O Lord, You can rearrange the oppressor/victim landscape on earth so easily that Your people watch in awe.
Read Joel 3:1–21
“In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will put them on trial
for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
and divided up my land.
3 They cast lots for my people
and traded boys for prostitutes;
they sold girls for wine to drink.
4 “Now what have you against me, Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done. 5 For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. 6 You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland.
7 “See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. 8 I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.” The Lord has spoken.
9 Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare for war!
Rouse the warriors!
Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.
10 Beat your plowshares into swords
and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let the weakling say,
“I am strong!”
11 Come quickly, all you nations from every side,
and assemble there.
Bring down your warriors, Lord!
12 “Let the nations be roused;
let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
for there I will sit
to judge all the nations on every side.
13 Swing the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Come, trample the grapes,
for the winepress is full
and the vats overflow—
so great is their wickedness!”
14 Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon will be darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
16 The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
Blessings for God’s People
17 “Then you will know that I, the Lord your God,
dwell in Zion, my holy hill.
Jerusalem will be holy;
never again will foreigners invade her.
18 “In that day the mountains will drip new wine,
and the hills will flow with milk;
all the ravines of Judah will run with water.
A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house
and will water the valley of acacias.
19 But Egypt will be desolate,
Edom a desert waste,
because of violence done to the people of Judah,
in whose land they shed innocent blood.
20 Judah will be inhabited forever
and Jerusalem through all generations.
21 Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?
No, I will not.”
The Lord dwells in Zion!
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“As for God, his way is perfect: the Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him” (Psa. 18:30).
Joel 3 proclaims a reversal of fortunes, in which Judah will thrive and her enemies receive their comeuppance. God will turn the deeds of Judah’s oppressors back on their
own heads. Those who waged war will inherit war. Those who destroyed others will be destroyed. The tables will be turned on the nations that opposed God’s people. Mary celebrates a similar theme in her famous canticle: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52,53). Through Joel, God announces that he will gather all the nations for judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat, which means “the Lord will judge.”
Joel’s is not a vision of universal peace or of the gathering of the nations to worship in Jerusalem. He is more interested in seeing God judge the nations than reconcile them. In fact, Joel reverses the great prophetic announcement of Isaiah and Micah. He addresses the nations, “Beat your ploughshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!’” (10). For Joel, the judgment will be a kind of war conducted by God against all the inhabitants of the nations. Even the farmers and the weak will have to arm themselves, appear before God and face their defeat.
Those of us who live in peace and comfort may object to Joel’s grim vision but perhaps we overlook the importance of the rule of law. Joel imagines that regimes guilty of crimes against humanity cannot carry out their evil purposes indefinitely and with impunity. God gathers the nations for judgment. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).
Pray for nations and people living under oppressive circumstances. Reflect on whether there are peaceful actions you might take to help reverse their fortunes.
Lord, You are both a king and a warrior who will fight for Your people. O, that You would come down from Your throne in heaven and manifest Yourself to Your enemies (Isa. 64:1).
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