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A Study of Joel 2:12-18

Introduction

Everyone says they want to see revival. Each church says that they want to see large numbers of people reached for Christ. Every minister says that they want their community flooded with the gospel message. I have been recently studying church history, and it is truly amazing the similarity in patterns for many of the great revivals in America’s history.

These verses in Joel came at a time when Israel was turning away from God, when sin and violence was rampant, when God was no longer being honored. It was a call for revival, and I want to look at how we can apply these verses to our own situation here in our lives, in our church, and in our community.

Most Christians have an idea of what we mean when we say revival. But I wonder if we have a wrong notion. As I was preparing this message, it seems God was speaking to my heart that from the heavenly viewpoint, revival is healing. When people turn to God their hearts are healed, when people commit to Christ their souls are healed, when people return to God their spirit is healed. When churches heed God’s call, there is a healing in the church. When a community answers God’s call there is a healing in the community. When a nation turns to God, there is a healing in the nation. Throughout this study, I will be looking at not only revival but also healing.

Verse 12

"Now, therefore," says the Lord, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."

There are five things that God calls his people to do in this verse – turn to him, with all our heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.

Turn to God. God wants us to turn to him. He is calling his people to return and find strength and healing. Turning toward God means we are turning away from the things that distract us from God. These things may be sin, but they could also be the pull of the world and earthly comforts.

With all our heart. America is a society of people who make loose commitments and soft promises. Commitments don’t mean much to many people anymore. Instead of fulfilling our pledges, it is too easy to ignore them. So sometimes we make the same kind of commitment to God. We say I will serve God when it’s convenient and I have time in my schedule, I will obey God when I’m not distracted by other things, and I will work for God when I have nothing better to do. God wants us to turn to him with all of our heart. He does not want a halfway commitment. He wants all of us – our mind, our body, our spirit – committed to him.

With fasting. In many regards fasting has been neglected by the church. We find it difficult to sacrifice food or time or resources or talent for God. But God is calling on us to sacrifice – to be willing to spend time alone with him, in prayer, in fasting, and in communion. Let us be willing to give up some things for God.

With weeping. When we turn to God, we weep for all those lost opportunities – those times we could have been doing what God created us to do – serving God, helping others, and reaching out with the gospel message. God will wipe away those tears, but the problem is not too many Christians are weeping anymore. They’re too busy with their own concerns to think of what they should be doing for God.

With mourning. When we turn to God, we mourn for all the bad things we have done – the wrong desires, the selfish motives, the sinful impulses. We wonder how we could have wasted so much time, energy, and resources in such empty and worthless pursuits. It is only when we come to the place to mourn over our sins that we will be ready to give them up.

McGeecomments, "God says to His people whose hearts are turned from Him, "Repent." Repent means primarily to change your mind. You indicate a change of mind by turning around. It is true there may be some shedding of tears along with the repentance, but that is only a by-product of repentance. Repentance really means to change your mind."

Verse 13

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.

God is calling on his people to be genuine. When the Hebrews were mourning, they would rend their garments as an outward sign of grief. But God tells us to rend our heart, not our garments. We must be sorry on the inside, not the outside. Christians love to say the right things, but too often our heart is far from God. Instead of giving God only lip service, let us give him heart service as well.

Once again we are called to return to the Lord. No matter how many things you have to weep for or how many things you have done that will cause you to be mournful, God has extended an invitation for you to return to him for healing. Joel gives four reasons we can return to God – because God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

When we truly repent and turn to God, we will want to spend time in prayer. If we want healing in our life, in our church, and in our community, we need to spend time in prayer. In fact, all major revivals in the history of the church have followed times of prayer. Even when the church began on the day of Pentecost, it had been preceded by ten days of prayer.

R. A. Torreysaid, "I can give a prescription that will bring a revival to any church or community or any city on earth." His prescription was three-fold: First, let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God. Second, let them bind themselves together to pray for a revival until God opens the heavens. Third, let them put themselves at the disposal of God for him to use as he sees fit in winning others to Christ. Torrey went on to say, "I have given this prescription around the world. It has been taken by many churches and many communities, and in no instance has it ever failed; and it cannot fail!"

Verse 14

Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him – a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?

Israel was suffering ruin. Because of their sin, their food and economic condition was bad. Joel says that if the people will call upon God and turn to him, "who knows if he will turn and relent and leave a blessing behind?" The people could understand the idea of God providing them with grain and drink, because these were offerings that they made in the temple.

Perhaps you feel the same way as these Hebrews. You feel that your life is in a ruin. You have been financially or emotionally or physically devastated because of sin or disobedience. Just as God was willing to send blessings to Israel, he is also willing to send blessings to you. And he not only provides you with the physical and material needs such as the grain and the drink, but also with a spiritual blessing which is symbolized by the bread and the wine, just as in the Lord’s Supper.

Healing and revival take many forms. God wants to bless you abundantly no matter what your needs are. Allow God to bring healing and revival to your soul.

Verse 15

Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly.

Israel was instructed to call a solemn assembly. We need to do the same. Let us blow the trumpet in our community, consecrate a fast, and call a sacred assembly to pray for healing in lives and revival in our city. In the past few months I have been impressed to begin a monthly healing service in September for those in our church and community who are hurting emotionally, mentally, and physically. But then as I began this study in Joel I thought God was calling us to call an assembly for revival in our city. It was at this point that God seemed to speak to my heart and helped me understand that what is revival from our view is healing from God’s view. Without genuine healing in our soul, we can never be renewed in our spirit. There is no revival without healing. And revival is simply sending out the healing message from our church, out to others in the community. As we are healed, we will see revival. As others are healed, they will be revived.

McGeepoints out, "It is interesting that the word for preaching or evangelizing or heralding the gospel is a word that means trumpet. The trumpet call of the New Testament is the gospel message that we are to get out to the world."

Verse 16

Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.

In order to begin this sacred assembly for healing and revival, we must begin by gathering the people. Notice that no one is excluded. Everyone is called upon to participate – the elders, the children, the newly married, even the infants. God wants us to gather and to sanctify ourselves. Too often we carry baggage from the past that hinders our witness or our joy. Past sins, guilt, feelings of worthlessness all tend to pull us down and render us ineffective. God wants us to let our past go. Whatever wrong things you have done, allow God to cleanse and heal you. So let us plan to gather together the third Sunday evening in September for healing, and for revival in our hearts.

John Wesley wrote, "Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world."

Verse 17

Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, "Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ "

Notice where this healing must begin – it starts with the minister. It is essential that a congregation prays for revival, but it is also essential that the minister prays and leads the way. I think what often happens in churches is that the pastor is waiting for the people to decide to do something, and the people are waiting for the pastor to decide to do something. This verse seems to indicate it’s important that the minister lead the way. If the minister is not willing to sacrifice, to cry out to heaven, and fall before the face of God, how can he expect anyone else to get too excited about revival. Let us agree together that we will pray for healing and that we will gather together in a sacred assembly.

Verse 18

Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people.

If we are willing to do all these things, we have the promise that God will be zealous for his people, for his church, and for this land. God will hear our prayers and have pity on us. As we are approaching the end of the millennium, there are many people who are searching for spiritual answers. There are many people who are confused by the rampant violence and senseless disregard for life surrounding us. Many are hurting in ways that we can’t understand – emotional scars, mental anguish, spiritual darkness. As this year draws to a close, there may be some looking for a church to help them through their time of confusion. Can we be that church? Are we willing to spend time doing God’s work? Are we ready to share the wonderful gospel message?

In the 1700’s there was a great revival in America known as the Great Awakening. The revival was started with Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." But the secret behind this famous revival is interesting. Some believers in the vicinity of Enfield, Massachusetts had become alarmed that, while God was blessing other places, he should be passing them by. So they met on the evening before the sermon and spent the whole night in prayer. And as they say, the rest is history.

I would like to call upon the church to join with me and pray for revival, but not in the context of new members or bigger numbers. Rather let us pray for revival through healing. Commit with me to pray every day through the third Sunday of September and as long as it takes after that for God’s healing hand to reach down to broken lives in our family, in our church, and in our community.

And then on the evening of the third Sunday of September, let us gather together for a sacred assembly for healing. We will come to worship by singing, we will come to hear a word from scripture, and we will come to pray for all those who need healing – especially healing of the mind and of the spirit, but also healing for our body and financial and material needs. In verse 12 God said, "turn to me with all your heart." Let us be willing to do that.

Footnotes:

This study on Joel 2:12-18 1999 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 3, pg. 668 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers

The stories of Torrey, Wesley, and Edwards from Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations pg. 1152-1153 1979, Bible Communications Inc.

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 3, pg. 669 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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