28 January 2017Joel 3:1-16
“For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgement with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations.” (vv. 1-2)
Psalm: Psalm 95
This section paints in the detail of "the great and terrible day of the LORD", which was referred to in Joel 2:30-31. The rest of the chapter, which is not part of today's passage although the second half of verse 16 introduces the theme, likewise expands on the salvation of those who call on God, taking up Joel 2:32. "All the nations" will be judged, but neighbours that have been particularly troublesome for Israel and Judah - Tyre, Sidon and Philistia (verse 4) are mentioned by way of example.
The judgement is said to take place in the valley of Jehoshaphat (verses 2, 12), but this is not a matter of geography and probably does not concern the earlier king of Judah of that name. Rather we should note that the name means 'Yahweh (or "the LORD" in many English versions) has judged'. Notice too, the similar phrase "valley of decision" in verse 14. The judgement emphasises the divine decision regarding those nations who have divided God's land and sold God's people, actions which show total disregard of God's right of possession. The Mediterranean ports of Tyre and Sidon were centres of slave trading with other parts of the Greco-Roman empire. The looting of temple treasures is another crime mentioned and again the significance is not so much on the theft itself but on the attitude to the God whose property they are considered to be.
From verse 9 onwards we read in more poetic terms a call to execute the judgement prophesied in the earlier verses. The reversal in verse 10 of familiar verses from Micah (Micah 4:3) and Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4) about re-forging the weapons of war into agricultural tools is particularly striking. The harvest imagery of verse 15 is a common metaphor for judgement and is carried into the New Testament (eg Matthew 13:36-43; Revelation 14:14-20).
- The coming judgement on the nations is portrayed as a paying back of the specific wrongs that have been done to Israel. How adequate do you consider this Old Testament notion of appropriate judgement to be?
- The trading of young people for prostitution and other kinds of slavery referred to in verse 3 remains rife today. How can today's powerful nations more effectively declare God's judgement on this dehumanisation of children of God?
- "The Lord roars from Zion" (v. 16). In what ways might God's voice might be heard more loudly in world affairs today?