Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Joel (in many parts); Part 4

Complete Material Overthrow and Attrition 
“Awake, drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you wine drinkers, on account of the sweet wine that is cut off from your mouth.  For a nation has invaded my land, mighty and without number; its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the fangs of a lioness.  It has made my vine a waste and my fig tree splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast them away; their branches have become white” (Joel 1: 5-7).

An awaking drunkard is a graphic image of someone awaking to the reality of impending punishment for their behavior and the consequences of overindulgence.  It is the image of our day; the rafters are sagging and our homes are imploding around us.  The Assyrians that were to come and strip away all material prosperity is likened now to something even more ravenous and ominous, the carnivorous lion and his lioness.  The whitening branches are sheered so clean as to be without their natural bark or covering of protection.

Our armies are splintered throughout the world chasing phantoms on rabbit trails.  Our splintering fig tree is our fractured economy; our wasted vine is our wanton disregard for our national sovereignty.  The reality that a lion has, indeed, been spotted in the street or the open square is a terrible indictment; the irrational fear of the sluggard has come upon him with a vengeance.  When the slothful man said “There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets” (Proverbs 26:13) he, no doubt, was not so much afraid of lions as his duty.  It is this slackness of duty, this slovenly diligence, which lulls us all into a stupor not unlike a literal drunken one.

As Matthew Henry once said, “He [a slothful man] dreads the way, the streets, the place where work is to be done and a journey to be gone; he hates business, hates everything that requires care and labor.  When he is pressed to be diligent, either in his worldly affairs or in the business of religion, this is his excuse (and a sorry excuse it is, as bad as none), There is a lion in the way, some insuperable difficulty or danger which he cannot pretend to grapple with.”

The irony is that the indolent behavior of the elders during Joel’s day was the cause for the Assyrian lion to arise and traverse their way and streets; what they feigned to fear became the very fear that overtook them.  The mighty and without number, symbolized earlier by the locust swarm, is like multiplied small foxes that have overrun the vineyard and spoiled the entire vine.  The utter internal attrition being reflected externally reminds me of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, entitled “Carrion Comfort;” here it is:

“Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruised bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cheer.
Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Joel (in many parts); Part 3

Complete Material Overthrow and Attrition
“What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; and what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4).
The thoroughness of annihilation depicted by a swarm of locusts without number landing and devouring everything in your field of endeavor is a judgment without mercy, a railing rebuke, and so momentous an occurrence as to awaken almost anyone to their responsibility before God.  And surely, because of spiritual blindness, a complete material disaster is the only type of disaster that could have awoken them to their spiritual responsibility.  The completeness of this disaster is further accentuated by the four types of locusts used to devour all the material wealth; not so much the types as the fact that there are four stages of destruction.  Four is the number of material creation, the number of all that the natural eye can discern and therefore desire; thus, when everything material is stripped away every natural desire is unrealized and utter hopelessness sets in.
An interesting insertion here about the following verse out of Revelation and its pertinence to material attrition as a form of judgment in Joel’s day, Isaiah’s day, and ours: “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east” (Revelation 16:12).  The meaning of the river Euphrates is “fruitfulness,” and is often referenced as one of the borderlines of the Promised Land; it is the fourth river mentioned in Genesis that flowed out of Eden and it signifies natural vigor or material wealth.  Isaiah (in Isaiah 8) shed light upon its significance when he spoke of the river Euphrates overflowing its banks as symbolizing the king of Assyria and all his glory overwhelming the forces of Israel and her ally Samaria.
This false hope, this unwise alliance is exactly why the judgment comes, however, and further citing Samaria’s capital, Damascus, and implicitly identifying her king Rezin, son of Remaliah as the touchstone points of Israel’s sin gives us insight as to the nature of Israel’s sin and its magnitude.  Simply put, Damascus is all about superficiality and natural sight, and Rezin, son of Remaliah is a king of bling, an entrenched beguiling over the natural glistening gems of this creation and dimension.  As Israel was becoming bewitched through their affinity with Damascus, they thought to overthrow their more spiritual brothers, Judah and the house of David.  Their trust in the arm of flesh (Samaria) dictated a judgment from a larger arm of flesh (Assyria).
In an article just weeks ago (July/August 2009) a report was made about how the Euphrates river had been literally drying up lately; fruitfulness is drying up all the way back to the Earth’s Creational inception just as death had been rolled all the way back to Adam when the children of Israel crossed the Jordan to reach the Promised Land.  The implications: Kings of the East are magicians and sorcerers, the preeminent witchcraft users of men, those who pretend to be spiritual by originating a false life, signs and wonders from within their own souls, and when the river of natural vigor dries up, they are left with little option but to be divinely led to their death in the valley of Meggido at the feet of true Israelites (internally their souls are judged at the feet of their spirits). 

In other words, a natural famine on a worldwide scale is presaging a soul famine.  Even truly spiritual people, His real people, are suffering heavily today only because they have some of this pseudo-spirituality going on inside of them.  We are currently being judged to victory or condemnation as we are all being symbolically dragged to the valley of Meggido to meet our Maker (on His turf, on His terms, on His Day).
It ought to be a joyous occasion, but alas, if we have not bought gold refined in the fire or traded off enough of our carnality to be ready for this wonderful Day of the Lord it will be a day of wailing and irredeemable loss.  This Day of the Lord destroys anything flammable (our God is a consuming fire) and the very brightness of His coming, the sheer magnitude of His brilliance, will so inflame our fragile hearts so as to purge away all natural affections to such an extreme degree that every natural heart will burst asunder and every thought of every heart will then be open and bare before God and everyone. 

The amount of pain or loss that we suffer will depend entirely upon how much we value the thoughts of our own heart and mind and how much selfishness we were still embracing and hiding from others.  Beautiful in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints; horrible and shameful in His eyes will it be if we count our present losses and sufferings to be worthy of comparison to an outshining of the Lord alone on His own day.