Blow The Trumpet In Zion, Sanctify A Fast, Call A Solemn Assembly
Joel 2:12-17— “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?”
Joel 2:12-17 portrays to us the Lord calling Judah to repentance. That which is given in the text is just as applicable to the church and the nation in 2016 as it was for Judah of long ago. As Judah needed to repent, so the church needs to repent today.
One does not have to be a theologian to recognize that our nation has forsaken God and the only cure is repentance. The social, moral, and economic fiber of the nation is falling apart. The great God-given institutions of marriage and the family unit are being torn apart. As a nation, we have brandished our fist in the face of God, and now we have become nothing more than a modern Sodom and Gomorrah.
However, the purpose of this article is not to address the many problems of the nation. The purpose of this article is to address the church; the nation is in the condition it’s in because the church has lost its way. Simply put, God is calling the church to repentance just as Judah so long ago.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The church is the conscience of the nation.” Never forget that as the church goes, so goes the nation. As well, always remember that the church is a mirror of the nation.
If one desires to know the condition of the church, Isaiah 1:5-6 gives us a perfect description of the modern church. The prophet said: “Why should you be stricken anymore? You will revolt more and more: The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
The “head” and “heart” of Israel represented the intellectual and moral natures. Israel had turned away from God in both her heart and mind. The “bruises” and “sores” of Israel could not be cured by anything except the Lord and only then by Israel repenting first.
The word putrefying is only used once in the entirety of the Word of God. In the Hebrew it means, “wounds, fresh, raw, not yet treated.” In English it means, “rotten,” “foul,” “to stink,” or “to be morally corrupt.”
There you have it—in the eyes of the Lord, the church is rotten, foul, and morally corrupt. I know some who read this will object and deny that the church of today is rotten, foul, and morally corrupt, but the fact is that there may be a lot of religious activity and, in the eyes of the world, “good deeds” being done. One must not forget that a lot of religious activity doesn’t mean that it’s spiritual. Religious, yes. Spiritual, no.
AN ALTAR CALL
The verses of Joel 2:12-17 are, in effect, an altar call given by the Lord to Judah—the same altar call that is being given to the church today. So, let’s look at the words of Joel regarding repentance:
“Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12).
Turn to the Lord “with all your heart” speaks of true repentance. Not just outward, but true inward repentance. Repentance comes from the heart and is not subject to mere ceremony. Fasting, weeping, and mourning portray true sorrow that comes from acknowledging how sinful and wicked we really are. It’s an understanding that we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. It means to anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see—see who and what you really are (Rev. 3:17-18).
“And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil” (Joel 2:13).
The phrase, “Rend your heart, and not your garments,” expresses to us that there is, at times, great emotion involved respecting repentance. Still, such must come from the heart and not be mere outward manifestations, which mean nothing and accomplish nothing. Without an inward feeling of sorrow, external signs of grief do nothing. Men may draw near with their lips while the heart is far from Him.
The phrase, “And repents him of the evil” simply means that upon true change of a man’s heart, God will forgive and show mercy, graciousness, and kindness.
The Lord does not delight in wrath; His nature is grace and mercy, but His holiness cannot abide sin. Sin must be judged, and judgment must first begin in the house of God.
“Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?” (Joel 2:14).
The phrase, “And leave a blessing behind him,” refers to the fact that the blessing had been taken away because of sin on the part of Judah, but now, due to repentance, blessing can be restored. The same holds true for today. The passage concerning the meat offering and drink offering actually means that because of their repentance, the Lord will now begin to bless His people. God’s righteousness demands judgment upon unconfessed sin. Likewise, that same righteousness demands blessing upon repented sin.
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.” (Joel 2:15).
In the phrase, “Blow the trumpet” regarding fasting and prayer, the blowing of the trumpet is directed at the church—a church that has forgotten God; a church that has traded the holiness and righteousness of God aside and now worships at the altar of Baal. Anything goes—let’s drink, party, and have a good time; we don’t have time for a bloody Cross; we want our self-esteem to be lifted up and made to feel good about ourselves; we don’t need the dusty old pages of the Bible—and all the while the church and the nation are crumbling before our eyes. We need a solemn assembly. We need to throw away the man-devised church schemes and come back to Calvary.
Dean Stanley, one of the scholars of over 100 years ago, drew the following vivid picture of the circumstances and scene described by the prophet in this 15TH verse and following from the second chapter of Joel:
The harsh blast of the consecrated ram’s horn called an assembly for an extraordinary fast. Not a soul was to be absent. Like the fiery cross, it convened old and young, men and women, mother with infants at their breast, the bridegroom and the bride on their bridal day. All were there stretched in front of the altar.
The altar itself presented the dreariest of all sights—a hearth without its sacred fire, a table spread without its sacred feast. The priestly caste, instead of gathering as usual upon its steps and its platform were driven, as it were, to the further space; they turned their backs to the dead altar, and lay prostrate gazing towards the invisible presence within the sanctuary.
Instead of hymns and music which since the time of David, had entered into their prayers, there was nothing heard but the passionate sobs and loud dissonant howls such as only an Eastern hierarchy could utter.
Instead of the mass of white mantels which they usually presented, they were wrapped in black goats-hair sackcloth, twisted around them, not with the brilliant sashes of the priestly attire, but with a rough girdle of the same texture, which they never unbound night or day.
What they wore of their common dress was rent asunder or cast off. With bare breast they waved their black drapery towards the temple, and shrieked aloud, ‘Spare Your people, O Lord!’
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
The idea of this verse is as follows:
1. That the people know and understand how absolutely hideous sin is.
2. That the people realize how displeased the Lord is with their present condition.
3. That the spiritual leadership takes the lead, but that they be followers by all in the nation, and He means all.
4. That no excuse be allowed to hinder this gathering, even little children and weddings, which is meant to symbolize the normal affairs of life being set aside in favor of seeking God.
5. They were to cry to God in a manner that portrayed no hypocrisy, but a true cry of repentance from the deepest recesses of their heart, proclaiming that they realize their perilous situation.
“Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:17).
The priests, God’s ministers, were to set the example and lead the people in holy contrition.
The phrase, “Weep between the porch and the altar” pertains to the following: The altar proclaimed accomplished redemption because it was a type of Calvary.
The porch pertained to fellowship with God for the porch was the entrance to the temple, and fellowship with God can only come through the altar, i.e., the Cross.
The word porch was used first stating that these people were already covenant people, but had lost fellowship with God through sin. Had he been speaking to sinners, the altar would have been named first.
The phrase,“Give not your heritage to reproach” speaks of the Greek inheritance in Christ that has been given to us.
The heathen are ruling over our nation today because the church has lost its way. If the church doesn’t repent, the nation will fall. Today, they mock us saying, “Where is their God?”
We must humble ourselves in contrition and repentance, and when the church does that, the nation will know where our God is—He is in our midst; He is walking among us; and He is showing His power and majesty.
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