Posted by: lepages | December 15, 2010

Restoration from failure

Finally getting round to posting the notes from my last preach from Joel some weeks ago.

Restoration from failureJoel 2:18-32

Introduction
If someone says, I’m gonna say a 4 letter word, we tend to think about negative words, bad words. Why?

4 letter words are not only negative, some of them are the most positive ones around!!

Like ‘love’!

Last week we looked at some of the characteristics of the nature of the God we come to cry to.

We saw how he is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love.

John, in his first letter defines God with these words:-
‘God is love’ 1 John 4:16

The word ‘love’ is at the heart of the Christian faith – but there’s another 4 letter word which lies at the heart of the Christian faith, it’s not mentioned in our reading this morning, but the passage resounds with it – it’s the word:-

Hope

At the heart of the Christian faith is the fact that no matter how we have failed God, no matter how much things have failed around us, no matter how much we have failed one another there is hope!

For the people Joel spoke and wrote to, who had had their land devastated by a locust invasion, who had been called to cry out to the Lord and turn their lives around to him, he spoke hope.

If you haven’t got your Bible open at the passage, please turn to it, Joel 2:18ff

Having called the people to pay attention, having called them to turn round to God and cry out to him, Joel then shares the Lord’s response to the people’s situation, and what he supremely speaks of is summed up in that wonderful 4 letter word ‘Hope’

He speaks in turn of all the things that they have faced and he tells of the Lord’s response, he tells v18 of how the LORD will be jealous for his land and of how he will take pity on his people.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought of God being jealous for you??!!
Because as one of his people he is jealous for you, he doesn’t like it when something or someone else takes your attention. He doesn’t like to see you separated from him by anything.

And so the LORD replies to the people through Joel and addresses their needs – for those who have seen their crops, their vines, their olive trees devastated, he says I am sending you ‘enough to satisfy you fully.’

Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life and have it to the full’ John 10:10

God wants us to have fullness of life.

He turns to the people who have cried out to him and says ‘never again will I make you an object of scorn’.

I wonder if as God’s people across our nation, we were to really get our lives in order in calling out to the Lord, in crying out for our nation, if then the Lord would remove the scorn that is sometimes cast on those of Christian faith in our nation?

He then tells of how he will drive out the locust army that has invaded their land. And one can see maybe how a strong wind might have driven the swarms towards the seas, leading to their destruction.

I wonder whether in our time if we got sorted before God as his people, and the scorn that is so often cast upon a Christian perspective was removed if the voice of God might again be heard in our time, and bring influence upon the decision makers in society and lead to a restoration of economic conditions on a sound base, rather than a questionable base that still relies on living out of debt?

How should the people of God respond to the promises of God?

They should (v20,21) proclaim that God ‘has done great things’.

God has done so many great things for us as his people – we should proclaim them!

Joel says to the people ‘Be not afraid’.
He says to them, ‘be glad and rejoice.’

What failures are we facing?
Personally? Nationally? Globally?

We need to cry out to God about them, but we’re not called to wallow in them!
We have a God of hope who loves to restore and to give a hope and a future!

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

One of the things which has come out of our day of prayer on Thursday, and I’ve heard at other times, was a sense that maybe our current circumstances will provide an opportunity for God’s people to step in and meet needs, demonstrating God’s love and compassion in an easier way than has perhaps been the case in recent times.

Joel speaks to all that are affected by the circumstances they have faced.
He speaks in v22 to the wild animals!
He promises them that the green pastures, once destroyed by the invasion of locusts, are returning, that fresh growth is returning!

I’m not sure whether we have anything to say to the wildlife in our nation at this time, but maybe the economic conditions may lead to a reduction in emissions as people think more about their travel and perhaps choose better means of travel. Certainly my experience of train travel is that rail travel is a lot busier than it was 10 years ago – that has to be good for the environment!

Joel calls the people to rejoice again in v23 – the theme echoes again and again through the rest of the chapter. And he bigs up again and again the way in which God is going to bring not only restoration from the failures they have faced, but the way in which God is going to bless.
He points out how the rains have begun, and promises that they will continue in future times.

And what he says hints beyond the immediate physical need v23 ‘he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness’ – and in fact if you look down at the footnote, you’ll see an alternative translation possible is ‘The Teacher for righteousness’.

Maybe Joel is here looking forward, whether aware or not, to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, who will bring the first showers of a new sort of spiritual blessing.

And he promises not just adequate provision, but an abundance, ‘threshing floors…filled with grain, vats overflowing with new wine and oil…’ (v24)

I can’t help wondering again whether this is hinting forwards beyond the physical, to the spiritual blessing that is to come. Oil is sometimes used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit – and he talks of an overflow…. and as we turn the pages in a minute we see the prophecy which Peter was to say was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out.

It’s interesting that the vats overflowing were described as oil, but also as new wine…. and on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on people they were accused of being drunk!

Then God speaks again through Joel (v25-27) and he speaks of how he will repay his people for the tragedy they have faced.

This is the remarkable thing with our God!
When we fail before him, but turn again and seek to go his ways, he doesn’t just say he forgives, he pours out the blessings of his grace on our lives. (If you missed the week when we thought about God’s grace from Ephesians 1&2 then have a listen online or have a read of my blog notes – you will be blessed in reflecting on God’s grace!)

God promises a plentiful supply for his people, he talks of how he has worked wonders on their behalf and of how the people need never feel shame again.

You know that as God’s people, we need never fell shame before him, because through the sacrifice of Jesus, through the cleansing of his blood as we confess our sins to him, he not only forgives us, but he cleanses us and makes us holy, fit to be in his presence. If you have come before God and confessed your sin, your failures to him, asked his forgiveness and put your faith in Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf, then you stand before him now, pure and holy!

The LORD says, when we realise all these things – the wonderful future he has for us, the wonders he has worked on our behalf, the wonder that we need not be ashamed any longer, then we ‘will praise the name of the LORD our God’

And maybe, if we get a grip on the wonders that God has done for us, and what he may yet do for us, then in a short while, perhaps we will want to burst forth in praise to our magnificent God!

Then, we turn the page in our church Bibles and Joel speaks to something else.
Something that is way beyond the immediate crisis.

READ Joel 2:28-32

He speaks of a new spiritual dimension, a pouring out of the Spirit, which we read in Acts 2 Peter said was being fulfilled at that time and which is still being fulfilled today!

God says of his children – that’s you and me if you’ve given your life to God and been adopted into his family – that they will prophesy, that they will dream dreams, that they will see visions.
That is what God wants for you. He wants you to be able to bring prophetic words, dreams and visions, which to use the words of 1 Corinthians 14:3, will strengthen,encourage and comfort.

We need to have hearts and minds that are open, ready to hear what our God wants to say to us and communicate through us, whether those things come as words which he drops into our minds or images that he gives us whether we’re awake or asleep.

On the day of Pentecost the result was that they ‘declared the wonders of God’ (Acts 2:11), some doing so in tongues, other languages that they had never learned.

Part of the reason that God wants to restore people and give them a hope again after failure is that he longs that we might declare his glories to the world around us.

Do you sometimes find it difficult to declare the glories of God?
Do you wander what it means to be able to prophesy and speak words from God?
To see dreams/pictures/visions and sense that God wants to communicate through them?

Then maybe you need a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit.
After the day of Pentecost there were times when people were filled again with the Spirit – some times it was as they cried out to God, at other times it was as someone came and laid hands on them and prayed for them to be filled.

If you feel in need of fresh filling with the Spirit, then I would love to lay hands on you and pray for a fresh filling with his Holy Spirit, to pray that you will be released in declaring the wonders of God, whether in your own language or in another tongue, to pray for God to release dreams and visions to you, prophetic words which will strengthen, encourage and comfort.

If that’s the case, can I encourage you when we continue in worship shortly to come down to the front as we sing and I’ll come and pray for you.

There’s one final phrase in Joel’s prophecy that I want to draw your attention to – it’s in the final verse of the chapter and it says this:-

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

If you have never called on the name of the LORD, never called on him to save you, can I encourage you to do so today?

All who turn their lives around to him, who leave their own way of doing things and seek to follow him, who confess their need of him, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, will be saved.

God will rescue you and deliver you. He will give you a new life and a new future.

There’s no guarantee that it’ll be an easy life, but it will be a blessed life, and it will be life with a new dimension, a new spiritual life.

If you’d like to take this step you might like to pray with me and make it your own prayer to God.

If you take this step, can I encourage you to share it with me or with someone else after the service.

PRAYER

Conclusion
So, we’ve looked at Joel’s prophecy. We’ve reflected on living with failure, responding to failure and now we’ve looked at restoration from failure. What might it mean for us?

I don’t believe that God has finished with his church in Britain.
I genuinely believe that there is much more that he wants to do in and through his church.
So, as we come to worship we’re going to sing a song of affirmation, that affirms a faith in a God who is yet to do greater things in and through his people. After we’ve sung this perhaps 2 or 3 would like to lead us in prayer and response, then we’ll sing again and ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit and if you’d like me to lay hands on you and pray for you, please come down to the front.

Sheet
You’re the God of this city,
You’re the King of these people,
You’re the Lord of this nation, You are.
You’re the light in this darkness,
You’re the hope to the hopeless,
You’re the peace to the restless, You are.

There is no-one like our God
There is no-one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
and greater things are still to be done in this city.
There is no-one like our God.

678 Breathe on me breath of God

1924 Jesus my King, my wonderful Saviour

Communion

1632 Wonderful, so wonderful

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