Alright—serious question.... Who in here is a morning person? Who is definitely NOT a morning person?
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that morning people like me can be really annoying to non-morning people. When I was married, we went on a canoeing trip with another couple. The husband was a morning person and I was a morning person, but our spouses were not. We woke up in the morning and emerged from our tents and he and I were both wide eyed and bushy tailed and ready to start our day while our spouses wouldn’t even speak until they had at least 2 cups of coffee in them. We both realized that in the morning it was best if he and I just sat off to the side and talked to each other rather than try to include them in the conversation because when we talked to them as soon as they emerged from their tents it just wasn’t going to be worth the grumpiness the rest of the day would bring because we talked to them before their coffee.
But I think I first learned that lesson when I was a kid at church camp. When you’re rooming with non-morning people, it is NOT a good idea to turn on the lights and sing “Rise and shine and give God the glory” first thing in the morning. You might get a pillow or a shoe or whatever’s handy thrown at you.
I’m sure that was kind of how the people in Joel’s day were feeling when he gave them the message we’re looking at this morning.
Remember the desperate situation they were in.
They had just gone through a devastating locust invasion. They had no crops, so they had no food. They had no way to make a living. They had no grain offerings and their livestock was either dead or starving or diseased, so they had no way to offer burnt offerings. They couldn’t eat. They couldn’t work. And they couldn’t worship.
And here comes the prophet Joel with verse 21:
The last thing you want to hear when you’re going through a devastating time in your life is, o “Hey—things aren’t that bad! Cheer up and turn that frown upside down!”
That’s probably a case for justifiable homicide.
But I’m sure that’s exactly how the people in Joel’s day were feeling when he said what he did here. “Don’t be afraid”: What are you talking about Joel? I don’t know how I’m going to feed my kids and you’re telling me to not be afraid? I’ve lost everything and now you’re telling me to be happy about it?
You’re telling me “The Lord has done great things”: Well, if this is an example of the great things He’s doing, I don’t want any part of Him—no thank you. Have you ever felt like that? Maybe you lost your job or didn’t get that promotion you thought you deserved. Maybe your doctor told you those words that nobody wants to hear. Maybe you lost a child or a spouse or a parent. Maybe life has smacked you in the face and things just aren’t working out the way you dreamed.
Maybe you’re seeing the locust invasion with what’s happening in our local economy local businesses closing or cutting staff, people getting sick, people feeling isolated, people feeling lonely, people just not knowing what is truth and what is fiction anymore.
Every one of us in here will be or has been impacted in one way or another by something that made us say No Thank You – I don’t want any part of him. And in the middle of all that, God’s Word through Joel is telling us, “Don’t be afraid. Be glad. Rejoice.” Why? “Because no matter what kind of locust invasion you’re going through right now—the Lord has done great things.”
Verse 21 here is right in the middle of six promises the Lord is making to His people. He made them to his people in Joel’s day—and He’s making them to His people in our day—here in this place right now.
How’s it possible to not be afraid in times like these? How’s it possible to be glad and rejoice when it seems the world around us is falling apart? The only way it’s possible is because God has promised to do great things.
And here’s the beautiful thing—I want you to notice here in verse 21 that God’s promises are so sure that He’s already sealed them in the past tense. God has already accomplished and sealed the promises that we’ve yet to experience. - Because of that, we can be glad and rejoice this morning. Be glad and rejoice, because God has promised His provision. Verse 21 states “for the Lord has done great things!”
Make no mistake about it—whatever you might be going through now, or whatever you might go through in the future—if you have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, God has not forgotten you.
Verse 18 says that God became “jealous” or, depending on your translation, “zealous” for his land. Here’s the thing—a piece of land isn’t really God’s concern.What IS his concern is the fact that he made a series of promises about that particular land.He promised it as an everlasting inheritance to Israel. So what God is “jealous” and “zealous” about here is keeping his promises.
Joel is reminding us that God is passionately fired-up about keeping his word. Listen to me—God’s word never fails. So when He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you, He is passionately zealous about making that happen.
So when in Matthew 6:25, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on....”, God is passionately zealous about making that happen for his children. Does that mean we won’t ever have times we have to do without? Of course not.
There were times when the Apostle Paul was hungry and hurt and cold, and begging Timothy to send him his coat and some books. Jesus Himself had nowhere to lay His head. Our promised provision has less to do with Lexuses and Levis and laptops than it does with the sustaining grace that we need to have joy in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
God told the people that he was sending them grain and wine and oil—those were the basics they needed to survive. But here’s the key—He told them He was going to make them satisfied—he was going to give them contentment.
Other than our salvation, that’s the greatest provision that God gives us in Christ. Are you content in the circumstances God has you in right now? Are you resting in the fact that He is passionately zealous to keep His promises to you? Are you resting in the fact that He’s also compassionately providing for you—no matter what’s going on in your life? No matter what this life has to throw at you—be glad and rejoice. God has promised His provision, and He’s faithful to keep His promises. - He’s also promised His protection.
Look at verse 20:
These people had just come through a locust invasion. They were thinking about their economy—they weren’t thinking about their national defense. But here’s the thing—they were more vulnerable than they’d ever been. And you can bet their enemies saw that. But in the middle of their most vulnerable moment, God reminded them of His promise for protection.
Have you ever noticed that temptation comes at you hardest when you’re in your weakest moments? Think about it—the devil isn’t going to attack you when your guard is up. He’s going to attack you when you’re weak, and frustrated, and exhausted. He’s going to attack you when you’re hurt, and emotional, and depressed. In John 10, Jesus describes the devil as a thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy. A thief doesn’t rob a place that’s not vulnerable, does he? And when you’re going through your own personal locust invasion—you’re vulnerable. But in Christ, God has promised you protection. He’s keeping an eye on the enemy, so all you have to do is keep your eyes on Jesus.
- 1 Peter 5:8 says,
- But do you know what it says right before that in verses 6-7?
It says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
So, no matter what kind of attacks the devil is throwing at you—be glad and rejoice. God has promised His protection, and He’s faithful to keep His promises.
He’s also promised His regeneration.
Look at verse 22:
Notice that this verse is worded in the present tense. He says the pastures ARE green. The tree IS BEARING its fruit. The fig tree and vine ARE GIVING their full yield.
Can you imagine what the people thought when they heard Joel preach this?
“Joel—you’ve lost your mind. Look around! Do you see anything green around here? Do you see anything bearing fruit?”
And not only were those things not in front of them now—they weren’t going to be there for years. - I don’t know much about fig trees and grape vines—but I do have Google.And I found out it can take fig trees as long as 6 years to bear fruit.And grape vines take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to bear fruit.
And here’s the reality—once a piece of ground has been completely stripped of all its vegetation, it’s more likely to become a dust bowl than it is to become fertile ground again.
Sometimes it takes decades to recover from a locust invasion and produce crops again.
But through Joel, God was promising the people that new crops were happening as he was speaking.
That can only happen through a regenerating miracle of God.
Our God specializes in that, doesn’t He?
In Christ, God specializes in taking a cold, dead heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.
This is how He puts it in Ephesians 2:4-5:
And He puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
You see—when you trust Jesus as your Lord and Master and Savior, your old self has died. Sin no longer reins over you. It still resides, so by God’s Spirit, we resist. But it no longer reins, because we have been miraculously regenerated in Christ.
And God’s promise to us is that, while we’re still tilling and planting and working and weeding—we’ve got a full yield coming.
And that’s guaranteed—because it’s a promise of God. So be glad and rejoice.God has promised His regeneration, and He’s faithful to keep His promises. - He’s also promised his justice.
Look at verse 23:
Scholars say that this is one of the most difficult verses to translate from Hebrew in all of the Old Testament. The reason they say it’s so difficult is that the word translated “early rain” can also mean “righteous teacher”. Some commentators go with the seasonal rain idea. Others go with the “teacher of righteousness” idea and there’s lots of ink wasted trying to prove their points.
Now I’m pretty simple, so here’s where I fall on it—I think that the reason it’s so difficult to translate is because Joel was using the word with both of its meanings in mind.
Here’s the bottom line of what God is saying here.
Even though the situation around you isn’t fair, you can be glad and rejoice because God is making all things right.
The over-arching theme of this whole book is the coming Day of the Lord when God pours out His wrath on all of sinful creation. We need to Remember the Day of the Lord is necessary because that’s the time when God will make all of the unfair things fair, that’s the time when he will make all things right.
During that great and terrible Day of the Lord, God will pour out His wrath like rain and He will have His vengeance.
For now, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. But one day, God will make all things right. That’s a promise. So be glad and rejoice. God has promised His justice—and He’s faithful to keep His promises. - He’s also promised a full restoration.
Now let’s Look at verses 24-25:
Finally, here, God acknowledged the locust plague! But notice that He didn’t do it out of pity. He didn’t do it by telling them to get to work fixing the problem. He acknowledged it to tell them that He was going to restore everything they had lost. But not only that—He was going to restore it to overflowing.
Here’s the thing—no matter what some TV preacher might tell you, God has never promised to give you material abundance. What He has promised is that if you lose something or give something up for Christ’s sake.... He will restore it to you in eternal, overflowing abundance.
Do you remember the story in Matthew 19 the about the rich young man? The rich young man walked away from Jesus sorrowful because he had lots of stuff.
His stuff wasn’t the problem—the fact that he loved his stuff more than he loved Jesus was the problem.
That started Jesus talking to His disciples about how difficult it is for rich people to be willing to give it all up and follow Him. And Peter piped up and said, “See, we have left everything and followed You.” And being blunt like only Peter could, he asked, “What then will we have?”
And Jesus told him—in Matthew 19:29 He “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
Listen—whatever you might think you’ve lost for Jesus’ sake... God has promised that He will restore it. Probably not today. Probably not tomorrow. But you will receive eternal blessings that will far surpass anything you could possibly lose in this life. That’s why Paul was able to say, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”
That’s a promise of God. So be glad and rejoice. God has promised restoration—and He’s faithful to keep his promises.
But his final promise in this passage is the greatest promise of all.
Physical provision, protection from the enemy, new life, justice and full restoration—all those are wonderful promises.
But without an unhindered relationship with God in Christ, none of those things really matter. - That’s why God’s final promise of relationship is His greatest promise of all.
Look again at verses 26-27:
God is promising these people that they are His people and He is their God.
He’s promising that He will be in the midst of them.
What a glorious promise. And He’s fulfilled that promise to all of us in Jesus Christ.
- Matthew 1:23 says,
John 1:1 says,
He came to be with us through all the junk you might be going though right now. And he came so that you might be with him forever in glory. Jesus came to restore your brokenness. He came to make the wrong things in your life right. He came to give you new life in Him. He came to protect you from the evil one.
And He came to provide for you—exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think.
Make no mistake about it—in Christ, God has done great things.
And when you have a real relationship with Him through Jesus, you can be glad and rejoice—because He’s done those great things for you.
‒ Pastor Pam