This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction
The first section we’re looking at today goes from Joel 3 verses 1-16.
KEY VERSE: “I will sit to judge the nations on every side” (verse 12)
Here, AFTER speaking to the Israelites about their need to repent, God turns his attention to other nations. God sees what’s going on. He sees each time someone insults or hurts his loved ones. There will be justice, when God’s chosen time comes.
It’s not my job to complain. It’s not for me to doubt God because I see people who ignore him doing well for themselves. I should be concerned with what he’s doing in ME and in MY life – not looking to others, and what I think he should be doing with THEM. That’s GOD’S job. It’s a job he takes seriously, the task of providing justice to all. He desires MERCY rather than judgment, but he never sacrifices justice. (Take a look at the verses for more on God’s desire for mercy – Hosea 6:4-6; Zechariah 7:9-10; Matthew 9:10-13, 12:7; James 2:12-15).
KEY VERSE: “But the LORD will be a refuge for his people” (verse 16)
In the midst of shaking up the earth, in his most awesome displays of power, God is AT THE SAME TIME a place of safety for his people. He is PROTECTOR at the same time he is Judge. Those who abide in him have nothing to fear. No matter how it looks, I am safe and secure in God – AT ALL TIMES. He is strong enough to see me through the darkest night, and through the fiercest battle.
- Do you ever feel you are outside the stronghold that God describes? What emotions does that image of being outside bring up?
- We don’t always FEEL God’s protection, even if we know it’s true. What are some ways to TRUST God’s protection when you don’t feel it?
KEY VERSE: “then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion” (verse 17)
There is a point to all of this – sending disasters, sending prophets, calling the people to repentance, judging the nations. What God wants in the end is for his people to know one simple fact.
I AM WITH YOU
God doesn’t just visit, he takes up residence, makes a home in Zion – the heart of the nation. This is a permanent placement, not a temporary assignment. He’s not going anywhere. He won’t abandon his people. He is not, however, a silent statue, an unseen stalker. He wants his people to KNOW he’s with them!
He wants to CHANGE them by his presence. He wants to make them holy, set apart, separate, different, unique. He wants his people to be HIS people – marked, identified by their association with him. He will FORGIVE and he will BLESS and he will BE WITH them!
This concept of Yahweh as the God who LIVES WITH is found throughout the Old Testament. (Check out these verses for a taste of it – Exodus 13:21-22, 20:18-23; Numbers 14:13-14; Deuteronomy 31:8, 23; Nehemiah 9:9-15; Isaiah 34:1-4; Amos 5:14). The name “Emmanuel” even MEANS “God with us”. He was different from the gods of the nations because of his PRESENCE. He was really there with them. God does not change, so his desire to be WITH us, intimately, is all through the New Testament, too (see John 14:16-21; John 15; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philemon 4:9).
Why do you think God calls Israel his bride, and calls the Church the bride of Christ? He uses the most intimate relationship found among humans to describe his love and desire for us. He wants to know us and be known by us. (For a taste of God’s intimate love for us, see Isaiah 62:5, Hosea 2:14-23; Revelation 19:6-9)
Everything he does in our lives will comes back to this – that we might know him more. Not just because knowing him is good for us, blesses us (although it does) but because it blesses HIM to be known by us.
- How does “God with us” affect you, your life, and your relationship with God?
- Human relationships mirror aspects of the way God loves us and interacts with us. Which of these different relationships have you felt present at some point in your relationship with God?
- Best Friend