared for battle, for a war, and we are to be ready for the attack! Least God's people think otherwise we are commanded to "Beat (our) plowshares into swords and (our) pruning hooks into spears." The harvest we are preparing for is not one of wheat, corn, or any other kind of agricultural crop; rather it is a harvest of men! In fact, God's people are not to shrink back from their responsibility to fight in this conflict: "Let the weakling say, 'I am strong!'" It is a cry for the men and women of God to put on their full armor that is forged from their everyday implements. Perhaps it is time for believers to stop mouthing words of spiritual pacifism, cash in their material goods and wealth, head for war and prepare for spiritual battle!  God's command to his people is to, "Come quickly" without any delay. Every believer from every nation is to assemble. Joel cries out for God to also "Bring down your warriors, O LORD!" God is with us! As never before God's people need to be wake up from their spiritual slumber and realize that the judgment of God is now at hand. It has been since Jesus returned to his rightful place. Joel understood this as well. He knew his own people had become spiritually lax and so God uses him to tell them, "Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side." Like some warrior of old who is trying to get his tired army moving in the right direction God is trying to motivate his people to stand, march, and fight! But this battle has eternal consequences: "Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow-- so great is their wickedness!" God's judgment has come and the judgment of God includes his mighty army!

  EXAMPLE: In the movie The Patriot, the British thought that the middle of the Continental Army was made up of volunteer militiamen who would run at the first hard charge from the British regulars. And in fact they did, but it was all part of the plan to win the battle. The militia stood their ground just long enough to suck the British army into a full charge whereby they got up and ran, except when they had ran just over the top of the hill that the British were charging up after them on, the militia turned and fought with the help of the entire Continental Army. In that moment the tide of battle was won by the volunteer militia. In our spiritual battle we may forget we are never alone and in fact God is calling each of us to war. We are to "swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe" and the judgment of God includes his mighty army!



III. God's judgment includes his pardon! (Joel 3:14-17, 20-21 NIV)

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. "Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her… Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon." The LORD dwells in Zion!

  1. The battle for Joel was imminent yet interestingly there are those who would suggest that Joel was speaking of something to happen far into the future. This is not necessarily the case here. Joel was speaking to and prophesying about a judgment that was coming shortly to his people. He was letting them know that while they were in captivity God was still with them and he would judge them and their enemies because their enemies were his enemies. However the language is such that it also lends itself to a future occurrence. Divine judgment was going to happen and executed on the nations who opposed God's people: "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." With this judgment there would be heavenly signs that would occur, "The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble." The idea here is that God will make himself known and these nations will know it is him who judges them. However, no matter how awful that day may be for those being judged by God, his people have nothing to fear. Joel promises, "But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel." Again, this promise is for the believer as well. God is our refuge. We have nothing to fear on the day of God's judgment. In fact, God reminds Israel and us, "Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her… Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon." The idea here is one of pardon. In fact the idea is one where God is going to pardon Israel's bloodguilt because they had sacrificed their own for greed, to be accepted by their enemies, and because of spiritual laziness. God would be his people's refuge and release. God's judgment includes his pardon!

  EXAMPLE: The judge could have sentenced the young man to several weeks in jail but instead he shocked the crowd by forgiving his crime and sentencing himself to serve several weeks in jail instead! Then he took off his robes, went down and kissed the defendant on the cheek. You see the judge was the boy's father. Isaiah reminds us of God's mercy when he writes, "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:6-9 NIV) His forgiveness is based on who he is and how he responds to us as his people! God's judgment includes his pardon!

Conclusion:

The judgment of God includes his restoration! The judgment of God includes his mighty army! God's judgment includes his pardon!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Return to the Lord! - Joel 2

Return to the Lord! - Joel 2
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 15, 2016

Coming home is often never easy, especially after you have left and wanted to make it on your own and then you have to return and make amends. A good example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus related to his followers as found in Luke's Gospel. Yet each of us could probably recount tales from our own lives at how we ran away when we were young or left home as young adults only to return and have to make some kind of amends or correction with those we returned to.

The Prophet Joel related to the Israelites that they had to return to the Lord whom they had forsaken. Whenever the Israelite people faced trials or threats the priests were to call the people out in order to gather them for whatever purpose was needed. Sometimes it was for battle, sometimes for a public announcement, and sometimes it was for spiritual purposes. Here, I believe it was for the later. The Israelites needed to return to the Lord or the results of their sinfulness would catch up to them, let's discover what Joel declared and how it applies to our lives today…

READ: Joel 2:1-3; 12-17; 18, 27-32

In my home and in most houses there are smoke alarms and now many homes must have CO2 detectors as well. These devices go off when they detect smoke or gases that will harm the occupants of the homes they are installed in. Here we discover Joel telling the people…

I. We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord! (Vv. 1-3)

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand--a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the Garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste-- nothing escapes them.

  1. Joel wastes no time in telling the priests to "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill." God wanted his people to be focused on what he needed to tell them and they needed to understand the importance of the message he was about to declare to them. The declaration was not going to be a good one. In fact, it carried with it disturbing news. Joel tells them, "Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming." This was going to be frightening news. The people's sin had incurred God's wrath and judgment. Judgment was coming. Joel declares that "It is close at hand--a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness." We often live like spiritual Pollyannas, thinking that God will only wink at our sin, pat us on our collective heads or bottoms, and send us on our way like wayward toddlers when we keep on sinning. When we do we forget how God views sin! Joel was not confused or deluded by the likes of the political correctness of our day. The Israelite's sin had caught up to them and whether it was a swarm of locusts on the horizon or an invading army, "Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come." Just as our Nation's pulling out of the world militarily has created a military vacuum that is being filled by Russia and China, when we sin we will inherit the results of that sin and the results of that sin is always devastating: "Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the Garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste-- nothing escapes them." The spiritual leaders were to sound an alarm to return to God before it was too late! We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: Many pastors and others have been sounding the alarm of the deteriorating moral condition of America. The current Administration has done everything it could in the last eight years to tear down any opposition to its ungodly belief system. The Obama administration's directive Friday that every public school provide transgender access -- or face the loss of federal funds is just another attempt to force Americans into a belief system most do not agree with whether they like it or not. It is societal blackmail, ungodly, and not worthy of any President. Unless Christians take a forceful stand against this, we will face even greater attempts by the politically correct to force us to accept any perversion. We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord!

There is nothing worse than a phony kissy-kissy relationship between two people. You know what I mean, where two people outwardly say they "love one another" but in reality they hate each other's guts. No one would like to have a phony relationship with another because they know it is based on nothing and is not true. Here we discover Joel telling the people…

II. We are to return to the Lord completely! (Vv. 12-17)

"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing-- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, "Where is their God?'"

  1. God hates spiritual phoniness from his people! Jesus called those who thought they were spiritual but who were in reality totally devoid of God hypocrites, vipers, and whitewashed tombs! God is not fooled by our counterfeit Christianity. We can fool others and we can often fool ourselves, but God is never unaware of our foolishness! Joel relates, "'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'" God wanted the truth from his people and sometimes he has to drag us into admitting it! Truthfulness before God comes when folks are willing to "Rend [their] heart and not [their] garments." Outward acts of contrition were just that, outward. God desires us to come to him without any guile. Joel tells us why: "…for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." Wow, this is why God desires our spiritual honesty. Joel goes on to state, "Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing -- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God." The only hope for sinful folks is a complete change of heart! But how is it possible when we are so willing to fool ourselves? Joel gives us the answer: "Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar." The trumpet is to be sounded, a spiritual fast declared, and a sacred assembly called! All the people were to be gathered together from the oldest to the youngest, from those starting out in life to those who thought they knew it all spiritually. They were to "weep between the temple porch and the altar" of God! They were to be totally honest in their confession: "Let them say, 'Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" We are to return to the Lord completely!

  EXAMPLE: Confession is more than good for the soul; it is where one begins to be honest before the Lord about their sin. Far too many believers in our day and age think they can smile and wink at their sin and God will overlook their ungodliness. God hates politically correct inclusion at the risk of promoting sin. He responds to our broken hearts.  Ungodliness is only cleansed when we come before the Lord in complete humility and ask his forgiveness for our sins. We are to return to the Lord completely!

When we are honest about ourselves and face the truth of our lives we can then mature emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. In fact, where our relationship with God is concerned when we are honest we can return to him. Why is this true? Here we discover Joel telling the people…

III. God desires that we return to him! (Vv. 18, 27-32)

Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. The LORD will reply to them: "I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations… Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls."

  1. For the Israelites their land was just as important to them as their own lives. For them their relationship with God was also a relationship to their nation as a whole. If they repented "Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people." Joel knew that "The LORD will reply to them: 'I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.'" It was a promise by God to his repentant people. He promised that "Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed." The effects of the locusts or invading army would be completely reversed. Yet there is more that happens, God's people would benefit spiritually as well! When God's people are repentant and brokenhearted God heals them and their nation! Joel related that "afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." Peter saw this as an answer from God on the day of Pentecost! And not just God's people would be affected but the entire created universe as well! God "will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." Many believe that Joel was speaking of the coming Messiah; while others think that this might also refer to an end of everything or the end times. The former is more theologically precise because of what occurred during and following Jesus' death on the cross and the fall of Jerusalem several decades later. We also know that now, because of Jesus' coming as the Messiah, his death burial, and resurrection we are saved by his grace through faith. Joel's promise from God tells us that "everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls." Joel teaches us that God desires that we return to him!

  EXAMPLE: People have asked me many times over the decades if I thought we were in the end times. I respond that ever since Jesus' resurrection and ascension we have been in the end of all things. Each day brings us closer to the Lord's promised return. Usually what people mean is they want an answer from me if I believe in a series of convoluted charts and theological twisting. What many teach in our day concerning the return of Jesus has more to do with the heretical teachings of Seventh Day Adventists, Latter Day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses than with actual biblical theology. What Joel does clearly teach us is that sinful people need to repent or they will be judged for their sin and their nation will be affected by it. However if we do repent, God is gracious and forgiving. God desires that we return to him!

Conclusion:

We are to sound the alarm to return to the Lord! We are to return to the Lord completely! God desires that we return to him!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Weep over your sin! - Joel 1

Weep over your sin! - Joel 1
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 8, 2016

My mother was a small bundle of fire that one did not cross. She is the one who made us march out into the yard and cut a switch off the lilac bush for our own whoopin'. If you do not know what a "whoopin'" is then you do not understand punishment. Her philosophy that is sadly lacking in our day and age was the punishment should fit the crime. We were never sent to our room, given a time out, or restricted from watching TV. Our punishments were dealt with immediately and a spanking consisted of only a couple of swats. In fact, we were expected to take our punishment and not "carry on" about it. Mom would remind us to stop our crying or she would "give us something to cry about". She knew we had to weep over the wrong we had committed or we would not quit doing it. Being remorseful was part of what was expected. One had to weep over their sin.

We live in a day and age where far too many think that no one should face the consequences of their actions. This is not biblical. Joel, the son of Pethuel, the second of the twelve minor prophets, was, as is said, of the tribe of Reuben, and city of Bethoran. Joel prophesied in the kingdom of Judah; and it is the opinion of some critics that he did not appear there till after the removal of the ten tribes and the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. Whatever the date, Joel foretold of events which would occur to the nation of Israel if they did not repent of their sin. Events so horrific that he had to describe them in terms his readers could understand. He was God's messenger who desired that the Jewish people weep over their sins. Let's find out what that means for us this morning…

READ: Joel 1:1-20

Good mothers try to impart wisdom to their children. Wash your hand before eating and after using the restroom, brush your teeth in the morning and before bedtime, get to bed early, exercise, do not watch too much TV or play too many video games, and eat all of your food; but what about morals? Good mothers teach their children about morality. Mothers know from their own experiences that ungodly behavior leads to personal destruction. Joel teaches us that…

I. Sin has devastating consequences! (Vv. 1-7)

The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel. Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.

  1. Joel saw himself as a herald who came and spoke the truth to the people. So, his message begins, "The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel. Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?" Joel's message was from God. It was his word for the Israelites. They were to "listen" and respond to God's question, "Has anything like this happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?" After they had listened and understood what was about to occur, they were commanded to "Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation." God was going to use natural catastrophes to punish his sin-hardened people, "What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten." Starvation was a very real threat to this era. Food was dependent upon the weather, soil conditions, and whether vermin ate most of the crop or not! They understood what locusts could do to a crop. Yet, they were inebriated, drunk, in their contentment of personal sin toward God. So Joel tells them to, "Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips." They would soon be sober! These locusts would snatch the "new wine" from their lips as they tried to drink it! However, these were not insects but rather "A nation" that "has invaded (God's) land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness." And like all invading armies of that day they would totally destroy everything and anyone in their way: "It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white." Sin has devastating consequences!

  EXAMPLE: My mother would warn us over and over to be wise in the people we picked as our friends because she knew that "bad company corrupts good character." Even if we maintain a friendship in order to gain some self satisfaction we will suffer from an ungodly one. Sin rubs off and soon we are making excuses for our own ungodly behavior instead of getting rid of the evil influence in our lives. The Israelites had allowed themselves to become lazy in their relationship with the world around them. Inter-marriages with others who did not honor the Living God, acceptance of worshipping false gods, and the acceptance of personal sin in the lives of their own priests had become common place. Personal and societal corruption and perversion was excused and venerated. Sound familiar? God would not be mocked; they were going to suffer the cost of the sin. Sin has devastating consequences!

My mother used to tell us that "Anyone can be sorry, but being sorry isn't enough." Like little children who are caught disobeying, the Israelites were quick to tell God they were "sorry" but their actions spoke volumes concerning the truth. Joel prophesied that…

II. Sin causes grief unless we repent! (Vv. 8-14)

Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree-- all the trees of the field--are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away. Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

  1. How sad is it when someone young dies, but how truly horrendous when a newly married bride does not even get to be with her new husband before he dies! God tells the Israelites through Joel that they were to "Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth." This bride did not even get to share her marriage bed before her husband was taken from her and the Israelites were going to experience that kind of grief for their sin! In fact their "Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails." This means they could not do their daily sacrifices for their sin! This would be like Jesus telling us today, "I no longer want to or will hear your confession of sin!" In fact their sin was so great it was going to affect everything! Joel declares, "Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree-- all the trees of the field--are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away!" They would experience spiritual and physical famine! We think we are so smart when we sin. We make all kinds of excuses for it and then disaster strikes because of our sinful behavior. What is the answer to our sin? What was the answer for their sin? Joel tells them, "Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly." Their priests were to confess their sin and humble themselves before God all night! They were to "declare a holy fast" where no one ate or drank but instead spent their time in confession in a "sacred assembly" and contrition before God for their sin! Perhaps it is time for the churches of America to "Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD." Sin causes grief unless we repent!

  EXAMPLE: The little boy stood outside of the classroom cry his lungs out. When asked what was wrong by a passerby he sobbed, "The teacher made me stand outside of the room!" When asked why he did not know why. Yet with further investigation it was learned that he had not only spoke out loud and out of turn in class but had made a snide comment to the teacher in front of the class, and she had therefore asked him to stand outside of the room for a moment. When asked what he should do in order to return to the classroom, he refused to respond. He knew he needed to apologize but he was unwilling to admit he had been wrong. When he got home his mother made him return to the school with her and tell the teacher he was sorry for disrupting the class. It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it was one I never forgot. Sin causes grief unless we repent!

In our day and age we actually think we should not have to suffer any consequences for our actions that we should in fact be allowed to do whatever we want when we want to. My mother would say that this is just "stupid thinking". Sadly, we see the results of unbridled our lives. Joel reminds us that…

III. We will suffer for our sin until we repent! (Vv. 15-20)

Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes-- joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering. To you, O LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures.

  1. Just like a runaway train that cannot be stopped, the day will come when the results of ungodly behavior will be judged. The train wreck will occur. Joel laments, "Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty." Do we actually think we will not have to pay for our bad behavior? Do we think God will turn a blind eye? Can't we see for our self the effect sin is having on our lives, the lives of others and our nation? The sinful Israelites couldn't and neither can we. This is why Joel incredulously asks, "Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes-- joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering." Like meth addicts sinful people love their sin so much they can look at what it is doing to their lives and others and still not care! Yet the result of our addiction will catch up to us. The only answer is for the addict to stop abusing and stay sober. The only answer for the sinner is to recognize his sinful condition turn to the Lord and walk with him! Joel tells God, "To you, O LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures." We will suffer for our sin until we repent!

  EXAMPLE: My mother could not believe it when my father fell ill due to heart disease. He was a young man in his 30s, had hunted, hiked, and fished for decades. It resulted in years of poverty for our family. My mother became the main bread winner, working at manual labor jobs because of her lack of education. And what truly hurt was the fact that it could have been all avoided if he had not smoked. My father was never without a cigarette and smoked from two to three packs a day. It created weakened heart muscles and hardened arteries. We all tried to get my father to quit but nothing worked and he refused. He died at the age of 51 years leaving a wife and three children. We will suffer for our sin until we repent!

Conclusion:

Sin has devastating consequences! Sin causes grief unless we repent! We will suffer for our sin until we repent!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.