Today’s selected reading begins in the Old Testament prophetic book of Joel, and more specifically, is found in the first chapter of the book. I remember reading a book by the late Leonard Ravenhill, and in one of the chapters within the book, he wrote how every preacher should spend a week, a month, perhaps even a year preaching from the book of Joel. He wrote that the amount of truth and application that is contained within the book are paramount to awakening and renewal within a nation. He declared that every preacher ought to preach at least one message from the text found within the book of Joel—anointed by the person, power and presence of the Spirit of the living God. When I began reading the text, the words, and the language that is contained within the prophetic book of Joel—even within the first chapter alone—I was immediately captivated by the tremendous power that surrounds the prophetic message he proclaimed to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. As I began reading the first chapter, I began to immediately notice the call to action which the prophet Joel issued according to the word of the Lord which came to him. What is so absolutely incredible about the first chapter of the prophetic book of Joel is that it contains a number of calls to action from the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. In other words, it wasn’t just the prophet Joel delivering the prophetic word of the Lord, and the people hearing the words, but it was connected to various calls to action.
The prophetic word of Joel demanded more than just hearing and listening, but it demanded a response to that which was being proclaimed. Away with preaching that merely tickles the ear and doesn’t demand response from the people of God. Away with messages that are catered to suit the ears and senses of the congregants, yet doesn’t demand any type of response from them. Away with all manners of preaching that allows congregants to remain comfortable in their seats or pews, and merely listen to the message and then leave without being changed or transformed. Away with preaching and teaching that allows men and women to remain in their sin, and to remain in the same condition they were when they entered the sanctuary and house of the Lord. Oh that there would be a revival and an awakening of preaching that is actually accompanied by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and causes men to respond like those did during the days of the early church, when they asked of Peter, saying, “What must we do to be saved?” Tell me—when was the last time you heard a message preached that caused you to immediately respond with all your heart, and you couldn’t remain in the same position or condition you were in when you walked through the front door. Oh that the Spirit of the Lord would anoint, inspire, and animate ministers and preachers in the land today, who can and will do more than just preach clever messages with persuasive and flowery words, but actually preach with the fire, the authority, the unction, the power, and the glory of the Lord upon them.
If you read this particular chapter slowly, carefully and deliberately, you will notice several calls to action—several demands to respond—set forth and issued by the prophet Joel. In the second verse of this chapter you will encounter the first call to action, and the first call to response: “Hear this, O elders, and listen all inhabitants of the land” (Joel 1:2). The first call to response is one of hearing and listening to the prophetic word of the Lord, which He had released in that generation. Oh, there is a powerful call in this generation for men and women to hear and to listen to the prophetic word and voice of the Lord speaking to the inhabitants of the land. The first call to action, and the first call to response is always the call to hear and listen to the voice of the Spirit, for to each of the seven churches mentioned in the book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, He commanded the churches, saying, “Let him who has an ear, hear what the Spirit is speaking to the churches.” Oh, the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is speaking to the churches, and He is raising up prophetic voices—voices of those crying out in the wilderness—and is calling on the inhabitants of the land to listen. You will find the second call to action in the third verse: “Tell your sons about it, and let your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation” (Joel 1:3). In other words, while the first call to action was to hear and to listen to the word and voice of the Lord speaking in that generation, there was to be a proclamation that was to be issued in the land to future generations.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was speaking to that generation through the prophetic voice and ministry of Joel, but that generation was to take that message and tell it to future generations. Perhaps, the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord desired that this generation make known to future generations the word of the Lord, and perhaps even the climate and condition of the land at that time as a warning to future generations that would emerge. Tell me—what are you doing to warn the next generation, and future generations concerning the word of the Lord which is being spoken in this generation. What are you doing to speak to future generations concerning that which the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is speaking, in order that they might know and understand, and in order that they might not make the same mistakes we have made. I am convinced that one of the single greatest challenges that faces any generation is the willingness and the ability to teach, to train, to warn, to caution, to encourage, and to challenge the generation that will proceed and follow after them. This is perhaps the single greatest reason why when speaking to the children of Israel concerning the Law given to Moses, the Lord instructed them to bind it on their fingers, and on their foreheads, and on their garments, and to teach their children, and to teach their children’s children, and to teach their children’s children’s children, in order that future generations might know and understand what the Lord requires of them.
When you come to the fifth verse, you will find another call to action, and demand for response being raised and issued by the prophet Joel: “Awake, drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you wine drinkers, on account of the sweet wine that is cut off from your mouth” (Joel 1:5). AWAKE! WEEP! WAIL! Oh, I believe with all my heart that the order and progression that is found in this verse is truly accurate, for you cannot and must not expect those who have yet to be awakened to weep and to wail. There is a tremendous awakening that needs to take place in this generation, in order that men and women might weep and wail before the Lord. If there is one thing we as the people of God must desperately cry out to the Lord for, it’s that men and women might be awakened—awakened from their stupor, and might weep and wail before the Lord. I have personally never been drunk, and have never woken up after a drunken night of debauchery and lack of restraint, but I have seen examples of what it is like for men and women to wake up the following morning after allowing themselves to become so intoxicated, and so inebriated the night before, and more often than not, the massive amount of regret and remorse that surrounds their actions. I am convinced that such a reality needs to take place and be present within this generation, for drunkards and wine drinkers alike need to be awakened from their stupor. Oh, as I read this particular passage, I can’t help but find myself asking the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord to invade each and every bar and brothel that is present within and throughout the land today. I am finding myself asking that the Spirit of the Lord would come alongside, and would encounter men and women who will leave work, and will immediately go to a bar, or pub, or brothel, where they will indulge themselves in drunken fits—perhaps drunken fits of rage, or drunken fits of discouragement, or drunken fits of depression, or drunken fits of anxiety. There are countless men and women who will attempt to drown their sorrow at the bottom of a bottle, and will spend countless hours during the night giving themselves over to the spirit of alcoholism. Oh that the Sovereign and powerful Spirit of the Sovereign God would completely drive out the spirit of alcoholism—drive it out from our homes, drive it out of marriages, drive it out of families, drive it out of churches, drive it out of work places, drive it out of the communities, and drive it out of this nation. There is a powerful call for the drunkards and drinkers of wine to awake, and to weep and wail before the Lord. Oh, what would happen if the wine, the alcohol, the liquor, the beer, etc. were removed from the land, and was completely cut off from the lips of all those who depend upon it? Oh that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord would infiltrate and invade the bars, pubs, and brothels that are present within this nation, and would arrest and capture the hearts of men and women. If Ezekiel could witness and experience a revival in a graveyard, or a revival in a boneyard, then I am convinced there can be revivals and awakenings in bars and pubs. Look at the great revivals of old, and see how bars and pubs were shut down on account of the glory and presence of God, and on account of men and women repenting before the Lord of their actions. Oh, this is the picture I see in my mind’s eye when I read this particular verse in the prophetic book of Joel.
When you come to the eighth verse, you will encounter and experience something that is even more alarming, yet it something I am convinced is true in our generation today. “Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord” (Joel 1:8-9). I believe with all my heart that within this chapter, there is a shift that takes place—a shift that takes place from the bars, pubs and brothels in the land, to the sanctuary and house of the Lord. There was a powerful call to action, and call to response that was being issued to the drunkards and drinkers of wine, but now, the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is addressing and speaking to the priests and ministers of the Lord. The calamity and devastation was not just present outside the house of the Lord, and outside the sanctuary of the Lord, but was actually found within it. Through the prophet Joel, the Spirit of the Lord was calling for men and women to wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth, for the grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. In other words, the devastation and depravity that was present within and throughout the land was actually impacting the sanctuary and house of the Lord, for the offerings which would be presented unto the Lord were cut off. Men and women would come to the sanctuary of the Lord, yet they would come empty-handed, for the grain offerings and drink offerings had been cut off. Worship of the Lord in His holy sanctuary and Temple had been impacted terribly by the devastation that had gripped and seized the land, and it was causing a very real and powerful sense of grief and mourning.
Consider the reality that in the ninth verse we read that the priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord, for the grain offering and drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. It is absolutely unmistakable that there are congregations, churches and sanctuaries right now where worship and offerings have been cut off from their midst. There are churches and houses of worship right now where worship of the Lord is virtually non-existent, and where sacrifices and offerings have ceased altogether. There are churches and congregations right now that haven’t experienced true worship with sacrifices and offerings in quite some time, and there is a very real and deep foreboding that is present among the people in the sanctuary. There are those who sense that something is awry, and that something is drastically wrong, yet no one knows how to fix it, or perhaps even how it happened in the first place. There are churches and sanctuaries right now where the offerings of the Lord have been cut off, and where men and women either are unable, or are unwilling to bring their sacrifices before the Lord. There are present within this land today in this generation churches and sanctuaries where the offerings and sacrifices have been cut off, and as a result, there is a tremendous sense of grief and sorrow and anguish that is present.
Tell me dear brother and/or sister—do you sense this reality in the midst of the congregation and sanctuary in which you worship? Can you see that the offerings and sacrifices have been cut off from the house of the Lord where you worship and gather together with others, and if you do, are you willing to weep and wail before the Lord in order that it might be changed? I know there are ministers and priests of the Lord today who see and understand this disconnect of the sacrifices and offerings that are being, and have been cut off from the sanctuary of the Lord, and who are deeply troubled and grieved because of it. Tell me dear brother or sister—does it bother you that offerings and sacrifices are cut off from your midst, and that worship of the true and living God is suffering in your midst as a result? Does it grieve your spirit when you see that true, authentic and genuine worship of the Lord has been cut off from your midst? It is a tragic day when the sacrifices and offerings presented in the house of the Lord are affected and impacted by the devastation that is taking place outside, and within the nation. Devastation was wreaking havoc upon the land of Judah, and as a result, the drink offerings and the grain offerings were suffering. Oh that we would recognize, discern and understand how the house of the Lord has been affected in this generation, and that we would cry out to the Spirit of the Lord that the offerings and sacrifices might be restored in the sanctuary and house of the Lord once more.
In the eleventh verse, you find the farmers and vinedressers being addressed: “Be ashamed, O farmers, wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine dries up and the fig tree fails; the pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree, all the trees of the field dry up. Indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men” (Joel 1:11-12). Here in this particular set of verses, the prophet addresses and speaks to the farmers and the vinedressers, for the devastation which had wreaked havoc within and upon the land had come upon the crops and harvest of the field. If you have watched the news for any amount of time over the past two to three years, you have seen that severe droughts and storms have absolutely devastated and ruined crops and fields in several parts of the country. In this particular section of the chapter, the prophet speaks to and addresses the agricultural part of the land—that part that produces the fruit and food for the nation. The enemy had so invaded the land, that that which brought sustenance and provision to the inhabitants of the land was being affected. More than this, since the agricultural reality within the land had been impacted and affected, it was costing farmers and vinedressers dearly. These were paying a tremendous and costly price, for that which they rely on for their source of income and livelihood had come under serious attack. DESTROYED AND DRIED UP—These two phrases adequately describe the condition of the fields, the vines, and the tress within the land, as all of it was being completely devastated and rocked by the invasion of the enemy into the land. The more I consider these realities, the more I am convinced that the adversary has infiltrated this nation, and has wreaked havoc within and throughout the nation. The adversary has touched absolutely every aspect and area of this nation—from the field to the house of God, from the vine to the bar, and so much more. Oh, are we aware of just how much devastation there is within this nation during these Last Days.
One thing that immediately sticks out when reading this chapter is the number of times the prophet Joel calls for the inhabitants of the land—inhabitants from all manners of life—to weep and wail on account of what was taking place within the land. The prophet wasn’t merely speaking to the priests and ministers of the Lord, but he was also speaking to the drunkards and drinkers of wine, and to the farmers and vinedressers. I do believe with every fiber of my being that there is a very real and powerful call in this generation for men and women of all walks of life to weep and wail before the Lord. There is a very real and powerful call to anguish and grief before the Lord over the devastation that has seized and gripped this nation. There is a very real and powerful sense that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is calling this nation to in these Last Days—that place of weeping and mourning before Him on behalf of the land. When was the last time you entered into your prayer closet and wept over your own sins? When was the last time you entered into your prayer closet and wept over the sins of this nation? When was the last time you entered in the prayer closet and wept over the sins in the house of the Lord? There is so much devastation that is present within this nation today, and the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is looking for men and women who will weep, and not just weep, but wail. Oh, it is one thing to weep, but it is another thing to wail. When I consider someone who is wailing, I see an individual who is so burdened and broken for the condition of this nation, and for the condition of the house of the Lord, that they expend all their strength and energy before the Lord weeping. To wail before the Lord means that one takes weeping and mourning to an entirely different level—a level where they weep uncontrollably before the Lord, and completely give themselves over to pouring themselves out before the Lord. Wailing before the Lord means that our weeping meets a desperate cry of anguish that is found within our hearts and souls, and we raise and lift our voices up before the Lord. Oh that there wouldn’t simply be weeping that takes place in the house of the Lord, but a wailing, a howling that takes place, as men and women lift and raise their voices before the Lord in anguish and agony and sorrow. The prophet Joel was perhaps one of, if not the only prophet whose message called the inhabitants of the land to weep and to mourn. The prophet Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, for he was one who constantly poured out his tears of anguish and sorrow before the Lord, but the prophet Joel was calling on the inhabitants of the land to weep and wail. It’s one thing for the prophet of the Lord—one thing for the ministers and priests of the Lord to wail—but it’s something altogether different when the people and inhabitants of the land weep and wail over the condition and plight of the nation.
I believe with all my heart that what we read in verses thirteen and fourteen of this chapter are the prophetic word and message that is desperately needed in this generation. “Gird yourselves with sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth O ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord” (Joel 1:13-14). GATHER THE ELDERS AND ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THE LAND TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD YOUR GOD! Do you want to see true and lasting change take place within this nation? This type of deep-seated change and transformation will take place when the elders and inhabitants of the land join themselves together in prayer and intercession at the house of the Lord our God. Oh that the house of the Lord would be filled once more with men and women who will lay hold of the horns of the altar, and who will cry out before the Lord on behalf of this nation. Oh that the leaders of this nation will be called and brought back to the house of the Lord, and will be brought back to their knees. Oh that the Spirit of the Lord would do whatever is necessary to bring this nation to their knees—to that place where every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Can you hear the call and the invitation to gather yourselves together at the house of the Lord, and to cry out to the Lord? It is high time that we wrestle with the Lord in prayer on behalf of our sins—on behalf of our sins, our struggles, our weaknesses, our infirmities, and the like. It is time that we come to the house of the Lord, and that the altars of the Lord would be filled once more. It is time that the elders, the rulers, the leaders, the officials in the land gather themselves together at the house of the Lord, in order that they might cry out to the Lord. Come and let us return to the house of the Lord, and to the the altar of our God, where we might cry out to Him day and night in prayer and intercession. Oh, who among us is willing to consecrate a fast, and proclaim a solemn assembly in order that the elders and inhabitants of the land might join themselves together in prayer and intercession before the Lord?