11/16/T – Read, Hear and Keep

Joel 1:1-2:32; Revelation 1:1-8; Psalms 127:1-2; Proverbs 27:21-22

OT: “Even now — this is the Lord’s declaration — turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and he relents from sending disaster. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him, so you can offer a grain offering and a drink offering to the Lord your God… Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Have pity on your people, Lord, and do not make your inheritance a disgrace, an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the Lord became jealous for his land and spared his people. The Lord answered his people: Look, I am about to send you grain, new wine, and fresh oil. You will be satiated with them, and I will no longer make you a disgrace among the nations… Children of Zion, rejoice and be glad in the Lord your God, because he gives you the autumn rain for your vindication. He sends showers for you, both autumn and spring rain as before. The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with new wine and fresh oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust ate, the young locust, the destroying locust, and the devouring locust — my great army that I sent against you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied. You will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. My people will never again be put to shame. You will know that I am present in Israel and that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame. After this I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” (‭‭Joel‬ ‭2:12-14, 17-19, 23-31‬ ‭CSB)

Many scholars believe that Joel prophesied during the reign of King Joash of Judah. The story of Joash is found in 2 Kings 11-12. This prophecy was written just after a time of great devastation to the entire land of Judah. An enormous plague of locusts – larger than had ever been experienced before – descended on the land and stripped Judah of all vegetation… even stripping the bark off of trees. After the swarm of locusts, a famine and drought seized the land. People and animals were dying everywhere. The destruction was so great that Joel concluded that it was the judgement of God.

The reverberating call from the Lord God through Joel was to repent. God wasn’t calling for the rituals of repentance, where people ripped their garments and wore sackcloth and ashes. God called for genuine and sincere repentance, where His people repented out of a truly broken and contrite heart. God is gracious and compassionate, ready to forgive and show mercy to those who genuinely repent from their sin and return to God. If the people of Judah would hear and keep the call to repent, God would miraculously restore everything that had been destroyed from the locusts and drought. That is what God does when we repent and turn fully to Him. God wipes away the devastation brought by sin and restores us to a place that is even better than it was before.

The devastation and drought that Judah experienced, though terrible, would be nothing compared to the actual and ultimate day of the Lord that comes at the end of the age. God gave Joel a prophetic glimpse into the future. One day – after the Lord restored Israel – God would pour out His Spirit, not just on a select few prophets, but on all flesh. Everyone who called on the name of the Lord would be saved. They would be filled with the Spirit of God and would dream dreams, see visions, and prophesy. Then, after God poured out His Spirit and saved those who called on Him, the great and terrible day of the Lord would come.

NT: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near. John: To the seven churches in Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father — to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭1:3-6‬ ‭CSB)

Similar to the prophecy of Joel, this prophetic book was written during a period of extreme Christian persecution. Horrifying things were happening to Christians in Rome and Jerusalem, and John was exiled on the isle of Patmos – unable to come to the aid of his brothers and sisters in the faith. John was given this vision and prophecy to encourage, comfort and challenge the persecuted believers while proclaiming the sure and certain hope that all believers have in Christ. While this book contains revelation into things to come and events that will lead up to the day of the Lord, more than anything, it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns over all. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God is the victorious Lion of Judah, and He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

John began his letter by writing, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, hears the words of this prophecy, and keeps the words of this prophecy.” It is not enough to merely read these words. It is not enough to hear and register these words in our psyche. We must keep these words. The times for Christian believers at the writing of this letter were extremely challenging – but they would only get worse. As we progress toward the day of the Lord, the world that we live in will grow increasingly darker as the influence of the evil one grows. Yet, if we keep the words… the encouragement, comfort, and exhortation… we will receive grace and peace from the Triune Godhead to remain faithful priests until the end.

Psalms: “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain. In vain you get up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food —  yes, he gives sleep to the one he loves.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:1-2‬ ‭CSB)

This song of ascent was written by King Solomon. It was under His rulership that the temple – the house of the Lord – was built. He also built other houses during his rule. He built grand palaces for himself, and homes for his many pagan wives. Solomon knew first-hand what it was to build a house by the grace of God and what happens when you try to build a house outside of the will and grace of God. When we read, hear and keep the word, will and ways of God, His grace attends our work – and though the work may be hard – it is effective and not overwhelming. Yet, whatever we do outside of the grace of God will bring on strife, anxiety, restless nights, and in the end, will amount to nothing.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your word. I thank You for words of prophecy that You give us through other trusted and anointed brothers and sisters. I thank You for the words of edification, encouragement, comfort and exhortation that come through those words of prophecy. Give me grace and peace as I read, hear and keep those words in faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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