TODAY’S READING: JOEL
“The Lord utters his voice before his army.” – Joel 2:11
Probably the most well-known passage in Joel is Joel 2:28-29, which Peter quotes in the first sermon of the church.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old me shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”
We know that this occurred at Pentecost after Jesus was crucified. So, when Joel writes “it shall come to pass afterward,” we can understand what comes before this in Joel 2 as indicative of what happened at the cross and the direct lead up to it.
It is the events directly leading up to the cross and Jesus’ crucifixion that tell us what the Lord uttered to his army.
The night before his crucifixion a mob came to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest in the ear. In Matthew 26:52-3, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”
To his earthly army, the disciples, Jesus told them to put away their sword. They were not to fight as the world fights for their king because everyone who fights with the sword will die by the sword.
But, what about Jesus’ heavenly army, the twelve legions of angels that he could call upon? What does Jesus say to them?
During his trial, Pilate asked Jesus if he was a Jew and what he had done for his nation to deliver him over to Pilate.
In John 18:36, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, which means it was a spiritual kingdom. Therefore, as he spoke of his spiritual kingdom, Jesus said that his servants, his angel army, was not to fight. That is, they did not fight against flesh and blood, bringing death and destruction, the way that man fights.
We even see some of this in Joel 2. For, Joel 2:12-13 says, “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
From the cross, before his earthly and heavenly army, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) This is both Jesus telling us that it is okay to return to God because he forgives and him stating that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
Do not fight. Return to God. He is forgiving.
This is what the Lord says before his army.