Questions: On what basis does God judge the nations? Do they deserve it? Have they asked for it? Does He play favorites? At what price? What is the fruit?
“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Joel.
Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
That is, bringing God’s people back from exile (figuring out which exile is left as an exercise for the reader :-).
I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and [for] my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
Fascinating. Before, the focus was entirely upon Israel, and God’s what God is doing for them. Here, though Israel is still the central character, the focus shifts to the nations.
This raises the obvious question: Does God (as portrayed here) care about the Gentiles for themselves, or only as plot devices for the Israelite’s narrative? Alas, there is no clear answer in Joel, but we do at least get a few hints about what God is concerned about:
And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
Intriguingly, he doesn’t so much condemn them for conquering Israel, or even abusing them, but for despising them. Huh.
Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly [and] speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
Hmm. I’m not sure, but it seems like the Phoenicians might’ve been tempted to justify their treatment of Israel in the name of revenge, against either God or Israel. If so, God basically says “Don’t even think of it.” For that matter, if anyone deserves revenge it is God:
Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:
And not just His non-living treasures:
The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.
For that, God will not merely undo what they did:
Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
But do it back to them:
And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken [it].
A harsh sentence, perhaps, but a just one. Again I find it helpful to remember that justice is a good thing, and a necessary one — even if we don’t always like the consequences.
Of course, He doesn’t expect them to take this threat lightly:
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:
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I [am] strong.
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly
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.
They may have thought they were heading into the mother of all battles, but really they were rushing headlong to their own well-earned destruction:
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.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD [is] near in the valley of decision.
Of course, at times like this it is easy for us — who consider ourselves God’s people — to laugh at the impudence of His enemies. Yet how often do we react in fear (and anger) when faced with a genuine (or perceived) threat to our well-being? Do we really believe God will judge our enemies on our behalf? Or do we feel the need to either i) run away, or ii) fight our own battles on our terms.
Which, when you think about it, is just as silly as fighting against God, given the scope of His power:
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
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.
And why does he do all this?
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.
And what does it look like for Jerusalem to be holy?
And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
In contrast to:
Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence [against] the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
Again, I don’t think this is merely God being spiteful. How we treat others leaves a mark on our soul, and our nation, and we receive the consequences of that — for ill or good:
But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
Though ultimately it is not our own virtue, but God’s forgiveness, that allows us to endure:
For I will cleanse their blood [that] I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.
But before you are tempted to envy the Jews for having God on their side, remember the price they had to pay.
God, forgive for under-valuing your strength and authority. Teach me to trust — and submit to — your protection and your justice. Help me to remember that you seek not my comfort, but my holiness; that I may enjoy all the blessings you desire to bestow on me. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.