The Devastating Judgment of God
The Devastating Judgment of God.
“Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.”
When we celebrate the character of God, we sing songs of his grace and mercy. We rejoice in the salvation he offers. We find hope in the infinite love he has for us. And rightfully so, for God's grace, mercy, and love are attributes worthy of his praise and adoration. They provide us with hope and security. But do we praise him for his justice, wrath, and judgment? A god is loving, but not just, is a god who tolerates and even condones evil. A god who does not punish is a god who is indifferent toward the evil that people might do. Yet, for those facing persecution because of their faith, their hope is found in the realization that evil will not always win the day and that God will execute his judgment and justice upon sin.
The book of Joel begins with a call to the leaders of the people to tell of God’s justice and proclaim the extent of his judgment, not just to the present but also to future generations. Just as they are to inform and remind the people of God’s love and faithfulness, they also remind the people of the destruction of God’s judgment. This warning reminds us of the devastation of sin and the holiness of God.
The first chapter of Joel reveals the devastation of God's judgment upon sin. In verse 4, the picture of God’s judgment is complete and utter destruction. The image presented is the invasion of swarms of locusts. But it is not just one passing swarm, but a series of swarms that completely denudes the landscape of any green vegetation. But the locust only symbolizes the invading armies descending upon Israel because of their sin and God’s judgment. As a result, the land lies in ruin, and the people wail in despair. Even the ministers of the Lord and the priest fall into despondency as God brings his judgment upon the nation of Israel for their rejection of him and his law. The severity of God’s judgment matches the severity of their sin. The famine of God’s law has resulted in a famine of the people’s food (10). The rejected appeals by God for the people to turn back to him are now replaced with the empty appeals of the people to see God’s deliverance (14-15). The priests who had abandoned God’s law are now driven away from the temple as the offerings have ceased (vs. 13). Unchecked sin always brings devastating results.
Our nation today is on the precipice of moral anarchy as we continue to rush headlong into the descent of sin and the rejection of God. Like the priests who failed to warn the people, there are preachers today who proclaim messages that reject God’s word and cater to the crowds. Instead of calling people to repentance, they lead them in their sins.
However, even as Joel proclaims the devastating Day of the Lord, there is a glimmer of hope. In verse 19, Joel cries to the Lord amid the devastation. In verse 13, the ministers of the altar are challenged to “spend the night in sackcloth,” which is a symbol of grief and repentance. He calls upon the people to gather at the house of the Lord and cry out to him (vs. 14). Even as God pronounces devastating judgment; he also offers the hope of forgiveness. God’s grace is always available to those who call upon him. Even as we see the disastrous effects of sin in our life, there is always the offer of forgiveness and restoration for those who ask. Our lives may be descending into the depth of sin’s destruction, but restoration is available if we turn to God and seek him. The warning of God’s judgment may not be a popular message, but it may be the very message we need to hear today so that we might turn back to God and discover his grace.