Worship Our God of Wrath and Justice

 

 

Joel Says to Worship Our God of Wrath

 

Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty.

—Joel 1:15, emphasis added

 

Joel (835-796 B.C.) was a contemporary prophet with both Elisha (848-797 B.C.) and Jonah (793-753 B.C.). The book of Joel tells of a great plague of insects that came upon the land of Judah as God’s judgment against sin. In the law, God had promised material prosperity to His people for obedience, and adversity for disobedience. The period described in the opening prophecy was one of famine and suffering because an enormous hoard of insects had eaten much of the vegetation. The distress in Judah because of this judgment is seen as a foreshadowing of greater distress in a coming day of greater judgment. That yet-future period is described as “the day of Jehovah,” which may be considered as the theme of the book. “The day of Jehovah” is the time of God’s judgment on the earth in connection with the Second Coming of Christ.

A simple, basic overview of the book of Joel is as follows:

        Chapter 1—God Seeks Repentance. Joel was commissioned to declare the lesson needing to be learned from the locust plague. So often the scientific explanation neatly blinds the eyes of people to God’s hand behind the scenes—His ultimate goal being the repentance of His people, which always refers to a “turn about.”

        Chapter 2—God Gives Revelation. God alone knows and writes the future in advance. That is one of the exclusive features of the Bible that has set it apart from all other religious books on earth.

        Chapter 3—God Plans Restoration. Verses 1-17 are a portrait of universal judgment, moral declension, and physical disaster. Verses 18-21 are a picture of the eternal age—millennial blessing following the judgment of the day of the Lord, and the land, freed from wickedness, is again blessed of God.

Three Benefits of an Eschatological Study: Eschatalogical means “related to the end of the world or the events associated with it.”

1.      Eschatology points us to Christlike living: I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” … And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (Revelation 19:10; 1 John 3:3).

2.      Eschatology produces hopeful living in us: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

3.      Eschatology promotes confident living in us: … Abide in Him; that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at his coming. … [For] we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 2:28; 5:19-20).

The Lord wants to use disasters and tragedies, such as the locust plague in Joel, to refocus hearts upon Him. As someone once said, “God whispers to us in our joys, but shouts to us in our sorrows.” Is there anything in particular in your life today where God is “shouting” to get your attention? In the Scriptures, repentance and forgiveness are always tightly bound together. It is as simple as this: if we repent, we will be forgiven; if we do not repent, we can’t be forgiven.

 

Amos Says to Worship Our God of Justice

 

But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

—Amos 5:24, emphasis added

 

Some contemporaries with the prophet Amos (760-750 B.C.) were Jonah (793-753 B.C.) and Hosea (753-715 B.C.). Amos prophesied during a period of national optimism in Israel. Business was booming and boundaries were bulging. But below the surface, greed and injustice were festering. Hypocritical religious motions had replaced true worship, creating a false sense of security and a growing callousness to God’s disciplining hand. Neither famine, drought, plagues, death, nor destruction was forcing the people to their knees. As Amos (the farmer who became a prophet) visualized the nearness of God’s judgment, he unflinchingly lashed out at sin in an effort to mobilize the nation to repentance. The nation, like a basket of rotting fruit, stood ripe for judgment because of its hypocrisy and spiritual indifference.

The name Amos is derived from the Hebrew root amas, which means “to lift a burden, to carry.” Thus, his name means “Burden” or “Burden-Bearer.” And he lived up to the meaning of his name by bearing up under his divinely given burden of declaring judgment to rebellious Israel.

Amos ministered after the time of Obadiah, Joel, and Jonah—and just before Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah. At this time, Uzziah reigned over a prosperous and militarily successful Judah. He fortified Jerusalem and subdued the Philistines, the Ammonites, and the Edomites. In the north, Israel was ruled by the capable King Jeroboam II. Economic and military circumstances were almost ideal, but prosperity only increased the materialism, immorality, and injustice of the people (2:6-8; 3:10; 4:1; 5:10-12; 8:4-6). During this time period, Assyria, Babylon, Aram, and Egypt were relatively weak. Thus, the people of Israel found it hard to imagine the coming disaster predicted by Amos. However, it was only three decades until the downfall of Israel.

In Amos 1:1–2:16, God explains why He judged the various nations:

        Damascus (1:3-5) was judged for cruelty (sledges of torture—human rights violations).

        Gaza (1:6-8) was judged for slavery (slave trafficking—selling people for money).

        Tyre (1:9-10) was judged for dishonesty (severing a treaty—breaking promises).

        Edom (1:11-12) was judged for vengefulness (sword of terror—hated her brother).

        Ammon (1:13-15) was judged for violence (sadistic triumph—cruelty to defenseless).

        Moab (2:1-3) was judged for disrespectfulness (spoiling tombs—spiteful to the dead).

        Judah (2:4-5) was judged for disobedience (spurning the Torah—unfaithful to God).

        Israel (2:6-16) was judged for hard-heartedness (social transgressions—greed-prompted indifference).

In Amos 3:1–6:14 God explains the purpose of the judgment, 7:1–9:10 pictures the judgment, and 9:11-15 predicts the yet-future restoration of Israel and its prosperity. Seven practical lessons can be learned from understanding God’s judgment in this prophecy:

1.      God patiently gives the nations time to repent before judgment falls. The lesson: Be careful to heed God’s warnings in your own life.

2.      God is no respecter of nations; all will be judged for their sin. The lesson: Be patient during personal chastisement. A proper response will yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (see Hebrews 12:3-11).

3.      When the cup of sin within a nation is full, judgment will be irrevocable. The lesson: Be evangelistic while there is still time; point as many as will listen to Christ’s salvation.

4.      God is sovereign over all nations, choosing the time of their rise and fall. The lesson: Be trusting God for His perfect timing.

5.      Nations are held accountable for brutal abuse shown to countries captured in war. The lesson: Be praying!

6.      God’s standards for judging nations are similar, but the results differ. The lesson: Be cautious in your responses to world events.

7.      God brings judgment on leaders and nations who perpetrate fraud, oppression, and violence against their people. The lesson: Be righteous in all your dealings, and especially with the poor.

 

We live in somber times, and must seriously deal with sin lest our usefulness for Christ be hampered. Here is the key to lasting victory: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).

 

 

 

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