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JOEL III. 14-17

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more."

In the connection of this text, we have a prophecy which was quoted by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost, and applied to the outpouring of the Spirit on the Jews and Gentiles on that remarkable occasion. See Acts ii. 16-21, compared with Joel ii. 28, 32. From the application made by the inspired apostles of the prophecies of Joel, we are fully authorized to regard them as relating to the present dispensation, and especially relating to things which transpired on and subsequent to that day. The outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, or on those out of all nations, was to precede what was called by Joel, and also by Peter, "the great and terrible day of the Lord," which day probably had reference to the day wherein God's judgments should be visited upon Jerusalem and the cities of Judea, in the terrible execution of which we have a striking type of the final overthrow of mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth. "For," says the Lord, by the mouth of Joel, "Behold, in the days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land." The valley of Jehoshaphat and the valley of decision, evidently are the same. The valley of Jehoshaphat literally is a deep, narrow glen, which runs from north to south, between the Mount of Olives and Mount Moriah. But as the name Jehoshaphat in the Hebrew signifies the judgment of God, it is probably used in this case symbolically to signify the place of judgment, or where the Lord would execute his judgment on the enemies of his spiritual Jerusalem, and as his judgments are final, allowing no appeal from them, they are consequently decisive, and in our text the place of them is called the valley of decision. It was near Jerusalem, and so may set forth the scriptural idea of the mediatorial throne, in the true and spiritual Jerusalem, where God has set his king upon his holy hill of Zion.

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision." These words present to our mind the same that was expressed by our Lord in the parable of the sheep and goats, Matt. xxv. 31-46, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats," &c. In the exaltation of our Redeemer of his mediatorial glory, he is crowned with a royal diadem, that he should given eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him. The place of his throne is upon his holy hill of Zion. The valley of Jehoshaphat, or of decision, is at the base of Mount Zion, and may signify not only the exaltation of Christ in his government, but the humbling of the nations before him. All things are put under him. (1 Cor. xv. 27.) The multitudes are in the valley, but Christ is exalted, and sits upon the throne of his power. The lamb stands upon stands upon Mount Zion.

"For the day of the Lord is near," &c. The day in which he should display his power in judgment, in decision, and in separating between the precious and the vile. When the temple worship should be abolished, the building thrown down, and the old Jerusalem should be destroyed; when he whose voice once shook the earth, should also shake the heavens, and in which the things that can be shaken should be removed, as things that are made, and the things that cannot be shaken should remain. (Heb. xii. 27.) The day of the Lord, in which the saints should receive a kingdom that cannot be moved, and have grace whereby they may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. In this valley of decision we may contemplate all the nations of the earth, including all the children of men of all the tribes and kindreds of mankind before the throne and power of the exalted Son of God, to be separated the one from the others, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. No place but the valley of Jehoshaphat, or of God's judgment, will answer the purpose. The Lord alone knows them that are his, and he therefore alone is competent to judge and make the decision, by calling his own sheep by name, and leading them out. This discrimination is final and decisive, and it is made in the judgment of the Lord, in the valley of decision.

"The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining," &c. The old heavens and earth with their luminaries should pass away, their elements should be dissolved, they should be rolled together as a scroll, and like a vesture they should be laid aside. But the Lord maketh all things new. The new heavens and the new earth appears, wherein dwelleth righteousness, or wherein Christ, who is our righteousness, dwelleth. The Lord God himself, and the Lamb, are the light of this new covenant dispensation. All the legal lights are put out. This holy city, new Jerusalem, which comes down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband, needs not the sun for a light by day, for there shall be no night there. The law and the prophets which were until John, they have attained their designs, and passed away with the receding heavens and earth; the types and shadows no longer aid the vision of the saints. The Lord God is the light, and in his light the saints have light. The perfect day is ushered in, for the Day Spring from on high hath visited us. The people which sat in darkness have seen a great light, and to them that dwelt in the shadow of death a light has sprung up. The Judge descends from heaven, the throne is set, power is given him over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him. Judgment proceeds; he calleth his own sheep by name. The dead hear the voice of the Son of God and live. His sheep hear his voice; he knows them, and they follow him, because he gives to them eternal life; and this is life eternal, that they know the true God, and Jesus Christ our Lord. His own sheep are put forth, and he goeth before them, and they follow him. Thus the decision is made, and the line is drawn with infallible accuracy between the precious and the vile.

"And the Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem," &c. Zion was the city of David, and the place of his royal palace in Jerusalem, and denotes to us the place of the mediatorial throne of the king of righteousness. His voice, which once shook the earth, shall again not only shake the earth, but also heaven, and effect the removing of everything that can be shaken may remain in the kingdom which he came to set up and preside over. His voice is figuratively presented in many parts of Scriptures in a variety of modulations. When on Sinai he spake in trumpet tones, and the thunder of his voice shook the mountain; and the mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like lambs. He spake tot he prophet Elijah in a still small voice, or sound. And in a voice familiar to all his flock, he calls his own sheep by name, and they know his voice, and they follow him. The hour cometh, and now is, in which the dead shall hear his voice, and they that hear shall live. His voice has power to allay the fury of the tempest, and allay the raging tumult of the sea. With his voice he speaks the word, and it stands fast; he commands, and it is done. And the hour shall come in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life eternal, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation. But in our text it is said that he shall roar out of Zion. This figurative term seems to agree with the account given by John, Rev. i. 15, "And his voice as the sound of many waters." Also Rev. x. 3, "And cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth; and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices." As the multitudes, nations and tongues of the universe are figuratively called waters, the voice of our God, when sounded though the voice be the same, yet uttered through the gifts bestowed on Zion, resembles the sound of many waters. Roaring and unintelligible to the enemies, but known the joyful sound. "And he shall utter his voice from Jerusalem." In the proclamation of the everlasting gospel, especially through the inspired apostles, they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and preached his gospel to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

"And the heavens and the earth shall shake." This shaking, at the introduction of the new heavens and the new earth, as we have seen by reference to Heb. xii. 27, 28, signified the removing of the covenant which waxed old, with the things which could be shaken, which were not immutable; and it may also relate to the breaking in pieces all the kingdoms of this world, as set forth by the prophecy of Daniel in the interpretation of the king's dream of the stone taken from the mountain without hands, &c. Not only in the abolition of Jewish rites and ceremonies, in the introduction of the gospel ministration, but throughout all time where a vestage of legality is found, it is shaken by the voice which the Lord utters from Jerusalem through all his saints. It may also relate to the judgments of God by which the man of sin and the powers of darkness shall be shaken, and finally consumed by the Spirit of his mouth.

"But the Lord will be the hope of his people." Under all these trying circumstances, God's people shall not be left without hope, nor shall they be sustained on a false or precarious hope. The Lord himself, who is the hope of Israel, and the Savior thereof in time of trouble, shall be the hope of his people in the day referred to in our text. They shall see the folly of hoping in anything else. All other hopes must utterly fail; but the hope of his people is like an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and entering into that within the vail, for it is no less than Christ in them the hope of glory. Well did the apostle say, "Who hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace." Though the earth be shaken, and the heavens also, though the mountains be removed and cast into the sea, and the waves thereof roar and be trouble, though the nations of the earth be, as they are at this day, convulsed with war and carnage, though the thrones of mighty monarchs crumble and totter to their fall, and though even the church of the living God be afflicted with wave upon wave, God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early. The shaking of the earth and heavens shall remove every refuge of lies, and take away every other dependence, so that the hope of God's people shall centre in the Lord alone. This hope is among the things that cannot be shaken, for it is in God, and full of immortality, and confirmed by the immutable promise of God. We can then adopt the words of Paul, "In hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie promised before the world began."

"And the strength of the children of Israel." God is no less the strength of Israel than the hope of his people. They are truly in themselves considered a feeble folk, but their house is in the eternal Rock of Ages. The Lord has been their dwelling place in all generations, before the mountains were brought forth, or the world formed, or the earth, even from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm xc. 1,2.) They have no other strength to rely upon. He is their strong tower, and their trust is in the shadow of his wing. While their enemies trust in horses and chariots, and go down to Egypt for help, and while they rely upon their own will and power for salvation, and upon their men and money, their schemes and plans for the conversion of the heathen world, and they look to the power of earthly kings and legislatures to defend them, God is the strength and salvation of his children. He is a wall of fire around about, and a glory in their midst. He is the sword of their excellency and the shield of their strength. They cannot be surprised by an enemy, because they dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

"So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain." In the execution of all that is embraced in these predictions, God will instruct his children, for it is written, they shall all be taught of the Lord. He teaches them effectually, for, "Every one that hath heard and learned of the Father [says Jesus] cometh unto me." They shall know that he is the Lord, the Jehovah, the self-existent God, by the fulfillment of his word, in which he has declared the end from the beginning, saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. To know him is eternal life, and that eternal life they shall possess. They shall know him by his voice, for however terrible his voice may be to the enemies, his sheep know his voice and follow him; they are the blessed people which know the joyful sound; and they shall know that their deliverance and salvation is of him, and of him alone. But they shall not only know that his is the Lord, for they shall know that he is their God, according to the express provisions of the new covenant. "I will be their God, and they shall be my people," and they shall all know me, from the least of them even to the greatest. And they shall also know the place of his abode, and where to find him. "Dwelling in Zion." This is the place of his rest, and here he will dwell forever, for he has desired Zion for his habitation. He will abundantly bless her provisions, and fill her poor with bread. They know him in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, as God manifest in the flesh, and it is only in Christ that they can know him, for no man cometh unto the Father but by him. He is in the Father, and the Father is in him, and all who have seen the Son have seen the Father also. He and his Father are one.

"Then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more." When the old Jerusalem, which, like Hagar, was in bondage with her children, should pass away, and the holy city, new Jerusalem, should descend from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband, then should she be holy and without blame or blemish before God, who is her Judge. Christ is her wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, and she is freely, fully and forever justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Strangers and aliens sometimes passed through the old Jerusalem, broke down her walls, and defiled her sanctuary, but no stranger can enter this holy Jerusalem. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. And although we were all strangers and foreigners once, we are now made nigh by the blood of Christ, and are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God. The kingdom of God spoken of to Nicodemus, and this holy Jerusalem, mean the spiritual kingdom which is not of this world, which cometh not by observation, and which flesh and blood, even the flesh and blood of the saints, cannot inherit, because corruption cannot inherit incorruption. We all know to our sorrow that carnal professors who are strangers to God by wicked works, do make profession of religion, and sometimes have a form of godliness, and that they are nominally regarded as members of the church. But although they may have a name to live, they are dead, and they remain as ignorant of the kingdom while nominally members of it, as those who make no profession. They cannot see it without being born again; they cannot enter it except they be born of the water and of Christ. Every member therefore has life in Christ in common with all other members. These mortal bodies which are born of the flesh are flesh, and their inheritance is in the earth. They are under the irrevocable sentence of death. They must be sown corruptible, in dishonor, &c., but they shall be quickened and raised up by the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead; they must put on immortality and incorruption, and be raised spiritual bodies, and brought in by adoption, but not in the relations and distinctions which now exist, for in the resurrection they shall not marry nor be given in marriage; they shall not be distinguished as male or female, young or old, bond or free, as now, but all conformed to the image of the Son of God, who is the firstborn among many brethren.

Middletown, N.Y.,
Nov. 15, 1855

Elder Gilbert Beebe