Accountability, Bible, Blameless, Cleansing, Consequences, Disciplemaking, Flesh, Forgiveness, Grace, Hell, Judgment, Punishment, Salvation, Scripture

YOUR JUST DESSERTS

JOEL 3:7

behold, I am going to stir them up from the place where you have sold them, and return your retribution on your head.

Sometimes people get just what they deserve. You may have heard that expression, “just desserts.” It means to get what’s coming to you. Now, to be honest, my flesh loves to see that happen. But I know Christ in me desires for others to repent and avoid the punishment of sin – kind of like Nineveh did when they heard Jonah’s message.

However, right here in Joel 3:7, God is telling the nations that they are going to receive the consequences for their sins. They have done evil to His children. Now it’s their turn to suffer for their actions. Yes, they had been used by Him to accomplish the judgment upon Judah, but they took it too far. They became haughty. God will now issue His judgment on them.

APPLICATION

So, the lesson for us is to not get too excited when we see someone else get punished for something they have done. We could just as easily be getting ours. None of us are innocent. We have all done things for which we deserved to be punished. So, we shouldn’t enjoy the punishment of others. In fact, we should do all we can to try to help them.

Of course, the ultimate punishment is the eternal judgment of God. As believers in Christ, our punishment has already been paid for by Christ. But think of the billions of people out there who are going to die and go to hell without hearing the gospel. We need to do all we can to advance the kingdom while there’s still time. What can you do today to help someone avoid their “just desserts”?

I am so thankful for my salvation. I know all the deeds I committed that earned me a place in hell. But because of the saving power of Jesus, my record was washed clean. Surely, He has cleansed me with hyssop and washed me whiter than snow. I want others to experience what I have experienced. Don’t you?

Father, I am so thankful I am not getting my just desserts when it comes to my sins. Thank You for cleansing my soul.

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Abiding, Advice, Battles, Bible, Commitment, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Judgment, Scripture, Surrender

FAR AWAY

JOEL 3:6

“and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,

I have mentioned several times about my 30+ years in the Child Welfare field. Most of those years were great years. I learned a lot and grew both professionally and personally. But one incident sticks in my mind. I was working at children’s home and three of the children I worked with were set up to be adopted. That sounds great. But this adoption was done without the children ever having met the family before. I still remember that day having to physically put the children in the back of that car. It was tearful and sad, instead of joyous.

That scene comes to mind when I read today’s verse in Joel. Part of the reason the Lord is judging these nations so harshly is because they had sold the Judeans to other nations to move them far away. That was part of the process when a nation defeated another nation. They dispersed them to prevent them from reforming and starting a rebellion. God was not happy about that and held them accountable.

APPLICATION

How do you apply a verse like this to your life?  Let me ask you this question. What have you removed far away from God? What are you holding on to? Now, you really can’t remove anything from God. He is everywhere and is all knowing. But we can withhold things from Him that need to be surrendered. Do you have a “secret stash” of things that you just can’t let go of?

God desires total surrender from us. He wants us to turn everything over to Him rather than tucking stuff away. Unlike the nations’ plan to move Judea away to prevent rebellion, our moving stuff away actually leads to rebellion. The more stuff we hold on to, the more those things can lead us away from our Lord. We need to give Him our all.

I have experienced periods in my life when I was holding on to something. It was something I could fix, something I could handle. Each time I did this, I eventually realized the futility of my efforts. I learned to surrender it. Now, I’m a little hard-headed. Just ask my wife, lol. But I do know His way in the right way. Do you?

I bring all my “tucked away” things to You, O Lord. I desire to walk in freedom.

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Accountability, Bible, Confession, Consequences, Forgiveness, Grace, Heaven, Judgment, Redemption, Repentance, Salvation, Scripture, Separation

HORRIBLE OFFENSES

JOEL 3:3

“They have also cast lots for My people, traded a boy for a prostitute, and sold a girl for wine so that they may drink. 

The illegal sex trade of boys and girls is rampant in many parts of the world. It’s hard to believe that people could be so cold-hearted to sell little boys and girls into the sex trade. Having worked now over 42 years with children and youth, it especially breaks my heart. Only the Lord can change the heart of these sex traders.

This was one of the offenses of the nations God is judging. Not only did they defeat the Judeans, but they would trade or sell the children for anything. Here in this verse it says “a boy for a prostitute” and “a girl for wine.” How callous! How demeaning. The Lord did not overlook that. He held them responsible for these heinous crimes against humanity.

APPLICATION

We may not be committing such offenses against the Lord, but our sins are just as bad in the eyes of a holy God. I have often described our sins this way. Pretend you are flying over a city on a clear day. You can look down and see all the buildings below. From your altitude you can’t tell the height of the individual buildings. They may be one story or thirty. All you can see is the roof top.

Similarly, our sins in the eyes of God all look the same. They all end with the same result – separation from God. As a believer in Christ, those sins are forgiven but still need to be confessed. If you are an unbeliever, you need to come to Christ for salvation because any of those sins can keep you away from spending eternity with Jesus. Sin is sin – period.

I am so thankful my sins are forgiven. I try each day to live in such a way to honor my Lord. I don’t want my sins to come between me and my Savior. Daily confession for me is the key. I come before Him daily to cleanse my soul of any sins I may have committed that day. I don’t want any barriers in my line of communication with Jesus. Won’t you try that?

Thank You, Lord, for keeping my sins forgiven as I come to You daily. I know they were forgiven at the cross, but You desire for me to come to You to confess them. I will do that.

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Advocate, Bible, Consequences, Enemies, Judgment, Opponents, Punishment, Scripture

THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS

JOEL 3:2

“I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.”

Way back in 1985 I visited my sister in Chattanooga. I was living in Dalton at the time. On the way to see her at the hospital where she had just had surgery, I had a car wreck. It wasn’t anything serious, but I got a ticket and had to appear in traffic court. When I went to court, I spent the whole morning listening to dozens of drunk driving cases. When I finally stood before the judge, he hardly looked at me. He started rattling off about how I shouldn’t drink and drive. The officer who was there with me, told him I had not been drinking. Without batting an eye, he pronounced judgment on me.

I am so thankful the Lord does not pronounce judgment on us that way. Here in Joel 3:2, the Lord is pronouncing judgment upon all the nations that had conquered Judea. He used them to judge Judea, but they had gone beyond in their abuse of Judea. They had scattered them. In return, God was going to scatter them. I am sure Judeans were thrilled to hear that their enemies were finally going to be judged.

APPLICATION

We will all be judged one day. Believers will be judged for their works here on earth for the cause of Christ. We see that in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 when it talks about our works being either wood, hay or stubble or gold, silver and precious stones. One group will survive the fires of judgment. The other won’t. For believers, that will be our judgment because our sins have already been paid for through Christ.

However, for everyone else, they will face the Great White Throne judgment talked about in Scripture. That will be a quick judgment. If you haven’t accepted Christ as your Savior, you are judged guilty of your sins and sentenced to an eternity away from God in hell. Many people today don’t believe in hell. Let me tell you something. Your disbelief in hell does not lower the temperature there one degree. It’s real and eternal.

I am so thankful that my “fire insurance policy” is paid for and up to date. I don’t say that flippantly. My relationship with Christ is much more than an escape from hell. But it does include that. It’s kind of like one of those rider policies you have on your homeowner’s insurance. I am bought and paid for. You can be too, if you give your life to Him. Do that today.

Father God, I am so thankful You called me to Yourself. I am thankful my judgment is different than those who don’t believe.

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Affection, Belief, Bible, Calling, Deception, Encouragement, Following, Inspirational, Judgment, Modeling

NO OTHER

JOEL 2:27

“‘So you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is no other; and My people will never be put to shame.’”

I don’t like imposters. People who pretend to be someone or something else just get under my skin. There, I said it. Is that judgmental? Yes, I guess it is. But people who do this are simply deceptive. Deception is the work of the evil one. There is no doubt about that.

But God is not a deceiver. Nor is He a pretender. He is the only true God. Here in Joel, He says that He is the Lord your God and there is no other. Why did the Lord say that? Because He needed to remind the Judeans why they have just come through their judgment. They had pursued other false gods, who really aren’t gods at all. There is only One God.

APPLICATON

I probably don’t need to tell you that there is only one God. You probably know that. But are you living as if that is true? Do you put your trust in other things? Do you rely on money or prestige to get you through? There is only one source for all your needs. That is the Lord your God. He is still playing that role today.

When I say playing that role, I don’t mean He is pretending. Of course, not. He is simply fulfilling His role. He is the creator of all that there is. He knows there is no other God. There is not any who rival Him. Satan is not His evil, equal adversary. Satan would want you to believe that, but he isn’t. He is subservient to God and will ultimately be judged and cast into the lake of fire. You can’t call that equal.

I do things sometimes that God may question my actions. He may think I doubt He is the only one. Of course, that is not true. But I resort to trusting sources other than Him. And when I do, it always ends bad. Don’t do what I do. Acknowledge Him as the only God. He believes you are the only you.

I praise You, O God, for being the one and only true God. I bow before You!

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Bible, Brokenness, Confession, Encouragement, Forgiveness, God's Will, Guilt, Judgment, Redemption, Repentance, Scripture

EVERYONE COME

JOEL 2:16

“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber.

Homecoming in most Baptist churches are times when everyone comes back to celebrate the founding of the church. Special guests are invited. There is usually dinner on the grounds. Now, if you’ve never experienced that before, you’ve missed out. Food galore! And that fried chicken – yum!

Joel isn’t calling everyone to a homecoming. He is calling everyone to repentance. I mean everyone. No one is to be excluded. Look at the list. It lists babies all the way up to the elders. Not even a newly married couple on the day of their marriage is to be exempt. The entire nation needs to repent.

APPLICATION

God is calling you to repent. Can you hear Him? If you are an unbeliever hearing this for the first time, take a minute and get quiet. Ask the Lord if He wants you. I guarantee He will say yes. It is His will that all be saved. Listen closely. He won’t scream it out. He will call you by name. Do you hear your name?

If you are a believer, He is calling you to return to Him or go deeper with Him. He desires a relationship with you that is more than token prayers and a few dollars in the offering plate. He desires intimacy with you. That only comes through repentance. As it says in Psalm 51, “Cleanse me with hyssop, wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”

I want that kind of relationship with my Father. In fact, I have that kind of relationship. I seek that. Do I do that as I should every day? Not hardly, but that is my desire. I’m like you – a sinful creature in need of a Savior – everyday. I know the Lord knows my heart and will hear my cries to Him.

O Lord, forgive me. Wash me and cleanse me. I want to walk with You in perfect fellowship.

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Abiding, Accountability, Advice, Bible, Compassion, Confession, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Grace, Judgment, Mercy, Repentance, Scripture, Sin

GOD IS…

JOEL 2:13

“‘And tear your heart and not merely your garments.’ Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and relenting of catastrophe.”

I have all kinds of ideas of what God is. First of all, He is everything to me. I can’t imagine a day without Him. He loves me and guides me each step each day. But what exactly is He like? There are so many words to describe Him. I am thankful that the Word of God tells us.

In today’s verse, Joel gives us an awesome description of God. Look at the verse again. He says the Lord is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and relenting of catastrophe.” Wow! Can I encourage you to do a word study on each of those words? It will bless your heart, I promise.

APPLICATION

When we return to the Lord, He shows us all these things. So, why do we wait to return to Him? We need His grace and compassion. We need His mercy. We need His forgiveness. Why wait to come back to Him? Every day you wait, you are missing out on these blessings from Him.

So many of us put off repentance because we don’t want to admit we are wrong. Our pride gets in the way. That was the downfall of Judah. They had become prideful and unrepentant. And for that, God brought judgment. I prefer mercy over judgment.

Therefore, part of my prayers every day is repentance. I confess all the sins I am aware of and ask the Lord to reveal to me those sins I may have committed out of ignorance. Perhaps I had failed to do something – a sin of omission. That’s just as bad. For that I need forgiveness. Will you join me today in turning back to that gracious, compassionate, forgiving, merciful God?

Why wouldn’t I come to You, O Lord, each day? Forgive me of my reluctance to repent and confess my sins to You.

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Alone, Confidence, Darkness, Encouragement, Fear, Judgment, Light, Modeling, Scripture

WHO TURNED THE LIGHTS OUT

JOEL 2:10

“Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon become dark, and the stars lose their brightness.”

Have you ever been in a room when someone turned off the lights and left you in the dark? It can be frightening, can’t it? One moment you have light and the next you don’t. In one second, you go from seeing well to seeing nothing. In the 21st century we understand how all this works, but in Joel’s day it was a whole different story.

In today’s verse the locusts are described as so thick that they blot out the sun, moon and stars. The sky seems to shake at their presence (the vibration of their wings could cause that). The people of Judah would be in sunlight or moonlight one moment and suddenly darkness. For the people of this time, I am sure it was scary.

APPLICATION

Our Lord makes a reference in Luke 21:25-26 to a similar event. “‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,’” The Lord was saying this in reference to His return one day. I am not saying locust swarms indicate Christ’s return. But even He showed how God will use nature to tell a story.

The truth is there are signs all around us of Christ’s imminent return. So many prophecies have been fulfilled. It seems the world is teetering on the edge. Are you looking for Him? Are you aware of what is going on in our world that is preparing for that glorious day? You should be.

I believe He is coming soon. That may prove to be wrong. That’s okay. I am not building a bunker to hide in. I am okay with whatever happens because my trust is in Him, not the news. But I truly believe it’s near. I am okay with that as well. If the sun and moon are blotted out, I am trusting Him. Are you?

I will trust in the one who is my light. Though the sun and the moon fall, I will trust in Jesus.

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Battles, Choices, Cleansing, Confession, Disciplemaking, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Judgment, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture, Sin

INFESTED

JOEL 2:9

“They storm the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.”

Once, when I lived in Florida, our house became infested with ticks. We noticed a couple climbing up the wall in our den one night and killed them. The next day we saw more and killed them, but they just kept coming. We had the house sprayed a few times before they were finally contained. But they were everywhere. It was pretty creepy to live in.

The locusts Joel is describing here that came as part of God’s judgment on Judah were everywhere. One commentator’s description talked about them eating everything in the house, even clothing. The people had no rest from them. They couldn’t eat without battling them for the food. Can you imagine the scene? It must have been horrible.

APPLICATION

Sin is that way. It creeps in and infests our lives. If we do not deal with it quickly it will affect every area of our lives. We may think we can keep it isolated, but we can’t. It spreads. It penetrates even our most guarded areas. Sin seeps in and begins to cause decay. Just like those locusts in today’s verse, sin will devour everything in its path.

But we have the solution – Jesus. His blood covers all those sins. We will never be free from the presence of sin this side of glory. However, we do not have to live chained to sin. We have the power to live above it. We can close the windows and doors of our lives to its penetrating power through the Holy Spirit. His power trumps sin’s power every time.

So, you have a choice. You can choose to live in the stench of sin or in the aroma of our Savior. That’s pretty much a no brainer, if you ask me. I choose Jesus. I know He is my protector and defender. I trust Him to cover my sins with His precious blood. I am free because of that. How about you?

O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow!

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Battles, Bible, Caregiver, Comfort, Destruction, Encouragement, Following, Judgment, Scripture

WIPED OUT

JOEL 2:3

“A fire consumes before them, and behind them a flame devours. The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, but a desolate wilderness behind them, and nothing at all escapes them.”

I have seen the ravages of storms. Years ago, hurricane Irma hit the gulf coast of Florida. It devastated Pensacola, FL. I drove there the following week from my home to assess the damage to a group home our ministry had there. It looked as if someone had taken a giant leaf blower and just cleared everything off the earth. Even the interstate bridges had been blown down. It was horrible.

Joel is continuing the imagery of the locust swarm in today’s verse. Before the locusts lay green fields. Behind them was nothing. Remember, Joel is painting a picture here of the coming judgment of Judah. They too would be left in a desolate wilderness. Their sins had invited God’s judgment. Repentance and their return to God was the only answer.

APPLICATION

You may feel you are living in a desolate wilderness right now. You may feel wiped out by life. I’ve got great news for you. Jesus can pick you up and give you new life. When you are at your lowest, He can reach down and lift you up. There is no hole too deep that He cannot reach. There is no desert too barren that He cannot cause new life to spring forth.

I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews chapter 2. Verse 16 tells us that Jesus did not come to help the angels, but to help the descendants of Abraham (that’s us). That word “help” in the Greek means to aggressively grab us and take us with him. Jesus will grab ahold of us and lead us where we should go. He will guide us, not just point the way.

I prefer a guide rather than someone who just gives directions. I feel safer. When I am wiped out and ready to through in the towel, Jesus is always there to lift me up. You would think I would turn to Him first and not get so wiped out. But I am stubborn sometimes. That always gets me into trouble. Will you join me today in asking the Lord to pick us up?

Father, I cannot make it one more step without You. I need You to guide me, to take me along with You.

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