The Lord Dwells in Zion

by LA UBF   02/01/2009     0 reads


The Lord dwells in Zion

 The Lord dwells in Zion

Joel 1:1-3:21

Key Verse 3:21b

The LORD dwells in Zion!

The purpose God had in creating the universe and everything in it is to bestow upon his creation the highest good he had in mind. 

The highest good we can possibly think of is God himself. Therefore we can say that God created man the crown of his creation only to be able to bestow upon man God himself. 

In the passage for today the Prophet Joel reveals God actively working for this purpose. Let us see how the Lord works to fulfill this purpose.

First, the Lord disciplines his children for idol worship (1:1-12)

In case of the Israelites the Lord was merciful enough to reveal himself to one person Abraham and through him to his descendants. This eventually led them to the Promised Land. There the Lord God worked through his servants such as David to build the nation Israel as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But overtime they got themselves assimilated to the Canaanites who worshiped wrong objects of worship such as food or pleasures of sin. 

By the time Joel came and prophesied to the people of Israel their worship of carnal ways of life began to rage in full speed. In verse 5 for example Joel says, "Wake up you drunkards!" A drunkard is a synonym for an alcoholic. He is so addicted to the alcoholic beverages that he has to go back to alcohol again and again. By calling the Israelites to wake up Joel meant that they should wake up from their addiction to the animalistic ways of life. 

Bible scholars offer different opinions about the exact times when Joel spoke. Although the book does not give out the times we can find some clues from the passage itself: the famine and the fearful threats of foreign invasion. Most likely the famine referred to in Joel was the one which the Lord decreed to last seven years in the day of the Prophet Elisha. (2Ki 8:1) If this is the case we can easily understand what the times must have been like, for in those days the Prophet Elijah and Elisha fought against the idolatry instituted by the Queen Jezebel. 

The Bible says, "Buy the truth; do not sell it." Pro 23:23 But God's people sold the truth for nothing. What then did God do? As they sold themselves to idol worship which is chasing after winds, what did God do?

God could have abandoned them so they could go their ways and perish. But in love he sent locusts in waves. The Lord also sent foreign armies. Both locusts and foreign armies worked to stop people from living as party animals. In order to hold parties and indulge in sinful pleasures two conditions need to be met: good economy (or a lot of money in your bank account) and peace of mind. Locusts then ruined the former, whereas the foreign invasion took away the peace of mind. 

These disasters came from the Lord. The Lord sent them not just to give his children hard times but to stop them from going the way of destruction. The Lord did this to help them give up the wrong objects of worship. God created man to thrive by worshiping the Lord. But as the Israelites worshiped what is fleshly, the Lord went out and worked to bring them back to the worship of the right object, that is, the worship of the God of Israel. 

Second, the Lord urges God's children to return to the Lord (1:13-2:17)

In 2:12 the Lord pleads his children to return to the Lord saying, "'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'" Why then should one repent and turn to the Lord? The reason for the repentance is to prepare themselves for the day of the Lord coming. In other words unless one repents and turns to the Lord, the only alternative left for the unrepentant is to fall victim to the judgment that is coming. 

Life here on earth in a physical body is the period in which one can prepare himself against the Day of Judgment. During this period of time one can listen to the gospel message, and turn to the Lord fully. So life time is the time of preparation. It is never the time to take a series of long vacation, for when one is not prepared, as the day of the Lord is approaching, he will not be prepared. If he is not prepared, then, no one will stand the Day of Judgment. One might develop a fantasy that he can build his own defense line, so that the Lord would never be able to break through the wall. But that is not going to be the case. The Lord's army is mighty. He is going to break the defense line, and walk straight through the house of a sinner, and plunder his house like a thief. In short, unless one is prepared, no one will be able to stand up against the Day of the Lord coming. Let us read 2:3-11. 

Therefore it is a must for one to repent and turn to the Lord before too late. How then should one be prepared? In Joel 1:13-2:17 the Lord spoke through Joel. The Lord urged them to return to the Lord in repentance, by fasting, and in sincere prayer. Let us open the Bible and read 1:13-14. Please also open the Scriptures and read with a trembling heart 2:12-17.

This passage exhorts one to return to the Lord by fasting, weeping, mourning, crying out to the Lord, and even rending one's heart. Here rending one's heart is a metaphor for a contrite heart. This call is based on the Lord's promise to show his mercy for it is written that the Lord will NOT despise a contrite heart. Psalm 51:17 

This passage reminds us of the way the Lord made man. God gave each person the right to make his or her own choice. God cannot choose for man. It is each person who must consider pros and cons of the alternatives given to him. This practically means that we should not sleep on our duties to make decisions in regard to the ways that are pleasing to the Lord. 

Of all the decisions the decision to turn to the Lord is the most important. On many occasions and for various reasons the capabilities to make spiritual decisions to turn to the Lord may go dysfunctional. Sometimes you even hate to think what is wrong what is right, where one has gone wrong and where one should turn. Or one might be stuck with the sense of guilt, condemnation, and despair. It is precisely for these reasons that the Lord exhorts the Israelites to hold a holy fast, weep, mourn, and cry out to the Lord. Why should we hold a holy fast? It is to enhance the capabilities to return to the Lord. It is to gain and boost up the spiritual strength to stand up, overcome counter forces that prevent us from turning to the Lord (such negative forces as sense of guilt, despair, hopelessness, etc.), and make our journey all the way back to God fully. 

Third, the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:18-32)

When one repents and turns to the Lord with a broken heart, what will the Lord do for him? In 2:18-32, the Lord promises to replace curses with blessings for his children. While the Israelites remained rebellious, the Lord orchestrated all the events and people in such a way that everything would work against his children. But as one sincerely repents and turns to the Lord, asking for the Lord's mercy, the Lord relents. In his mercy he causes all things to work for his children. The Lord will re-arrange the conditions of the environments to work in favor of his children in physical and spiritual realms, in their external lives and internal lives. 

When the Lord works this way there will be no more curses; there will be only blessings. This turn of life will be in line with what the Lord had already taught them through Moses and then through Joshua. [Would someone rise and read Deuteronomy 11:29; 30:1,19; Joshua 8:34?]

The finishing touch of the work of Lord's blessings is bestowal of the Spirit of God upon his children. Let us all rise and read 2:28,29. In the Book of Acts we see that the Lord fulfilled this prophecy. The Holy Spirit himself is God who came to dwell among his children. The presence of God through the Holy Spirit in the lives of God's children is in preparation for the perfected kingdom to come. 

Fourth, making a finishing touch for a blessed environment for his children (3:1-21) 

While the Holy Spirit working in his children builds God's kingdom "inside" of his children, the work which is described in Chapter 3 goes to the external kingdom of God built outside. In order for God's kingdom to come physically here on earth the Lord needs to do a big clean-up. 

The time for the clean-up will coincide with the day for Lord to come to judge the nations. Look at 3:1-2. "'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." 

Notice the two names: one for a person, another for a location. 

Here Judah denotes the citizens who will inhabit the perfected kingdom. Judah's name further supports this idea, for it means "This time I will praise the Lord." Since the Fall Adam started complaining about the Lord and all the Lord did and is doing for men. The saved ones will do the opposite for praising the Lord serves as the antidote for the un-thankfulness which turns an otherwise a perfect garden into a living hell. But those who are saved have learned to give thanks to God even in adverse circumstances.

Jerusalem represents the environments in which the citizens of God's kingdom can have life to the full. We can understand this concept when we think about the way the Lord designed the Lord's temple. The study of the Moses' Pentateuch especially Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy enlightens us that by providing his children with the temple (situated in Jerusalem) the Lord revealed the way for sinners to overcome the barriers of sin and come to the presence of the Lord for a fellowship with Him. 

Restoring fortunes to Judah and Jerusalem stands for building a perfected kingdom. [Here the word "fortunes" is a fancy word for the blessed life in the blessed kingdom, for the Lord God and the life in his presence represents ultimate fortune of fortunes.] Before this to happen the Lord will have to do a big clean-up, that is, the removal of all the organized forces that work against the emergence of God's kingdom. In Joel 3:2-21 Joel describes the way the final clean up should take place. The passage first begins with the Lord entering into judgment against all nations. It is interesting to note that this judgment is prophesied to take place at the valley of Jehoshaphat. In Hebrew Jehoshaphat means "Jehovah is judge." Jehoshaphat points to the Lord God who is to judge the wicked. 

God's judgment is to bring about equality, making what has gone unfair (or unequal or unjust) fair (equal and just). In this world which is yet to be redeemed we see the wicked getting a better deal than the righteous. But when the Lord's judgment is completed, all that should have rightly belonged to the righteous will be taken away from the hands of the wicked and be given to the righteous. 

What then will be the end picture? Let us read 3:17-21. Joel sums up the end picture: "The Lord dwells in Zion." Here Zion refers to the city of God. John Bunyan described it as the Celestial City. The Apostle John calls it "Heavenly Jerusalem." This city of God is what we look forward to receiving, as Revelation 3:12 says, "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name."

In conclusion, people in the day of Joel had many problems. But the real problem they had was not acknowledging the Lord God as their Lord God. Knowing their problem the Lord established Joel, and spoke through him so that the Israelites would know that the Lord is living and works to build his kingdom for his children. In our own generation the same problem persists. The book of Joel enlightens us to know that God is still living and is working for his children. This knowledge of God helps us to not only repent and turn to him, but also daily acknowledge him in all of our ways, and voluntarily participate in his work so many would be included in his blessed kingdom.

One word: The Lord dwells in Zion


Class Exercise:

1. In the book of Joel how many classes of locusts are mentioned? 

a) 1; b) 2; c) 3; d) 4

2. What do the following words mean in Hebrew?

* Joel: ______________________

* Judah: _____________________

* Jehoshaphat: _________________________

3. The word "Zion" is repeated 7 times in Joel. What does "Zion" stand for?

4. Which of the following words or phrases are NOT found in the book of Joel? ____________________________________ 

* Wake up, you drunkards!

* Weep!

* Wail!

* Declare a holy fast!

* Rend your heart

5. Fill the blanks:

'And afterward, I will pour out my ________ on all people. Your sons and daughters will ___________, your old men will dream ______, your young men will see ________.   

6. Whose forces are beyond number? ____________

7. Like what does the Lord's army enter through the windows? _____________

The end