We Repent, He Relents (Joel 2:1-17) by Deacon Neil De Arroz

So perhaps the story of Moses is one of the most famous bible stories of all time or at least in my opinion. When I was a kid, I remember distinctly that we had a betamax copy of the 1950s film The Ten Commandments. Then growing, there is that animated film The Prince of Egypt which is Moses. And then just recently when I was still a cycling addict, there is a destination that we go to in Antipolo called Camp Sinai, where we see a big model of the tablet where God has written His law and gave to Moses. So I think Moses is one of the most famous characters and stories in the Bible. So the reason why I selected Exodus 10 as our scripture reading is because I believe that the Locust judgment in our text points to that same account. Israel knows of the destruction that this plague caused in Egypt. So it should strike great fear in their hearts that the same event will happen again but this time it’s towards them. But there is a way for this to be averted and when God spoke to them through Joel, these words should be in the Israelites’ minds: If We Repent, God Will Relent.

Turn with me to our text this morning. So we will read from Joel chapter 2. I will read from verse 1 to 17. Joel 2: 1-17 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns, The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it “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.

Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

Brothers and sisters and guests, this is the word of the Living God. So as it was said on the sermon last Sunday, there are different views to the locust plague. There are those who take it as a literal locust plague, and there are those who believe in the metaphorical view which is a view that I hold on to. So the metaphorical view basically says that this is not a literal locust infestation but rather it is pointing to the captivity of Israel by the Babylonian Army. So the locust plague here is represented by the Babylonian Army who will bring destruction upon Israel. It is God’s army not in the sense na pinalitan na ng Panginoon ang Kaniyang chosen nation na hindi na Israel, but rather it is God’s army in the sense that God used them to chastise Israel. Chastisement is needed because after countless rebukes of Israel’s sinning, of their unfaithfulness towards God, we can see throughout their history they still continue to sin. And the Book of Joel doesn’t mention any particular sin but the point is they still do.

And so now, the army is taking shape. If in chapter 1, it was an agricultural issue in which they were cut off from their supply of food, from their supply for the grain offerings, for the wine offerings, they were cut off and all their harvests were consumed. Now we are seeing an even clearer picture of not an agricultural issue, but what seemed like a national invasion of an army that is so great that it lays waste on all the things that it comes upon. Of an army so great, it brings fear into the hearts of people and causes even the heavens to tremble, the sun, the moon, the stars; an unstoppable and inescapable army that was built and focused on one purpose: conquering everything in its path.

But there is an escape to this. That is why God says blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain. All of God’s people must know that this day will come. And also all of God’s people must know there is a way for this to be averted. Yet, even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart. This is very important news for them. But it’s also an important news for each one of us. The text teaches us to be alert, to be on guard, to not slack off because what’s going to happen in the future is of great importance. If in the text, this points just to a national problem, captivity in Babylon. Oh that picture is pointing to an even greater destruction. As the effect of sin, our turning away from God results in a due penalty that must be paid. Eternal death or eternal destruction. And yes it will be paid when the day of the Lord comes. And yes the day of the Lord will surely come whether we like it or not. And when it comes, as we have read in scripture, it’s not a pretty sight for mankind. There is no stopping the day of the Lord. There is no escaping it other than the way that God has decreed. God will relent if we respond to God’s call to return to Him with all our hearts. And that is my message this morning. Amidst Imminent Destruction, God Relents If We Repent. Amidst Imminent Destruction, God Relents If We Repent.

Two things that we will clearly see in the text this morning is first, There Is A Destruction So Great. There Is A Destruction So Great. But though there is, secondly, There Is A Grace That Is Even Greater. A Grace That Is Even Greater.

So let’s consider my first point: Destruction So Great. The day of the Lord as we can clearly see on the text, brings destruction that will cause trembling to all Joel gives a vivid picture of what to expect on the day of the Lord and it is again not a pretty sight. Let’s look at how Joel described it. Verse two says that the day of the Lord is a day of darkness and gloom. Oh they would know that it is God because this is how God appeared in the past. If you would go to Deuteronomy in chapter 4, when Moses stood at the foot of the mountain to receive the word from God, the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven wrapped in darkness, cloud and gloom. So when this army comes, oh no, yes, they will know it is from God. In verse three, it says the army is like a consuming fire. If the land is beautiful at first, ikinumpara sa Garden of Eden. If even if ganun kaganda, when this army of God passes through, it will be desolate,. It lays is waste to everything in its path. And verses 4 to 9 gives us the picture of a great army in chariots and war horses which are trained and gathered for one thing: that is to come after them.

I would just like to have this side story to give another picture if you, like me watched The Lord of the Rings in the the movie The Two Towers, there is a scene there called The Battle of Helm’s Deep. So what happened there is in there is this place Helms Deep is the name of the place. This is like the final refuge for the humankind. And what laid before them were Orcs and Uruk-Hai, so monsters na lang. Baka kasi may hindi alam yung Lord of the Rings. So may monsters, there is an army of monsters na papunta sa kanila. It’s like a sea of army, and as they approached, they were hearing every march of the Orcs. Imagine the trembling na nararamdaman nila.

Now in the text, it’s not just footsteps that is seen, that is heard. There is an army; you can hear probably the war horses as they march towards well, as Israel hears it as march towards them. So it’s really a frightening sight that’s why it says there that the peoples are in anguish and their faces grow pale. There is no place to hide, not even walls can save them. There is no point in going to their houses, locking their doors, closing the windows because this army will scale through it as they enter as they please. And the frightening illustration continues. In verse 10, to the point where the earthquakes, the heavens tremble, the sun, the moon the stars, oh they are so afraid that they will darken and withdraw from their shining. There should be no surprise that this frightening sight can only be because of the army that is of the Lord’s. We see that in verse 11. The Reformation Study Bible says “the relentless army is the Lord’s. He commands His forces, He commands His forces obey. The day of the Lord is great dreadful and unbearable.” So this points to uh, this is a scary scene. Again it’s not a pretty sight. But you know what? This points to an even greater day of the Lord. On that day, there is a destruction that will be so great that no one will endure. Because the world had sinned against a perfect and holy God, that day will come when the Lord will show justice. You know what? Even after all these scary, frightening illustrations of physical destruction, of a great desolation, that is not the greatest effect of sin. There is an even greater effect of sin. Sin destroys the relationship between God and man. Sin destroys the relationship between God and man. God created man and put him in the Garden of Eden if you remember when we studied in the Book of Genesis. God put Adam and Eve there to work and keep it.

And in the story of the creation, when everything was finished and created, God said it was very good. And in the garden is where God dwelt among His people, His creation. Everything was very good, everything was perfect, everything was beautiful under the authority of God. But sin entered the world. And with it, death came, decay, hard labour, pain in childbirth and there will be a usurp of authority. It was a consequence for the woman but to be honest, every one of us likes to usurp authority; more even the authority of God.

Mankind is so blinded by the illusion of having control over their lives outside of God’s authority that they run to whatever their sinful hearts’ desire. Sin makes man turn away from all that is very good, perfect and beautiful. Sin makes man turn away from God and chase after things that lead to destruction. If there is a more trembling sight than a place left in utter destruction, it is the sight of a foolish man that is running towards it. Israel’s destruction is a necessary consequence of their continuous unrepentant rebellion against God. Man’s ultimate destruction, which is eternal death, is a necessary consequence of our continuous unrepentant rebellion against God. And again it has eternal consequences that no one can endure. That is the gravity of the effect of sin. But the problem is we don’t see it this way. Sin is taken lightly. We think we can continue in our sinning without any consequences. Oh but there is a consequence! And the greatest of all sabi nga dito sa pagbalik uli ni Christ in Revelations 6: 16, it will cause the unrepentant sinner to say to the mountains and rocks oh fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated at the throne, on the throne. And from the wrath of the Lamb. I do believe na walang gustong mabagsakan ng malaking bato. That is painful, that is a gruesome idea. But an unrepentant sinner would choose that over him facing the holy and righteous and perfect God. Ganun ka-grabe ang mangyayari. And that is again, the effect of sin.

So for anyone who has not yet repented of their sins, do not wait for that time when you would rather have a mountain fall on you just so you could hide from God’s wrath, from His army so great that there is no escape. While you are still living, repent now. While there is still time, trust in the grace and mercy of God that is found in Christ which we will discuss on my second point. For my brothers and sisters in Christ, the challenge is this: tremble at the thought of sinning against God. Don’t even think of sinning against God. Just imagine where we are now all because of the sin of one man. I mean, well, before you go into blaming Adam, I’m not saying that we are not responsible for our own sin. But my point is that is where it all started. That is why we are here on this downward spiral of mankind continuing in sin and progressing in sin. Because of that one event. Because sinning against God did not cause trembling in Adam on that day. Do you tremble at the thought of sinning against God? Someone might say o grabe naman ang OA naman, trembling! Trembling! That exactly proves my point. If you think that trembling is an exaggeration of what we should feel when we sin against God, that exactly proves my point. Do not be surprised if you continue to sin. Do not be surprised when you experience the temporary effects of sin and then you wonder why, why? Oh well, we know why. Because you didn’t tremble at the thought of sinning against God. Do you remember Joseph? We studied about Joseph in Genesis. When Potiphar’s wife tempted him to commit adultery, there was no one looking. Potiphar wouldn’t have known and he could have satisfied his flesh. But what did he say? Sinabi niya dun sa asawa ni Potiphar na yung asawa mo, he had been good to me. Lahat ng authority ay binigay niya sa akin except yung ownership nitong place na ito. And then he responds by saying.. I mean he continues on by saying: “how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” As Christians, we know we are accountable to God and that God is with us and that God sees us. So even the slightest thought of sinning should cause trembling in our hearts, we compare that to Pharaoh or to any unrepentant human being. Pharaoh after experiencing destruction of a four days of death even, still did not tremble in sinning against God, still did not let the people go and look at where it got him.

There is a conference where RC Sproul was asked this question and probably most of you who like to binge watch Q & A’s of a reformed Theologian shows have watched this. The question for RC was that since God is slow to anger and patient, then why when man first sinned was His wrath and punishment so severe and long-lasting…. to which RC Sproul replied and I quote without emotion.. “The day that you shall eat of it, you shall surely die.” And instead of dying that day, he lived another day and was clothed in his nakedness by pure grace and had the consequences of a curse applied for quite some time, but the worst curse would come upon the one who seduced him, whose head would be crushed by the seed of the woman. And the punishment was too severe?!? What’s wrong with you people?! I’m serious! I mean this is what’s wrong with the Christian church today. We don’t know who God is. And we don’t know who we are.” Do you tremble at the thought of sinning against against God? If not, maybe we ought to know more about God. Maybe we ought to know more about who we are. Yes, there is a destruction so great. But if we can see in scripture for those who will repent and return to the Lord, there is grace even greater. And that is my last Point: Grace Even Greater.

So verse 12 starts with the clear evidence that God is willing to take Israel back if they would rend their hearts. So we have to take note, external repentance is not enough for God to relent on the destruction that is to come because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Verse 13 says their repentance must come from their hearts. Rend your hearts and not your garments. For anyone who is not familiar with the rendering of garments, it is an outward showing that you are in anguish, sorrow or pain so you tear your garment just like how Jacob tore his garments at the thought that Joseph has died. So rend, rending of garments. But here, God says I don’t want the rending of your garments. I want the rending of your hearts.. meaning I don’t want your deeds alone; I want your worship, I want the worship of your hearts. I want you to return to Me, all of you with all your heart. He wants them to depend not on what they can do but on what God can do, on God’s grace, on God’s mercy, on God’s steadfast love. Because to be honest, that’s what’s keeping them alive. It’s what’s keeping God from wiping out Israel from the face of the Earth because of His grace, because of His mercy, His steadfast love, His faithfulness to the promise that He has given through Abraham. It is… they are living and they still have the, they are still on the good side of God because of God’s pure grace and mercy. Can He not show mercy? Of course He could. God does not owe them anything that’s why in verse 14 it says that no one knows fully, or no one knows, or fully understands God apart from what He reveals to them; whether He will relent or not, whether He would leave a blessing or a destruction. It’s all out of His sovereign will. So since He reveals that He is God.. is a God of mercy and of grace, verses 15 to1 17 tells us that God told them what to do. Consecrate a fast, call a solemn assembly of who? Of all the people; gather all elders, children, even babies. No one is exempted! Not even the newly weds. Their honeymoon could wait. This is more important because if you do not take heed of the God of gods call, there might not even be a honeymoon for you. They have to consecrate a fast called a solemn assembly. They, with their priests in the front line, should weep and cry out to the Lord to plead with God saying Lord! Spare Your people! Let other nations not question Your power by sparing us because in that language, it’s as if saying na Lord, pag hinayaan Ninyo kaming sakupin at ma-consume nitong army na ito, ano na lang ang sasabihin sa inyo ng ibang nation. Kukuwestiyunin sila: “Where is your God?” It’s on that sense! And so they plead with the Lord: spare your people! The rending of their hearts should cause all of them to plead to God for mercy. That’s what will keep them from utter destruction.

Now in the same sense, that’s what keeps us from utter destruction. The rending of our hearts and our cry out to God for mercy. And don’t doubt that God will answer, because He will answer. You know why? Because God is slow to anger. God wishes that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance, Peter said. Because God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish or shall not be destroyed; shall not face judgment or utter destruction, but will have eternal life. John 3:16 So if you think about it, for us today, God has already given the answer. His answer is clear in scripture. His answer is Christ. What sin has destroyed?

Christ has restored. Christ restores the relationship between God and His people. Yes the relationship that was destroyed was between God and mankind, but the relationship that will be restored by Christ is only for those who will turn away from their sins and put and put their faith in Him. In Joel’s words, those who will return to the Lord with all their hearts. Sin is what puts destruction upon us. It is what put God’s wrath upon us but God as gracious as He is, because He is merciful and slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. He showed His love in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Paul says in Romans. He lived to attain, He lived a perfect life to attain the righteousness by his life of perfect obedience to the law of God. And on the cross, the wonderful exchange happened. He took the wrath of God the destruction that was supposed to be for us. And He carried it on Himself He nailed it to the cross. And there is certain hope that we will be spared because of what Christ has done because Christ rose again which means that the penalty of our sins has been paid. God’s justice is satisfied with Christ’s sacrifice of His life for us to be restored to Him.

Yes, that is grace greater than all of our sins. But you know what is even greater? Yes, God call us to repent so it seems like a command. But knowing that we won’t, He by His Spirit gifted us with repentance. God granted us repentance. Second Timothy tells us of the gentleness in the teaching that Paul is telling Timothy to be gentle in teaching, in correcting and being patient with evil. For what purpose? For the purpose that God may perhaps grant repentance to those who do not know the gospel yet. God grants repentance.. meaning us Christians, repentance, the act of repenting that we have is not of us. It is a gift of God so grace even greater indeed. If through sin we were alienated from God, enemies of God, in Christ we are welcomed home as sons, as daughters as co-heirs with Christ. That is the marvellous effect of the Gospel that not even the greatest of our sins can take away. Kaya nga sabi dun sa ating confession of faith na binasa kanina that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation, yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation to them that repent. Which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary. There needs to be a constant preaching of repentance because the fact still remains that there are remaining sins in us while we are still in the flesh.

So we could ask ourselves are we now as Christians really walking in the path that Christ has set before us? Or are we still continuing in the path of sin like Israel? Brothers and sisters, if in the first challenge, if we are even thinking of sinning against God, we ought to tremble. In our last challenge, knowing that we are still capable of sinning, if it ever comes to the point that we do sin, let us not enjoy it. Yes, because of Christ our relationship with God is secured, but in our sinning, we destroy our regular fellowship with God. Who among you has the confidence to pray to God right after nating magkasala? Di ba ang hirap lumapit sa Panginoon after nating magkasala? That is the effect of sin. Eventhough you are secured of what Christ has done, your daily fellowship with God is affected.

So our last challenge, yes, this is still applicable for Christians: rend your hearts because of sin, rejoice because of Christ. Rend your hearts because of of sin, rejoice because of Christ. A Christian does not enjoy sin, but rather engages in an unending battle with sin; a struggle with sin. The rending of our hearts is part of the Christian life. If you have been a Christian, kailangan mong matutunan na hanggang sa tayo’y either mamatay na or dumating na ulit si Hesus, there will be daily repenting that is needed.

Earlier in the sermon we heard, Luther’s last words, now I’ll get Luther’s first thesis from his 95 thesis. It says there “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent, He intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” David Mathis of Desiring God comments on that thesis is saying all of the Christian Life is repentance, turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saved sinners. Sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.” So daily, we should be pained by sin. But also daily, we should delight in the gospel of Christ because we know that God has saved us through Christ. So how is our Christian lives brethren? Are we being pained by sin? Nakokonsensiya ba tayo pag tayo nagkakasala? Or are we continuing in sin? Have we become so numb? Nagpapatuloy lang tayo sa pagkakasala as if wala itong effect. If you are, respond to the invitation of God. Ss God invited Israel, He’s also inviting us today return to the Lord with all your heart so that you may rejoice because of Christ.

One practical thing to do in the rending of heart because of sin and rejoicing in Christ is to involve yourself in a church. Be in a church where the trumpet is continually blown, that all of us may be on guard, commit to the body of Christ because that is where your hearts are trained to be softened as you hear the holiness of God and your sinfulness preach to you regularly. There is no other place on Earth that will better remind you of the imminent destruction where mankind is headed. No other place but the church. Parang yun yung essence nung verses 15 to 17. Where a solemn assembly was called, we all are
called to plead for mercy. The difference is in our gathering today, we are assured of the mercy because of the finished work of Christ. And as it has been revealed to us, then there is no other place where we can enjoy Christ better than in His body. Where else can you better hear the gospel than every Lord’s day? Sitting at the preaching of God’s word? How else will you be physically assured of the promise of God than when you are witnessing someone being baptised and when you are partaking of the Lord’s Supper? Yes, the day of the Lord will come, but assurance that we will face restoration and not destruction is given to us every Lord’s day. So why the question? Bakit buong araw? I think buong araw na Lord’s day is not enough.

Now this morning we heard Paul David Tripp made a trip with his son. This afternoon, let me tell you about the trip that the son made without Paul David Tripp. So to cut the long story short, Paul’s son asked permission to spend the weekend at a friend’s house. However, he didn’t really spend the weekend there so tumakas siya. Kinuntsaba niya yung friend niya na matutulog siya dun, and yet may pinuntahan siyang elsewhere. Nalaman ni Paul because the parent of the friend, nakonsensiya yung friend. Sinabi niya sa mom niya. Now yung mom niya, he told Paul. So that’s how Paul found out. And though he wanted to act in anger, God rebuked him through his wife. That he should deal with his son graciously and so he did. He prayed to God and dealt with his son graciously and this is what he said: “You have lived your life in the delight. You have made good choices. You’ve been an easy son to parent. But this weekend, you took a step forward towards the darkness. You can live in the darkness if you want, you can learn to lie and deceive. You can use your friend as your cover. You can step over God’s boundaries, or you can determine to live in God’s light. I’m pleading with you, do not live in the darkness, live in the light.” Brethren, when we sin, we destroy our fellowship our regular fellowship with God. But remember, God still extends mercy to us by continuously calling us return to me with all your heart. Don’t live in the darkness, live in the light. And if we sin, let us not be ashamed to run back to God. Towards the end of the dialogue of Paul and his son, the son responded to Paul. As Paul was leaving, he said Dad, don’t go! Then as Paul turned back to look at his son, the son said Dad, I want to live in the light but it’s so hard. Will you help me. Now, imagine in your prayer, if you are struggling, and you ask God our Father, that you want to live for Him but it is hard because of sin and you ask for His help. What do you think God response will be? Matthew 7: 11 says if you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him. If we rend our hearts because of sin, and plead God for mercy, and ask for His help, we can be assured that there will be an answer. God will help and by His Spirit, He will cause us to repent daily, by His Spirit He will cause us to rejoice in the wonderful truth of scripture, by His Spirit he will cause us to rejoice of what we know of what Christ has done. Christians have every reason to be in awe of God because despite having every right to pour His wrath upon us, He pours His love through His son and cause us to repent by His Spirit. The assurance for a true Christian is that amidst the imminent destruction, God has relented because we have repented and trust in Christ.

Let us all pray. Dear God, our Heavenly Father, again Lord, we thank You for this day which You have set apart for Your people to come together and worship You corporately. But more importantly, thank You that even in our worship of You, You give us a benefit, You give us grace in our regular reminder of Your
goodness, of Your steadfast love which You have shown us through Christ. Thank You that You have given away for us to escape the imminent destruction that is upon us because of sin. Thank you for giving us Your Son, Jesus, who took that destruction upon Himself not because He had sinned, but because He loved us, He loved us and He took that for us. Thank you that He had covered us in the righteousness that we cannot attain that way we can commune with You. And not like unrepentant sinners who hide at Your presence, we can enjoy in Your presence because of Christ. Thank You Lord for this truth. Thank You for assuring us of this every Lord’s day. Father, we pray and ask that You continue to remind us every day of our lives, to give us through your Spirit the willingness to regularly repent of our sins. And Father, always point us to the wonderful truth that is in Christ who has taken away the destruction that is upon us and restored us to Your loving embrace. Father, we thank You. Again, we love You in Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.


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