All Roads Lead To Jesus - Joel

Joel – King Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit
Reading: Joel 2, Acts 2

Are we in the last days? There are wars and rumors of war. Tragedies pile up one after the other. Our feeds are filled with horrors. It seems like we have been offered some of the worst candidates to lead our countries in recent history. Natural disasters increase and people lose their homes and all they have worked for. Black vs. white. Gay vs. straight. Religious vs. Atheist. And now, plagues? We, it seems, really are living in biblical times. Because of the interconnected world, we have all of the omniscience to see the problems and none of the omnipotence to overcome those problems. We are left in a pretty helpless place. And yet, this isn’t the first time the world felt like it was at its end.

I could give many examples and statistics to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that humanity has always felt like they were at the end. The Civil War felt like the end. World War I was certainly the end. World War 2 would finish the job. These are just the modern American Experience. What of the genocide in African countries? How did China feel when Japan mercilessly slaughtered them in the 20th century? How must Central American and South American nations feel when drug warlords seek and destroy? Our experience today is not unique to the history of the world. The ancient world also thought they would see the end.

Joel was a prophet who served the Lord around the 7th century before Jesus Christ. His main concern was the people of the Southern Kingdom of Israel called Judah. They too thought the end was near. There had been a plague that destroyed their economy, their food source, and their way of living. This plague of locusts decimated their crops. They had been crippled as a nation. People were starving and there was no end in sight to their misery.

Joel compared this plague to what it would be like when the Lord came to judge His people. It’s hard to find a ray of light in the opening chapters of Joel. The Day of the Lord would be a terrible day for those who had rejected God. Every word of Joel seems to pile on the miseries of the previous verses. We are meant to read it and gasp for air. We are meant to feel the hopelessness that many would feel on the Day of the Lord.

Israel had always looked forward to the Day of the Lord because they believed that God’s Messiah would destroy all rival nations and that He would restore the throne of David and Israel to its former glory. Essentially, they believed that they would be marching behind the Messiah as he destroyed their enemies. The great twist in Joel is when he points the guns toward Israel. They too would be judged. They were not innocent. They had no right to pass judgment on the rest of the world when they were just like the world. They had also rejected God and His covenant.

But in the darkness, there is always hope. Joel says to Judah,

“…in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Think about this for a moment. Through the plagues and economic disaster and impending doom of exile, Joel offers hope. The hope is found in these words, “in those days I will pour out my Spirit…everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

700 years later, another man would repeat these words of Joel. This man stood before thousands of people just after Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. He was a fisherman turned preacher who had been transformed from a coward to a bold disciple. A little over a month earlier, Peter had abandoned Jesus on Good Friday and ran for his life. Now, he stood before the very same crowds and officials that put Jesus to death and declared that the one he had betrayed was the Messiah the world had been waiting for. According to Peter, Jesus is the king who sent the Holy Spirit. This sending of the Holy Spirit was the Day of the Lord that Joel had proclaimed 700 years earlier.

Do you see the connection between Joel, Peter, and us? In the middle of plagues, persecution, hardship, tyranny, and the end of the world the salvation plan is the same. God has poured out His Spirit through Christ. Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. It’s still true.

Now many might take these words and run in the wrong direction. God is not promising that all of our problems will go away. I assure you, they will not. God is not promising riches if you sow a seed. I promise you, that is not true. God is not promising to heal you of the plague if you would repent, for I can assure you, that is not true. What God has promised in the day of the Lord, what God is giving us through the indwelling of His Spirit is a new kind of kingdom.

In this kingdom, there will be no more plague, grief, atrocities, political battles, tears, disease, or natural disasters. In this kingdom, all that is good will remain and all that harms us will be destroyed. We live in between the times. We live in the last days. We live in a time before the kingdom. But God, through Jesus, has given us His Spirit to persevere in these last days.

Here is the deal. Every single one of us is living in the last days the minute that we are born. 80-90 years of life is not all that long. Things get especially gloomy when we realize we aren’t guaranteed those 90 years and that our life could be cut short at a moment's notice. At some point in each of our lives, we will do everything we have ever done for the last time. We will hold our child for the last time. We will say goodbye to friends for the last time. We will work at our job for the last time. We will drive a car for the last time. None of us know when that last time will be.

The things we are going through now bring our mortality into focus with incredible clarity. With every tragic news story, we are reminded that we are not invincible and that our kingdoms will crumble. This is precisely why the news that Jesus has poured out His Spirit and dwells with us is such good news. The tragic stories are not the end of our story. They are part of the journey toward a new kingdom. The Holy Spirit was given to the church on the Day of the Lord in order to encourage us, strengthen us, and preserve us so that we might persevere until the very end.

I feel what you are all feeling. In one day, the world changed. The successes I had been experiencing seemed to be wiped out in 24 hours. But I am reminded when I read the words of Joel that Jesus is just as much a part of the stories of hardship as he is a part of the stories of victory.

The more I have leaned into the things of this world during this time the more I have felt anxious, depressed, and hopeless. The more time I have spent with Jesus and allowed His Holy Spirit to work in me and through His Word, the more I have felt at peace.

We are in the last days, but we are not in the last days alone. The last days maybe a day or a thousand years or ten million years. No matter how long this world may last, we can be of good courage. Jesus has poured out His Spirit to preserve us until the very end.

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