Thought for Sunday 21st June 2020

 June 30, 2020 |

Read Joel 2:1-32           After last Sunday’s service I was told that in The Times of 27th May there was an article talking of a plague of locusts heading for Delhi having eaten its way across northern India. Reports say it is ‘darkening the skies, destroying crops and wreaking havoc.’ It is the worst invasion for a quarter of a century. The swarm originated in east Africa and has taken in, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Southern Iran and parts of Pakistan. Monday 8th June, radio 4 talked about it being the largest swarm of locusts for 70 years. And they still have to deal with Covid19. The prophet Joel doesn’t pull his punches, the first 10 verses of Joel 2 sound pretty frightening to me. I’m sure that there were some fighting in the First World War that would have been pretty frightened. I remember reading a report from the German soldiers who seeing the first tanks coming over the hill thought it was Armageddon, verse 2; ‘Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours.’ As Joel endeavours to paint a picture, in words, of what he could not even imagine. We may think we can imagine, after all we are living in the 21st century. I’m sure that many of you can remember seeing scifi films, Starwars, Dr Who, Startrek and the like, back in the 60’s they were using things like mobile phones, things we couldn’t dream would be part of everyday life in our lifetime. I can remember my old Sunday school teacher, she was born in 1899 and died in 2001 and I had the privilege of taking her funeral service.  Eleanor lived in three centuries, the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. When she was born, cars were a relatively new invention, flying was only just getting off the ground, I wonder, as a child how she would have described a Jumbo jet? So as we read the description that Joel gives of ‘The Day of the Lord,’ let’s remember this was written over 2,500 years ago. As we read those first 10 verses, let’s remember verse 12 starts the clarion call; ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.’ That is the call of the Christian church, that has to be the call of the Christian church, because we live in the here and now, we know we aren’t self sufficient. Oh, we might think we are, we may think we don’t need God, but when we cry out to God, he will respond. As verse 13 says, it’s not about an outward rending our garments for all to see, it’s about rending our hearts for He alone knows our hearts. I guess that brings us back to Psalm 139 yet again. Verses 12-17 might sound a bit drastic, and it’s not about doing the theatrical bit, God knows your heart and we should remember 2 Chronicles 7:14; ‘if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ Joel 2:18-20 read so, as verse 21 says; ‘Be not afraid … the Lord has done great things.’ God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, it is just that too often we have doubts. When we trust God with our everything, our lives, our families, our friends, all that we are, then we will see the sort of blessing that we can only dream of. In fact we cannot even dream of it. What did the prophet Habakkuk write? 1:5; ‘Look at the nations and watch-for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.’ When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples at Pentecost all those years ago, they could have had no idea that was going to happen, and no idea of the change it would have had on each one of them. Although we have the four gospel accounts of the teaching of Jesus, it all but ends with his death. In Luke 24, on the road to Emmaus we read Jesus taught them; ‘beginning with Moses and all the prophets he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.’ Later in the upper room with the other disciples he appeared to them and ‘he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures.’ At the end of John’s gospel we know Jesus taught them, chapter 21, and right at the end of that chapter we read; ‘Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.’ At the beginning of Acts Jesus says to them; ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.’ I’m sure that in his teaching over those 40 days, of which we know little of what he said, he would have forewarned them telling of what the prophet Joel had said 2:28 ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy and your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit … and everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ When the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, Peter remembered those words and believed this was the fulfilment of the prophecy. Joel talks of a call to repentance, not an outward show but an inward showing, rending of the heart. Peter knew the Day of the Lord was promised, Jesus had come but the religious leaders rejected Jesus, they could not believe that their Messiah had come, and they had him crucified. At Pentecost, because of the Holy Spirit 3,000 were added to their number (Acts 2:41) then v47; ‘the Lord added to their number daily.’ the number was soon to become 5,000 (Acts 4:4) Then Acts 5:14 ‘more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.’ and Acts 6:7 ‘a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.’ If we are honest, if we really want Jesus to come again, we will really want to see that sort of revival in this country and every country in the world. After Pentecost the church grew from just over 100 to 3,000 to 5,000 and more were added including the priests. I’m not going to add anything to the final verses of Joel 2, we looked at them two weeks ago, only to say that the final verse of the chapter begins with the words; ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ The truth if that anyone, and I stress that, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord can, and will, be saved.’ I believe it all comes down to rending your heart to the God who is all seeing and all knowing. Allowing the Holy Spirit to use you for the advancement of His kingdom. Being ex-Boys Brigade, I like their motto: ‘The advancement of Christ’s kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness.’  The first five words should be our motto: The advancement of Christ’s kingdom. Amen.

Abba Father, let me be
Yours and Yours alone.
May my will forever be
Ever more Your own.
Never let my heart grow cold,
Never let me go.
Abba Father, let me be
Yours and Yours alone.

Dave Bilbrough.
Copyright © 1977 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music

Pastor Gordon Hamilton