Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 2 2019 - Joel 3 – Blessing beyond judgment

In Joel 3, the Lord promises that the day is coming when he will restore the fortunes of his people. The nations that he had used to execute his judgment upon them will in their turn be judged. They will gather in the valley of Jehoshaphat (vv.2, 12) – the name means "The Lord judges" – where the Lord will repay them for what they have done. This will be the valley of decision (v.14), a valley where God will make a final division between his people and those who have oppressed them.

Joel 3:12-13 pictures God's judgment in terms of a harvest of grapes which fill the winepress before they are then trampled. This same picture is gruesomely elaborated in Isaiah 63:1-6 where the garments of those pressing the grapes are stained red, as with blood (see also Revelation 14:14-20). These prophetic pictures were turned into song in The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

This is a constant theme through the pages of Scripture: God rescues his people from oppression and gives them peace and security by acts of judgment which break the power of those who hold them captive. This was what happened when God saved his people from Egypt; he came down in judgment upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians so that his people might be set free. This is what happened when God brought his people into the Promised Land; he came down in judgment upon the Canaanites so that his people might enjoy security and blessing in the land. That is what will happen in the Last Day when God puts down all rebellion against his appointed King – see the destruction of "Babylon" in Revelation 18 which is followed by a far more glorious "Hallelujah" chorus than that found in The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Revelation 19:1-8). This prepares the way for the New Jerusalem where Christ will reign with his people for all eternity and where the final assertion of the book of Joel, "The Lord dwells in Zion!" will find its ultimate fulfilment.

And this too is the pattern of our redemption. God exercised his judgment upon sinful humanity when Jesus died in our place upon the cross. He endured the judgment we deserved so that we might go free. Because of him, we are freed from condemnation. Our precious Lord is our refuge and stronghold (Joel 3:16); we are secure in him for now and for eternity. 

Judgment and salvation are two sides of the same coin. God saves his people by crushing the powers that hold them captive. Only at the cross are God's wrath and mercy reconciled in the person of his Son and the salvation of his people:

We worship at your feet
Where wrath and mercy meet
And a guilty world is washed
By love's pure stream
For us he was made sin
Oh, help me take it in
Deep wounds of love cry out 'Father, forgive'
I worship, I worship
The Lamb who was slain. (Graham Kendrick)

Holy Father, I have to confess that I don't like reading passages about your judgment. My limited understanding finds it difficult to reconcile your judgment with your love. But I am very thankful that though I may not be able to fit these things together, you brought them together in the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Give me a deeper understanding of all that you have done to cleanse me from my sin and guilt and bring me back home into the embrace of your love.

Peter Misselbrook