AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
October 21, 2012 Exodus 15, Isaiah 66:16, Joel 3:14-16
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
THE POWER OF GOD IS NEITHER METAPHORICAL NOR CONFUSED
The power of the Gospel in mercy, pardon and regeneration, and the power of judgment and deliverance of a people, nation or person, are not to be confused. The one is external in its onset, the other internal, the one a transformation of the heart and its relationship to the Lord, the other a deliverance of the nation from devastation or through this, for its due fruition, or a person from wound, death or horror.
Yet at times this clear demarcation is ignored. Certainly imagery may be used, as in Joel 3:10 when plough-shares are to be beaten into swords and pruning hooks into spears, though even there, conceivably in a metal shortage something a little like it might enter the mind. The point is simply that the means of peace may have to be diverted to the methods of war, when the aggression comes in a day of vast international battle (3:11) of decisive result.
To be sure, Exodus 15 has salvation attributed to the Lord in terms of what had just been an epochal epic, in the Exodus overthrow of a pursuing army, but this is the context of attributing to the Lord power as for "a man of war", so that its application to that field is obviously in view. You can be saved from many things, according to the case, but WHAT is the nature of the saving is another matter, to be discerned from context.
TEXT, CONTEXT AND PRETEXT
Take the case of the song of triumph of Miriam in Exodus 15. What was its occasion ? Military might humbled by the power of God. What is the substance of it ? the method of the overthrow, in ravaging a nation rising up against God and mistreating His people. Far is this from holiness of life, pardon of sin, regeneration of heart. Canaanites will hear and be afraid (Exodus 15:15). That is military power. To be sure, strong is the emphasis on the fact that Israel is viewed as belonging to the Lord, as His redeemed, and indeed Miriam's song speaks of the time when His temple will be founded where they must go; yet this paean is in terms of His might, power to blight and to deliver a people on whom He has set His name.
To be sure, they are intended to be a holy people, but it is not here their transformation but their deliverance from predatory powers, military might and intimidatory nations, which is clear and here predicted. THAT is what in our own time has just happened. In the Exodus case, the Lord's action gave impetus to the realisation that the power of God can act in any way in this world, for generations to come. Again, to the present, this is fortified by the restoration of Israel to its land, from 1948 - 1967. God's act in the international arena of conflict was in view: results and reasons are also, but the battle as the Lord's is not figurative. Action occurred, lives were lost. Confusion can lose vision, mentally mar marvels.
COLOSSI OF CONFUSION
Confusions often occur in two outstanding and all but astounding cases. One is Joel 3:14. In context of the book, hordes of various locusts have been identified and have been an index to the judgment of God and the day of the Lord indeed (Joel 2:10-11, cf. 3:14) . Why, and what was to be done spiritually, have been topics in Joel. In Joel 3 we come to the direct and epic outcome. First, God is going to bring Israel back to its land (3:1), lost as in Leviticus 26, under a series of progressive punishments for sin. Scattered amid the nations (3:2), now they return, banished, they re-alight, having been guilty of such atrocities as selling a boy for a harlot, or a girl for drink.
When God does this, will antagonistic nations retaliate ? If so, divine will be the retort in power to their national presumption! Indeed, the nations spoiling Israel, will be spoiled themselves (3:12-13, cf. Micah 7:16-17), So war is to be proclaimed among the nations, and the imagery we have noted (with perhaps some practical application) is used in testimony to the martial nature of the coming conflict.
Nations are to wake up, and the site of the battle is given, named. There is to be an overthrow of the aggressive invaders of Israel. "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" The day of the Lord with its dread and pre-announced devastation is to come at this point (Joel 3:14). If in the Exodus (cf. Micah 7:15 in its parallel), it meant vast oceanic disturbance, so here there is astronomical action (Joel 3:15).
God will Himself deliver and protect His nation, by such physical force as chosen, with an intrusive dynamic power by which the very heavens and earth will be shaken. He WILL shelter His people, the butt, admittedly for their sins, of foreign invasion and brutality, a matter signally local from the first; and some of the nations in view are named. To take this as involving some point of decision in decisionism by an evangelist is a gross mismanagement of the text, with no shadow of an excuse. Yet it happened. Why ? That evangelist made peace with Romanism, attributing to them the same Gospel which he had! The Lord knows why.
The "decision" is in the valley noted, that of Jehoshaphat, and the outcome is as noted, in the repulse and humiliation of the nations who attempted to take over the people. As Keil translates, "Tumult, tumult in the valley of decision." The term is given as "noisy crowds." Here, it is noted, judgment is "to be determined irrevocably," and indeed it is as in Micah 7, where vast is the international rebuff, one on the Exodus scale of destruction. Thus these two events are matched. It is in the results for those delivered, not the slain, which Micah 7:18-19 exalts! This is the power to pardon and delight in mercy of the Lord, which all need.
The second colossus of confusion comes in Isaiah 66:16. Once again in this parallel, there is to be vindication by divine power, involving devastation of the aggressive nations (66:14). He is "to render anger with fury," not a mode of spiritual salvation! but of its rejection (John 3:36). ALL flesh is then open to judgment by fire and the sword (Isaiah 66:13-15). This has its historical part in the scenario. Whereas some of Israel had been rejected with contempt by their brethren, through believing the Lord, even slain (Isaiah 51:7-8, 66:5, cf. Micah 7:10), now the scene changes (as in Ezekiel 36-37). Israel itself has now changed, and indeed is back in the land (66:7), suddenly restored to nationhood (66:8), by divine power, not allowing a prelude without a performance (66:9).
In parallel to Deuteronomy 32:43, nations that had mourned for her, now have reason to rejoice, and as in Zechariah 12:6, it is in Jerusalem (repeated in the latter), that this is to occur. Indeed, as in Zechariah 12-14, it is the conversion of those who nationally had killed the Christ, which precedes the onset of judgmental power.
Result of such use of such crushing power in such a place ? "Those slain by the Lord will be many," Isaiah 66:16. Is destruction then construction ? Is ruin conversion ? Is the fate for not yielding the method of yielding! Can worse misconstruction be even conceived! Why is it done by that variety of the charismatic which has people swoon away before the Lord in therapeutic situations, or even ostensibly saving ones, as if contradiction is the best interpretation of all. Again, it is the Lord who knows, but such follies speak like a megaphone in an exam room!
It is Israel which is militarily delivered, and it is the overwhelmed enemies, which crawl into their holes (Micah 7:15ff.), in a method like that of the Exodus, which are in view. Surely, great will be the blessing of those NOT slain, but rather delivered, already having had their day of repentance (Zechariah 12:10) for slaying the Lord (and only one nation did that). Indeed, then will a large and sudden new contingent of converts come from Israel, and you will have three all naming the Lord: those of Jacob (converted individuals, Jews), those of Israel (converts seen in national perspective) and those who directly name the Lord (Christians from any racial source), as in Isaiah 44:5; and from these strands, all come in the same Lord, as in Galatians 3:26-29, for the blessing of Abraham in Christ is indeed to all nations, just as the land was to but one (Genesis 12:1-3, 17:7-8).
As for the salvation and judgment, they are WORLDS APART!
Get the one or face the other, therefore. Nahum 6-7 declares the issue.
"Who can stand before His indignation ?
And who can endure the fierceness of His anger ?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
And the rocks are thrown down by Him.
"The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him."
Don't put your trust in human contrivances and inventions, but in the stronghold, the only Saviour Jesus Christ Himself. In His power, pity and pardon there is rest for the restless and joy for the straying. To the Christian comes this word of fortitude and faith:
"Now may trhe God of peace Himself sanctify you completely:
and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it",
I Thessalonians 5:23-24.