Thought for the Week - 19th November 2017Pastor Gareth Watkins
Joel 2: 12-13
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
Last week I wrote about our Remembrance Sunday service. I wrote about two examples of warfare – one from the Old Testament about David, and one from the New Testament about Paul. One was a physical battle and the other was a spiritual battle.
There is no place, even to this day, where there cannot be a battle of some sort. If we stand up for our faith, different sorts of conflict comes to our door. God has always called for us to come closer to Him. When we’re in a place of nothingness – neither good or bad – are we any use, either physically or spiritually? We are in a place of nothingness; somewhere before God, but nowhere where we should be. We’re not dealing with the things we should be, not carrying the load we should be, and not fighting for the things we should be, because we’re in a place of nothingness. Being in a place of nothingness is a dangerous place.
Over Christmas time, conflict comes in like a blanket over. Different kinds of assault come around us – physical, spiritual, family etc. We need to consider our walk and our call towards God during this season.
In the verses above, we read that God “relents from doing harm”. Does this mean He is weak? Does that mean that God is far off, or isn’t able? When we get into this place of nothingness, all of this goes out into the atmosphere somewhere and we think it doesn’t apply to us. We think that God isn’t going to be angry with us, do us harm, be unkind to us… and suddenly we can start getting wrong thoughts about God because we’re in this place of nothingness.
I want us to consider our place before God. Are we in this place of nothingness, where nothing applies and we’re dead to the things of God? Or are we in a place where these battles are going on?
If we are in a place of nothingness or distance, it doesn’t mean that God is weak, blind, or far off. What it does mean is that we’re not listening or have been enveloped by this cloak of the season that takes people away from God.
Earlier in this chapter, we read that God is in this day of darkness and gloominess, there are days when there are fires and burnings, there’s days when there’s a need to escape, there’s days when the people writhe in pain, where people’s faces are drained of colour, where people face earthquakes and the moon grows dark. That’s a picture of our sinful world now. Imagine living in modern day Iraq, somewhere where there’s been an earthquake or as a refugee.
Earlier in the week, I listened to a radio program where a gentleman explained how there had previously been 600,000 Jews in Baghdad. There came a time when they experienced persecution. They were dismissed from their jobs, looted, murdered and exiled all over the world. The number of Jews reduced to less than 10. This was a physical battle. Those people can speak of the fear, the noise, the fire and the upset. Yet you can go to the country today and still see the Star of David over buildings, showing Jewish communities.
Because we’re in this comfort blanket, we’re often dumbed down to what is going on. Yet there’s a battle going on. There’s a battle going on as much for those people as there is for our people. Do we carry on with our battles? Do we bring ourselves closer to Christ? Do we see the world is trying to rip us apart from the things of God? Or do we get under our blanket, put the television on and everything’s nice? The reality of the world is going on around us whether we acknowledge it or not. There’s noise of the chariots, noise of flame and fire devouring the stubble, strong people and the battles are all around, and the people are writhing in pain (Joel 2).
We are not called to be people who rend, or rip, our clothes visibly. In Israel, they still rend their garments visibly – ripping their clothing in response to grievances etc. This passage is encouraging us instead to rend our hearts. We are to repent to the Lord, think toward the Lord, step forward to the Lord, and not just do things in an outward way. When the world is calling us to go out to the bars to drink, to go out and spend, the guilt about not spending enough time, money etc., every kind of barb goes into us. Let us not think that the war isn’t going on. The battle is going on for our minds as we speak. It’s up to us to stand still and come to God. We are called to fast and pray, so that we come closer to God and not further away.
The Bible uses words such as “idolatry” and “sin”. Do you think it’s possible to have idolatry and sin in your own home? Yes! The TV can become an idol, a club etc. We lose our battle because that becomes greater to us than the things of God. And when something becomes bigger than God in our life, it becomes an idol. Idolatry is in everyone’s house. There needs comes a day when the battle becomes ours to engage with, and we have to get up and say we are going to fight for our place. There comes a day when we need to turn with all our heart back to the Lord; where we fast and pray; where we see the seriousness of it with weeping and mourning. There is a seriousness.
Do we want to get closer to God? The answer is yes. But do we want to get up and do it? The answer is probably no. Because all that is in us naturally, resists the things of God.
In Revelation 14:14 we read:
An angel is going to come and reap a harvest across the whole earth. The first harvest is going to be a Godly harvest. The second angel when he comes, reaps another type of harvest – a harvest of those who would have cast Christ out of the city. Those people in that harvest were thrown into the wine press. The blood and fear that run out of that winepress flows for 1,600 furlongs, or 200 miles (Revelation 14: 17-20). Those who were harvested in this second harvest included those who said nothing and did nothing while Christ was being tried and crucified. They were responsible in a way by not standing with Him, or confronting those who were persecuting and killing Christ. They are harvested alongside those who did these things, into the winepress.
We don’t want to find ourselves not in the right place before God. Are we in the right place with God? Are we making an effort to come closer to God? Are we causing Christ to be outcast or condemned? We need to put ourselves in a place of righteousness, forgiveness, where our sins can be forgiven. The harvest is coming! God is calling you to repent and come closer to Him.
He has made a way for us to be saved and set free for the condemnation that’s coming to the world. It’s up to us to take advantage of it. We will go into a place of blessing, because God is a place of blessing. He wants to put us into a place where we grow alongside the other harvest, like the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13: 24-30). It says in Revelation 22:11 “he that is unjust, let him be unjust still” and “he that is holy, let him be holy still.” The two will grow alongside each other.
It’s up to us not to go further from God. There needs to be a change in our hunger, our desire, our drive, our purpose, and our mental assent. It can often start with a mental decision – that we want to get closer from God and not further from Him. That we don’t want the battle to drive us away from Him or our hearts to become hard. Would you come and pray and ask God to take you closer? Sometimes, there needs to be a little desperation involved. Without Christ we are lost.
The list in Joel was written 800 years before Christ. Circumstances haven’t changed. The Apostle John wrote Revelation 800 years after Joel. We’re now 2000 years on. People didn’t listen to Joel, they didn’t listen to John, will they listen today in 2017? That is for the people to decide. But if we are going to listen, then we have to get into action.
We might decide that we’re going to read our bible, pray regularly and with fervency, fast and rend our hearts. A rended heart is a deep contrition. You can see a torn spirit. You can also see someone who is pompous and full of themselves. God knows where our hearts are before Him. We can choose to come closer to Him and get involved in the fight against self, the physical and the spiritual. Or we can decide to stay neutral, to stay neutral… to stay nothing.
One day that angel is coming to harvest. Will we get reaped into heaven or into the wine press?
After all of this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your elderly will have revelatory dreams;
your young men will see prophetic visions.
Wouldn’t we rather be in this place? Where us and our family are blessed and anointed by God? What we do has an impact on our families. Our job is to be part of the army of God and fulfilling our bit. God wouldn’t ask us to do it if there was no significance or consequence to it. It’s Gods ways, not ours.
We are being called to put ourselves right before God, to be part of that blessing that He wants to give us.
Would you choose to fight for that place that belongs to blessing? Or would you remain somewhere on the fringes? He wants us to grow closer to Him as this season progresses.