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THE FINAL JUDGMENT REPRESENTED BY THE HARVEST
Joel 3:13. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
THIS is a remarkable prophecy of the destruction of God’s enemies. The prophet summons the executioners of vengeance to come up against them [Note: The valley of Jehoshaphat, or of decision, to which they are summoned, ver. 12, 14. seems to be not any particular place: It may rather be considered as an allusion to the utter destruction which his enemies (the Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Grecians, and Romans) should successively bring on each other. And it may have a further reference to the destruction of Antichrist, and of the wicked at the last day.]. They are represented as a field of corn; the command is given to cut them down; and the prophet instantly sees them fall; “multitudes,” &c. Our Lord delivers a parable resembling this in reference to the whole world. In a similar manner we shall improve the passage before us, by inquiring,
What it is that ripens men for the great harvest—
There is a ripeness to which every one must attain. The wicked have a measure of sin which they must fill up [Note: Genesis 15:16.]; the righteous have degrees of holiness for which they are reserved [Note: Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 4:13. Not that there is any general standard either of sin or holiness to which all persons must attain: There is no degree of sin to which any shall be impelled against their will; nor of holiness, which any shall be prevented from surpassing. But some are kept from more sin, and others are excited to more holiness, by the preventing of assisting grace of God; for sinners would commit more sin unless prevented, and saints attain less holiness unless excited.]: there are growing in the great field of the world both tares and wheat; and both are ripening for their proper end.
Sin is ripening some for vengeance—
[It unfits the soul for the enjoyment of God. It renders a person meet for destruction [Note: As dry wood for the fire. See Luke 23:31.]. It creates many horrors, which are foretastes of hell itself.]
Holiness, on the other hand, is ripening others for glory—
[It unfits the soul for the society of the wicked. It induces a “meetness for the heavenly inheritance.” It is a source of joys which shall be consummated in glory.]
The Holy Scriptures enable us to discern,
What are the marks of our being ripe—
Nothing can be more awful than the thought that a sinner is ripe for everlasting misery. Yet it may be justly apprehended that he is so,
When he is given over to a total insensibility—
[Custom in sinning will harden the heart and sear the conscience. When a person is arrived at such a state, he is fitted for destruction. This is both figuratively [Note: Heb 6:8] and plainly [Note: Pro 29:1] declared in the Scriptures.]
When he continues wilfully in sin against conviction—
[There are some who determine to hold fast their sins. These have reason to think that God’s Spirit will be taken from them [Note: Gen 6:3]. They may expect to be utterly given up to their own lusts [Note: Rom 1:28 Eze 24:13-14].]
Saints, on the other hand, may be judged ripe for glory,
When they simply rely on the Lord Jesus—
[We fix upon the lowest marks of true grace. Faith in Christ is exercised by the weakest saint. yet to that is eternal happiness annexed [Note: Joh 3:36]. Of consequence, he who possesses it must be fit for glory.]
When they unfeignedly desire to be conformed to his image—
[There is a great difference in the attainments of different Christians, and much allowance must be made for a difference in their respective advantages; but all desire to be “holy as God is holy.” “Vessels thus sanctified are meet for their Master’s use [Note: 2Ti 2:21].]
While space is yet allowed us, it becomes us to consider,
What shall be done when we are ripe—
When the corn has attained maturity, the sickle is put to it; thus, when our measure of sin or holiness is complete, we shall be reaped down—
[Our existence in the world is entirely dependent upon God [Note: Psalms 31:15.].” None can shorten or protract it beyond its appointed bounds [Note: Job 14:5.].]
The saints will be “gathered into the garner of their Lord”—
[Saints, at their departure, ascend immediately to God [Note: Luke 23:43.]; but in the day of judgment their bodies also will rise. They shall then be carried to their eternal home.]
The wicked will be “bound in bundles, and cast into the fire”—
[They, who die in sin, immediately sustain their just punishment [Note: Luke 16:23.]; but at the last day their bodies also shall be restored to life. Then shall they too be collected by the ministry of angels, and receive their final doom in fire unquenchable.]
Those who are ripening for destruction—
[You may easily discern your real state, but who can express the misery of it? You ripen, however involuntarily, every day. Notwithstanding your security, you will quickly fall. The great husbandman will easily distinguish you from the saints; and he will most assuredly, yea, eternally, separate you from them. But, through the mercy of God, you may yet be changed. Though you be tares at present, God can make you wheat [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.]. Seek then this divine change ere it be too late.]
Those who are ripening for glory—
[What thanks do you owe to God for his distinguishing grace! And how well may you be reconciled to the afflictions of life! There is no event which does not promote your maturity. Look forward then for the blessed period of the harvest. Reflect on the happiness of the state for which you are preparing [Note: No Wintry blasts, no scorching suns, no worm at the root, &c.]. Still seek the showers of the Spirit, and the influences of the Sun of Righteousness. Thus shall you, in due season, be transmitted to the mansions of eternal bliss.]
Joel 3:18. 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.
THE return of the Jews to their own land at some future period seems to be predicted so plainly and so frequently, that no reasonable doubt can be entertained respecting it. As for their future conversion to the faith of Christ, that is absolutely certain. But previous to their final settlement in their own land, there will be a violent contest with them in Palestine: but their enemies will be defeated with great slaughter: and after that will the long-wished-for period arrive, when all, both Jews and Gentiles, shall turn unto the Lord, and all “become one fold, under one Shepherd.”
Had the metaphorical expressions “of the mountains dropping with new wine, and the hills flowing with milk” been used alone, we might have supposed that the prediction related only to temporal prosperity, and the restoration of Canaan to that measure of fertility which it possessed in the days of old: but “the fountain coming forth from the House of the Lord” must have a spiritual import; and consequently the whole passage must be understood as designating and describing the Millennial period.
From this sublime passage we shall take occasion to consider,
The blessings of that day—
The terms under which these blessings are set forth, will lead us to notice,
Their richness and variety—
[There are no terms whatever that can give us a sublimer idea of the Gospel than these: its blessings are here represented as most reviving and comforting, most salubrious and nutritious, suited to every age, and every condition of the human race.
Let us contemplate them a moment. Reconciliation with God through the blood of the cross, is the first that obtrudes itself upon our notice: and O! who can tell how refreshing this is to a weary heavy-laden soul? With this, peace is introduced into the conscience, even that “peace of God which passeth all understanding.” Friendship being thus cemented between God and man, the person who was till lately an enemy to his God, and an object of his everlasting indignation, is now adopted into his family, and enabled to look up with a spirit of adoption, crying Abba, Father! To the Lord Jesus Christ he now looks as his friend and his beloved; and to the Father he draws nigh with confidence, saying “O God, thou art my God!” Now he has access to God at all times, with a liberty to pour out his heart before him, and an assurance that “whatever he shall ask shall be done unto him.” Now also he enjoys an union with the Lord Jesus Christ, even such an union as a branch has with the vine, or a member with the head: and, by means of that union, he receives constant communications from the fulness that has been treasured up for him in that living Fountain of all good. The Holy Spirit is now poured out upon him as a Comforter, and is imparted in all his sanctifying operations, to mortify all his corruptions, and to transform him into the Divine image. Assured prospects of glory are now opened to him, so that he has both the earnest and foretaste of his heavenly inheritance. But where shall we end, if we attempt to enumerate one hundredth part of the blessings which the Gospel makes over to us, and which are here characterized as “hills flowing with milk, and mountains dropping down new wine?” Suffice it to say, that all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, all that Christ has purchased by his blood, and all that are made over to us in the exceeding great and precious promises, all are ours, if we are Christ’s [Note: The blessings here enumerated should not be treated distinctly and separately, but collectively; and at the close of them, a few observations should be made on their richness and variety.] — — — But to declare fully their richness and variety exceeds the powers of any finite intelligence.]
Their universality and abundance—
[These blessings will not be so limited as they now are, either in the measure of their communication, or the objects on whom they are bestowed: they will “flow” in all the abundance of the most majestic “rivers,” and that even “to the valley of Shittim;” which being situated on the borders of Moab, and the shores of the Dead Sea, may well be considered as characterizing the most distant and barren places of the earth. There shall not be a human being to whom its blessings do not extend: for “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The high and the low, the rich and the poor, shall equally be partakers of them; for “all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest.” “Kings will be the nursing-fathers of the Church, and queens her nursing-mothers:” and with “the lofty firs and pines shall be united the humble box, to glorify the house of God’s glory, and to make the place of his feet glorious [Note: Isaiah 60:13.].” So universal shall be the reign of Christ on earth, that “holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the bells of the horses” which the peasants use in agriculture: the smallest vessel in the sanctuary shall be as highly sanctified as the largest; and “there shall no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts [Note: Zechariah 14:20-21.].” “All in that day will be righteous;” and so righteous as to need no addition to their happiness from any creature-comforts: “The sun shall be no more their light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto them; but the Lord shall be unto them an everlasting light, and their God their glory [Note: Isaiah 60:19-22.].” It is not in respect of universality only that “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea,” but of depth also; for “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven-fold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound [Note: Isaiah 30:26.].”
O glorious period! “May the Lord hasten it, in His time!”]
Whilst we behold such a period predicted, it becomes us to consider,
Our duty in the prospect of it—
This is doubtless,
To help it forward by all possible means—
[God works by means: and, however fixed the times and the seasons may be in the Divine mind, it is by the use of means that he will accomplish these most glorious events. The first advent of Christ was proclaimed by his Forerunner, John the Baptist, who by his ministrations “made ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And we in like manner are to act as heralds and harbingers of the Messiah’s second advent. As pioneers, we are to prepare his way. By us must his path be levelled, to facilitate his march: we must go before him, to “prepare his way, to make strait in the desert a highway for our God.” Through the instrumentality of men “shall every valley be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low; and the crooked be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord be revealed, and all flesh see it together:” yes, “by a voice crying in the wilderness shall all this be done: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it [Note: Isaiah 40:3-5. with 62:10–12.].”
Is it asked then, What shall we do to advance this glorious work? I answer, God has already gone out before us, and shewn us what to do. The Societies which, by his gracious providence, have already been established, shew in what line we may direct our efforts to the best advantage. The Bible is now translating into the different languages of men, and circulating to the ends of the earth: that is obviously the first and most important method of diffusing the knowledge of of salvation through the world. Mission Societies also are in full activity, sending forth pious men to preach the everlasting Gospel, and to explain to the benighted nations of the earth the glorious mysteries which are there revealed. At last, too, attention begins to be paid to that “people, wonderful from their beginning hitherto,” the lost sheep of the House of Israel. They are the people spoken of more especially by the prophet, in the preceding context; and they are the people whom God will make use of for the bringing in the period described in our text: “the fulness of the Jews will be the riches of the world;” and “the receiving of the Jews will be to the whole world as life from the dead [Note: Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15.].” To aid these Societies, therefore, and to unite our efforts with them, and especially by prayer to bring down the Divine blessing upon them, is the most effectual way we can take to accelerate the arrival of that glorious day. And, if we should not live to see the temple raised ourselves, we shall at least have the satisfaction of having provided materials for it, and contributed towards it to the utmost of our power.]
To seek the foretaste of it in our own souls—
[All these blessings are to be enjoyed now, as well as at the period before referred to. They are all promised to us under the very same images: “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.]!” This invitation is given to all without exception: “Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely [Note: Revelation 22:17.].” Nor is it in small measure only that these blessings may be now possessed: for our Divine Master says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water [Note: John 7:37-38.].” Let those who desire these blessings be in as unfavourable a state as “the vale of Shittim,” they have no need to be discouraged on that account: for “God will open for them rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: he will make the wilderness a pool of water, and dry land springs of water [Note: Isaiah 41:17-18.].” What hinders then, but that we should partake of all those mercies ourselves? If we really believe, as all profess to do, that the enjoyment of them will exalt man so highly in the latter ages of the world, and bring down, as it were, a heaven upon earth, surely we should now aspire after a foretaste of that heavenly feast; and “not give rest unto our God [Note: Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:7.],” till he “bring us to his banquetin-house, and till his banner over us be love [Note: Song of Solomon 2:4.].” To entertain an idea of the Millennium being a state of inconceivable felicity, and not to seek those graces and consolations which constitute its happiness, is a grievous inconsistency. Let all then be consistent: and now take their portion at that glorious feast which is spread for them in the Gospel, even “the feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined [Note: Isaiah 25:6. The particulars of pardon, peace, &c. may be here again touched upon.] — — —]
To those who think of religion as a source of melancholy—
[Does it wear that aspect in the passage before us? or can language be found to depict it in more lovely colours? Verily, if the transformation of a wilderness into the garden of the Lord be a joyful change, then is religion a source of unmingled joy and blessedness. But it may be said, that repentance and mortification of sin are painful works. True; but whence do they proceed? not from religion, but from sin, which must be repented of, and must be mortified. We are diseased, and must be cured, before we can enjoy health in our souls. If we were diseased in body, and needed a painful course of medicine, or the amputation of a limb, would any one ascribe our pains to health? Health would supersede the necessity of such a process: and when the soul is brought to the enjoyment of God’s presence, and the possession of his image, it shall “have beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” — — — Let this erroneous notion then be put away; and let religion be regarded in its true light, as an anticipation and foretaste of the heavenly bliss.]
To those who profess to regard religion as a source of joy—
[You are correct in your sentiments on this momentous subject; but you must remember, that religion is a source of joy to those only who live nigh to God, and devote themselves unreservedly to his service. To those who give to God only a divided heart, it can administer no solid comfort. Indeed they are less happy than the ignorant ungodly world; for, whilst their profession keeps them from enjoying the vanities of the world, their distance from God prevents them from having any delight in him: so that there is nothing but an aching void, or a corroding anguish, in their hearts. O ye professors of godliness, either follow not the Lord at all, or “follow him fully.” Live nigh to him, and walk with him, as Enoch did, and you shall never be disappointed of your hope: you shall never find that “he is a wilderness to you;” but you shall have the light of his countenance lifted up upon you, and “your mouth shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, whilst you are praising him with joyful lips.”
But we trust that many do really experience all the blessedness of true piety: and they will need no exhortation to diffuse the blessings which they themselves enjoy. The wine and milk which they find so nutritious and comforting to their own souls, they will gladly impart to others. Combine then, brethren, your energies for that purpose. The whole world, except a small inclosure, is at this hour a wilderness. The Jewish people, with all their advantages, have reduced themselves almost to a level with the Gentile world: for whilst the Gentiles are “without God,” the Jews are “without Christ, and therefore without hope” of ultimate acceptance before God. They believe not that Jesus is their Messiah; and therefore, as Jesus has said, “they die in their sins.” O! rise ye as one man, and hold out to them the cup of salvation; and labour by all possible means to lead them to the “living Fountain of waters,” that they may drink thereof, and live for ever.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Joel 3". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30