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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Joel 3

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-21

Chapter 3

The Valley Of Decision

Still having before his soul the events that are to transpire in the day of the Lord, the prophet goes on to set forth more detailed information as to that long-waited-for season of Jehovah’s power.

It should not be overlooked that the expression “the day,” or, “that day,” so often used in connection with the ushering in of the kingdom, does not refer to any one day of twenty-four hours. On the contrary, according to the passage in 2 Peter 3:10, already referred to, the day of the Lord covers the entire period from the great tribulation to the passing away of the heavens and earth, thus ushering in the day of God, or the day of eternity.

Four dispensational days are brought before us in Scripture. The present is called “man’s day” (1 Corinthians 4:3, margin). The manifestation at the judgment-seat of Christ is in “the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6, Philippians 1:10).18 Then follows “the day of the Lord,” which is the entire period during which the once-rejected Lord .asserts and makes good His title to the earth. “The day of God” is the eternal state, and is only mentioned in 2 Peter 3:12.

It is therefore to this third great “day” that the present chapter refers, and of which the opening verses treat.

“For, behold in those 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” (vers. 1, 2). The scene depicted by our Lord Himself in Matthew 25:31-46 would seem to coalesce with this. He vividly describes the coming of the Son of Man in His glory to sit upon the throne of His glory, there to judge the living nations. It has long since been pointed out by others that this judgment-scene is something very different and distinct from the final judgment of the Great White Throne, as set forth in Revelation 20:0. There the wicked dead are judged and cast into the lake of fire, the righteous having been raised in glory a thousand years before. On the other hand, the judgment of the sheep and goats, as it may be called, is a tribunal before which appear the nations living on the earth when Christ descends to take the kingdom. It is pre-millennial. The Great White Throne is post-millennial. In Matthew 25:0 the sheep are rewarded because of their treatment of Christ’s brethren, that is, the Jewish remnant. The goats are condemned for their indifference, and even cruelty, to them. The same discriminative judgment is brought to our attention here by Joel.

The Son of Man will place His throne in the valley of Jehoshaphat. To positively locate this valley is an impossibility, as this is the only mention of it in Scripture. It is well known that there is a deep ravine now bearing this name just outside Jerusalem, separating the holy city from the mount of Olives. But it is likely that the name was given it only in view of this prophecy-not that it was so called when Joel spoke, nor yet for centuries afterward, as we have to come down to the fourth century of the Christian era before it is thus designated. If Jehoshaphat be understood as only an untranslated Hebrew expression, all is clear. Then it would read, “The valley of Jehovah’s judgment.”

There the Lord will sit to judge the nations who have oppressed and scattered His people, selling them into slavery and rejoicing in their degradation. No doubt it is God Himself who has permitted them thus to persecute Israel for their discipline; but that in no wise lessens the guilt of their oppressors. Therefore Tyre and Zidon, with all who have had a share in humiliating the Jew, will be recompensed according to their works (vers. 3-8).

Unquestionably what is especially brought out in Matthew 25:0 is the treatment of the remnant witnesses, fleeing from Antichrist’s bitter persecutions. Hence to minister to them is practically to own the claims of the true Anointed; while to be indifferent to them is to tacitly consent to the iniquitous sway of the false prophet. Therefore new birth is supposed in the case of those who “go into life eternal.” Of this, their works were the proof.

Thus we have detailed information in the New Testament account, which it was not God’s pleasure to reveal through Joel; but the identification of the judgment seems clear.

This, the call in vers. 9 to 17 makes abundantly plain. The mighty men of the Gentiles are caused to hear an alarm and to come up to Immanuel’s land. Turning the implements of peace into weapons of war, they come in great hordes to surround Jerusalem, as predicted in Zechariah 14:0 and Revelation 19:0. The whole land will be overrun with them; and all human help for the remnant of Israel, who cleave to the Lord, will be gone. Therefore they cry in the hour of their deepest distress, “Thither cause Thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord.” Knowing that the hour has struck when the saints shall take the kingdom, they turn heavenward in their affliction, calling for the descent of their once-rejected Messiah and His glorious train. The answer to their prayer is given in the riding forth of the warrior on the white horse, with all the armies of heaven, as recorded in Revelation 19:0. He executes summary judgment upon the armed hosts of the nations.

But this is not all. A sessional judgment follows, to which all the heathen are bidden attend. “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about” (ver. 12). This is identified with “the harvest of the earth” of Revelation 14:14-16. “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.” Nor will the Gentiles alone be judged and the wheat separated from the chaff; but the apostate portion of the nation of Israel, who had owned the blasphemous claims of Antichrist, will be cast as grapes fully ripe into the great wine-press of the wrath of God (Revelation 14:17-20). So we read, “Come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great” (ver. 13).

The fourteenth verse is a graphic depicting of the solemn scene-a verse which has often been utterly misconstrued. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision [or threshing]: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!” It is the day of the Judge’s decisions; not a time when men are being called upon to decide for Christ. The valley of Jehoshaphat becomes as a great threshing-floor where the Divine Winnower sits to separate all that are to share His kingdom from those who are to go away into everlasting punishment. Then shall every created light fade away into darkness, before the presence of the glory of the Crucified (ver. 15)! He, who will be revealed as Jehovah of Hosts, “shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem,” overturning and shaking to pieces all the framework of the civil and political heavens and the earth, as also all religious pretension; for the Lord alone will be the hope of His people and the strength of Israel in that day (ver. 16).

Thus shall the long-looked-for kingdom of the Son of Man be ushered in, and all Israel shall know that Jehovah their God dwelleth in Zion, His holy mountain. Then shall Jerusalem’s long period of Gentile treading-down be over; and, her iniquity accomplished, she shall become in very deed “the Holy City;” never to be trodden under foot of strangers forevermore.

The final four verses apply to that glorious era; yet for Egypt the desolation spoken of will not be final, as we know from other scriptures. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (ver. 18). It is a scene of plenty and refreshment which is presented, and concerning which Ezekiel adds fuller details in ch. 47 of his prophecy.

Then judgment will be meted out to Egypt and Edom for their past treatment of the people of Judah. Edom shall be blotted out forever as a nation. This the prophet Obadiah declares. Egypt on the other hand will be restored after having been punished for her sins. See Isaiah 19:18-25. Judah’s time of trouble shall bear precious fruit, leading to her full restoration and blessing; so she “shall dwell forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation;” having been cleansed from all their defilements, and made clean in His sight who will dwell in their midst in the city of Zion, His chosen capital. “For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion” (ver. 21). It would hardly be necessary to seek to explain this verse somewhat fully, were it not that in our day a wretchedly grotesque interpretation has been put upon it by deluded advocates of a disgusting modern religious fad,19 whose emissaries frequently confuse the simple by using it as their proof-text. The ridiculous notion has been put forth that a certain spared remnant of this age, are to have their blood cleansed (!) from all impurities that would result in natural death, so that they shall obtain immortality in the flesh. The context makes plain the fact that the words refer to the cleansing of literal Judah from the defilement of the blood of their enemies, which they have contracted during the unparalleled horrors of the great tribulation. They shall be henceforth holiness to the Lord.

A reference to Isaiah 4:4 will make this plain. There God speaks of the same glorious time: “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” In Lamentations 4:14 the prophets and priests of Judah are described as men who have wandered blindly through the streets, and “have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.” Thus, by the part they took in slaying “the Righteous One,” all Israel have become polluted; but in that day the blood of defilement will be cleansed away and God will be able to dwell among them. Many other passages could be noticed; but these are sufficient to show what is really intended.

With this, Joel’s burden is concluded. He has carried his hearers, and readers, on to the full display of Messiah’s glory. Beyond that, prophecy, as connected with the earth, does not go. Only in the hitherto secret things of the New Testament do we have unfolded something of those things which God hath prepared for them that love Him, who are to share His eternal rest, after time has run its course and ceased to be.

17 Some scholars dissent from this view; but the position stated is that which commends itself to most.

18 “The day of Christ” in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 should be “the day of the Lord,” as a glance at any reputable critical version will show.

19 I refer to the so-called “Flying Roll;” the doctrines of which are advocated in the misnamed “Pioneer of Wisdom” which has been extensively promulgated in England and her colonies as also in America.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Joel 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/joel-3.html. 1914.
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