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THE VALLEY OF DECISION
‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision.’
What an impressive scene is that which engages the attention and awakens the astonishment of the prophet! It is that of a great multitude suddenly convened. The astonishment with which he is filled finds expression in the cry which here proceeds from his lips—‘Multitudes! multitudes!’ He sees them flocking from all quarters—he sees them meeting in one place. There is something very impressive in the sight of a great multitude. But what is the vastest assemblage ever gathered together on earth compared with the multitude which shall assemble on the great day of account? That will be a multitude which no man can number—all nations and peoples and kindreds and tongues, all the successive generations of men are then to be gathered together. But the word rendered multitudes has been rendered tumult, the din, the confused tumultuous noise which we may conceive of as arising from so great a multitude thus suddenly convened. And we can well imagine that this sound which smites upon the prophet’s ear is the roar of terror as well as of confusion. There they are gathered together in a valley, the mountains and the rocks are rising up around them and shutting them in, there is no escape,—all the circumstances are such as to awaken alarm, and to declare that the day of the Lord has indeed come.
I. The prophet reveals the purpose contemplated in this assembling of the nations.—This purpose is declared or suggested by the place and time of this assembly, as here stated by Joel. The place is the valley of Jehoshaphat, the place of judgment, the valley where the Lord sits to judge; and in the passage indicated at the head of this paper the place is spoken of as the valley of decision, the judgment executed there will be final and decisive. The word has also been rendered the distribution of judgment—the passing of judgment severally on all according to their deserts,—an idea which is in full accordance with the teaching of Scripture elsewhere. It will be the valley of the distribution of judgment—there will be the judgment not only of all, but of each, though the multitude is so great, and seems so confused, every man is to be judged;—no one will lose himself in the crowd.
II. The time referred to also calls up the idea of judgment— it is the day of the Lord.—‘The day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision’; the day wherein He will certainly execute judgment upon all His enemies. Every day is, in a sense, a day of judgment; but we are taught both by our own consciences and the Word of God to look forward to the day of judgment,—the great and terrible day. God hath appointed a day, a fixed and definite time, when He will judge. This day of the Lord is always spoken of as near. With the Lord the estimate of time is not such as we form; with Him a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. The day of the Lord is fixed, the time is uncertain only to us; it will come when the world is ripe for it.
III. This time, this day of judgment will be, the prophet teaches us, a day of terror to the wicked, but it will be a joyful day to the Lord’s people; it will be the day of their deliverance, because the day of the entire and final destruction of their spiritual enemies. And on that day they shall know, as they have never known before, that the Lord is their God, dwelling in Zion His holy mountain; and they shall know this, and others shall know this, because of what is then done, and the way in which the Church, long oppressed, is made at last gloriously to triumph over all her foes.
‘The scene of the great transaction described is laid in a valley, which is spoken of as the valley of Jehoshaphat, and also as the valley of decision. The literal valley of Jehoshaphat is a small and narrow valley in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and is distinguished by that name because there, by the miraculous aid of God, and without striking a blow, Jehoshaphat gloriously triumphed over a Gentile army. We can, however, scarcely do otherwise than suppose that this valley on which the eye of vision rested as the scene of the remarkable transaction which the prophet here describes, was an imaginary one, and was called by him the valley of Jehoshaphat—“Jehovah judges”—because of its being the place of judgment. But while we do not think that the prophet conceives of this act of judgment as taking place in the material valley of Jehoshaphat—a valley of very limited extent—there is no reason why we should not believe that Joel in painting this prophetic scene had in his view the great deliverance which God gave to Jehoshaphat, when Ammon and Moab and Edom came up against him, and the Lord turned their swords every one against the other. There do we see God judging and destroying the nations and delivering His people.’
CHRIST IN HIS CHURCH
‘For the Lord dwelleth in Zion.’
The preceding verses graphically describe the destruction of the enemies of the Church of God. These enemies among the nations are to gather together their mighty men, and convert the instruments of peace into weapons of war. All their mighty ones are to assemble in great multitudes in the ‘valley of decision,’ the place of God’s judgment. Brought together in all their forces, as if for war, they are to be reaped in one harvest of destruction: ‘Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.’ But, amid all this, ‘the Lord will be the hope of His people,’ and He will have His dwelling-place in Zion.
I. The Lord’s abiding Presence with His Church on earth.—The Church is this Mount Zion, this city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. (1) The purposes of His Presence are: ( a) He is the centre of its Unity. We are one in Him. The sun is the centre of the solar system, and Christ is this to His whole Church. There is nothing Christ so much desired, and nothing now so much needed, as the visible unity of the Church of God. ( b) For its security. The boat on the Galilean Lake could not sink with Christ on board: nor can His Church fail while He is in the midst. ( c) For its guidance. ‘Lo, I am with you always,’ etc. His promise has not failed. He is at the helm. ( d) For its triumph. He still leads forth the valiant hosts who follow the standard of the cross. (2) The method of His Presence. ( a) By His sacraments. ( b) By His Spirit.
II. The Lord’s Presence with His Church in Heaven.—‘Where I am there ye may be also.’ He is, then, the centre of the concourse of the redeemed. It is God of which the text speaks, and our Saviour is the eternal God. There His Church is perfected in Him, and He is perfected in it. There bride and bridegroom are for ever united.
Learn: (1) The unspeakable privilege of your membership in His Church. Into this privilege you were introduced at your baptism. (2) The unspeakable necessity of a holy membership in His Church. Only by this can you be transferred, through Christ, from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant.
(1) ‘ God’s dwelling-place. With this the description begins and ends ( Joel 3:17 ; Joel 3:21). His present home is in the heart of those whom He has redeemed ( John 14:23; Ephesians 3:17). But the glory of Zion in the Millennial age is that God will dwell there ( Ezekiel 48:35). Numerous blessings result from His indwelling. He makes “holy” every place where He abides ( Ezekiel 48:17 ; Ezekiel 48:21); assures of unfailing security ( Ezekiel 48:17 ; Ezekiel 48:20); and makes rich provision ( Ezekiel 48:18). The history of Israel has shown that national judgments result from national sins. The future will prove that all blessings, temporal and spiritual, result from holiness.’
(2)‘Jesus, Thy Church with longing eyes
For Thy expected coming waits:
When will the promised light arise,
And glory gleam from Zion’s gates?
Teach us in watchfulness and prayer
To wait for the appointed hour;
And fit us by Thy grace to share
The triumphs of Thy conquering power.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Joel 3". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany