AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH May 5, 2013
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
Hand the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
continuing the thrust of the 1901 Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of Australia
From Facts to Acts, From Scene to Scenario with Joel
from Joel 2:28-3:21
THIS IS THE WAY.
We have looked at Joel in terms of FACTS AND FIGURES, WORDS AND DEEDS, MESSIAH AND SPIRIT, where now we are lodged, and have before us the last part,
RETRIBUTION AND RESOLUTION AMID SCENES OF REDEMPTION
It is now as if we were on a conveyor belt to the end. Joel 2:28-32, cited by Peter as in Acts 2, brings us from THE AGE OF THE MESSIAH, one of which we were so deftly reminded by the pun in Joel 2:23, which speaks of what might be called a FAITHFUL thing to come as necessary and as basis for all blessing as in Isaiah 28:16, the foundation for all faith and spiritual stability and security.
Let us look at this rendering in Joel 2:23, "a teacher in faithfulness", meaning that God would send Him in fulfilment of what He had in prophecies before, undertaken to do.
This provides an added item in the meaning, and as such is to be welcomed, though with some care.
When possible translations arise, and there is no way of removing a possibility, in the Bible, where dexterity and evidence is without limit for truth, then unless other scripture forbids, both are taken. While the teacher for righteousness is the best fit in all contexts parallel, nevertheless, a teacher given in faithfulness to the Lord's undertakings, is a conceivable rendering, if maladroit if taken alone. Incidentally, note that it is THE TEACHER (cf. Isaiah 11:1-4), just a in Isaiah 7 the one through whom He would become man was THE VIRGIN, and not a virgin. These are fundamentals.
The phrase giving the sense of a faithful sending, a teacher (sent) for righteousness' sake, or in the domain of righteousness, or better to fulfil righteousness, is comparatively forced. It is so in this, that the snug sequential and thematic fit of the generic teacher-for-righteousness, is so great, characterising it, while the teacher (sent) in faithfulness adds a little to the concept of 'sent', held partly implicit. Surely it was faithful to send Him, but what is it that was sent! The phrase supplies that, succinctly but deeply: for righteousness.
Overall, the most reticent and yet careful rendering seems as is not unusual, a matter of examining the actuality of the major thrust, seeing its nature, post in contextual sequence, characterisation grant, resolution of any problems, thematic post and so on, these and others confirming it further, so examining all the meanings that this permits; and then allowing for filigree work.
The unchallengeable meaning, foremost, is teacher-for-righteousness, a bound imprint of purpose and function. The resonating optional extra, is this, that even as He IS teacher for righteousness, in coming as foretold, He exemplifies that very thing.
First then is the snug fit without addition, in the focus FOR the One sent ON righteousness: He is given explanation in two words: for righteousness, not left as a cypher but with the normal vast impact. He comes, a gift from God, the central Messiah, before the outpouring of the Spirit (John 2:23 being before 2:28, as in Isaiah 32:1-4 before 32:15ff.), and we are in this 2:23 told what He is about, for example, how this contrasts with befouled teachers (as in Ezekiel 34, an application). It shows in this that mercy is not another name for maundering or indulgence of the fluctuations of selfish desire (Isaiah 11:3-5). It is foundational as in Psalm 89. Love is pre-eminent in character; righteousness in indispensable. In Christ, both rejoice.
It is only then, as an extra, that there comes what you could regard as filigree work, the sense that NOT ONLY is He the teacher for righteousness, but in SO coming, He is fulfilling predicted divine enterprise; for ALL is righteousness with God, which Psalm 89 tells us is the foundation of His throne.
Yes, in the basic meaning there is much meat. In so coming, not only is righteousness a cardinal object of His teaching. Indeed, as found from the other Messianic prophecies in the Bible, His special offering in teaching righteousness is this, that the more stringent is the wonder of perfection and the way to it, for perfect righteousness in fallen man, the more stringent is HIS personal contribution in our meeting this requirement, not as pedant, or as purveyor in word only, but in a laboratory grace for all to see. Here He is not the experimental victim as in some biological research, but the self-given and sure and certain sacrifice to enable entry to a life of such wonder, and sheer cleanness, quietness and confidence.
Glorious in heaven, the eternal word of God (John 17:1-3, Philippians 2, John 8:58), He discloses to all His incorruptibility to the uttermost even in our most vulnerable place as man, and His illimitable love, which before rendering rebellion its doom, takes it upon Himself, ready to give it liberally where the heart receives Him AS HE IS (Romans 10:9, 3:23-27, Titus 2-3, John 8).
Not as a tyrant but as a Substitute He comes, as a mandated man of mercy, whose OWN righteousness is to be smitten just as our unrighteousness is borne by Him (II Corinthians 5:17ff.), so that we might be borne aloft, sitting in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), covered, pardoned, changed, not paraded, not deleted in spiritual life, and left lamentable, but borne by our Saviour, the Lord each of His children to the place prepared (John 14, II Corinthians 5:1ff.). What a teacher for righteousness is He, what coverage does He give in His lesson. Does He not say it (Matthew 20:28),
"And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant;
even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to,
but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."
There is, then, depth in this phrase, but whichever way we turn, after the chief and most slim-line rendering, there is only more depth. So it is with the Bible, which has this beauty, that if you LOOK you will find the word of God has quality incomparable, whether it deals with spiritual matters in a masterful manner which is thrilling, deep and diversified, or with other elements of our world and universe, divinely selected for basis, background instruction, education, perspective, indications of power so that trust might hang exultant upon it, or whatever else the Lord conceives and transports. So, transmitting through His own Word, and words (Isaiah 34:16, Matthew 5:17ff., I Cor. 2:9ff.), He speaks to believers and to unbelief as well, the latter stirring in the hearts of rebellion, and sometimes implanted there.
As with the beautiful rain of Ezekiel 34:26, where these showers of blessing are part of the gift of the Lord when He comes in Person as Messiah, so here is a rain of the same duality of function: it refreshes the ground and the heart alike, when each is receptive! (cf. Acts 3:19ff.). being intimately linked with a display of the blessings accompanying salvation. It is as in Ezekiel 34, where, likewise, God is indicating that He personally will come to the earth for redemption, salvation, deliverance of His people: a massif of the work of the Messiah. The pastors of pollution who ever dirty the water with their aggressive footwork and hypocritical self-seeking, are exposed for all time, an evil heritage and a gross failure. God is to replace them with HIMSELF (Ezekiel 34:11-17), and with showers of blessing.
With His people, there is to be a "covenant of peace" (34:25) and He will make "My hill a blessing, and I will cause showers to come down in their season: there shall be showers of blessing." In that day, which in its prelude is now, the day before "the great and awesome day of the LORD," (Joel 2:31), "whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." It is not to be novel; it is still based on what God symbolised through Mt Zion, and activated by personally coming there (Joel 2:32).
THE FINAL OPERATIONS
From this in Ezekiel, we now pour into the scenes of confrontation and final judicial desolation on the earth, . where they are, as Joel 3:10 caustically sets it, to "beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears." This imagery of zeal for battle, and zest, is however saddened by the utter irony within it. It is, as for salvation, so for ultimate deliverance, useless to do such things, make such self-based efforts, since if God is not for you, what is NOT against your outcome! Persecutors of the past, for Israel, are given recognition and punishment is appointed (Joel 3:7-11), but in this finale of clash, "multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" is the clouded confrontation. Astronomical disturbance is clear, the sun dark. God, as in Isaiah 66, Deuteronomy 32, will act with overwhelming might and "roar from Zion" precisely as in Micah 7.
He will however "be a shelter for His people," Joel 3:17, now as in Zechariah 12, turned in the nation to and for Him. The "valley of decision" is one of decisive battle, where the hopes of the afflicting bulls stampeding are met by the act of God at length, with superior power in judicially meeting their actual weakness, after such a return to saving faith in Israel, so that there is indeed a decision! When the LORD shall "utter His voice from Jerusalem: the heavens and earth will shake," but even then, He is for HIS people "a shelter". Take-over plans from hell aborted, there will be a millenial time of blessedness (as in Isaiah 59), and Egypt with its delusive power earlier against Israel, and later in hopes of diplomacy, will not escape (Joel 3:19 cf. Daniel 11:42).
Such coming confrontation moves to its ultimate in Revelation 19, and as elsewhere in this topic, so often touched in the Bible, so we learn in a parallel passage in Habakkuk, 3:13, "You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with your Messiah, You struck the head from the house of the wicked, by laying bare from foundation to neck."
What then is the position ? Just as Joel 2:28-32 takes us spiritually to the climax at the end, so Joel 3:9-17 brings to international confrontation, Israel at that predicted time being moved to faith, with the Lord. In this, as in Zechariah 12-13, comes a final showdown with what becomes a simple clash: aspirant and marauding unbelievers against the God of creation-redemption. The result is not in any doubt, as all breathe by His designs and continued maintenance; but to conjure out of this as do some Pentecostal people, some spiritual experience of submission to the Lord before His people, it is such a misconfiguration of both the sequence and the situation in Joel, as to become like a new hair arrangement for a woman whose home is being destroyed by the nerve gas sarin, alas, the sad latter part, all too literal in Syria of today!
So is the Jerusalem contest, one beckoning to many powers and thoughts, resolved categorically (Joel 3:13,16), the spiritual realities of Zechariah 12:10ff. becoming as there, intimately related to the battle raging. This appears as a background; but no dream, no vision, is the battle itself!
As to the Jerusalem context, here in Joel, it is neither to be dismissed figuratively in this history lesson, nor is it to be given locational pre-eminence totally: it brings neither pre-eminence to the nation Israel (Isaiah 19), nor dismissal of the covenantal provisions of the Lord (Genesis 17:7-8, Micah 7:18ff.) to it. It is highly specifically in Jerusalem, scene of Calvary (Zechariah12:6), that His power again plays. Then as all is fulfilled on earth, so in heaven. The Jerusalem which is above becomes gloriously featured in Revelation 20-22, as the earth at last disappears together with the heavens, leaving the incandescent splendour of the scene where spirituality is mingled with a new body and a new heaven and earth; for then, the former things have passed away.