Pastor Hans Fiene
Matins Devotion: January 24, 2023
There’s a wonderful bit of tension between our Old Testament readings and our New Testament readings today. So here in Joel, we hear of prophecy of Israel’s restoration that is quite bloody and war-like. In the Valley of Jehoshaphat, named after one of Judah’s most successful and faithful kings, God is going to pour out His judgment upon the unbelieving nations that oppressed and corrupted His people. Tyre and Sidon, the cities of the Philistines, will be destroyed, slaughtered, and made no more. So it will be for Egypt, for Edom, and anyone else who dared rise up against the people of God. Rejoice, Joel is telling us, because the vengeance of God will pour out upon the ungodly.
But then Paul tells us something that seems quite different. He tells us to bless those who persecute us. Tells us to repay no one evil or evil. Tell us to live in harmony, even with those who want nothing else but to cause discord. Rejoice, Paul is telling us, when the vengeance of God doesn’t seem to pour out upon the ungodly.
So, while there is some tension between Joel and Paul, this isn’t a contradiction at all. It’s just being a Christian. God is both a God of mercy and a God of justice. All sins have been punished in the crucifixion of Christ. All justice was carried out out upon the head of the Lamb of God who died in our place, died for the sins of the world. That’s mercy. And, at the same time, all who reject this gift, all who persist in their unbelief will not receive the benefits of that substitutionary atonement. And in particular, those who devote themselves to the persecution of Christ’s church will meet the wrath of Christ on the Last Day. Through their unbelief, they turned themselves into Philistines, Egyptians, and Edomites and they will be judged accordingly. Those who would not feast on God’s mercy will choke on His vengeance.
And either way, as Christians, we get to rejoice. So we pray for those who persecute us. We cry out to God for them to turn from their evil, to trust in His word. Knowing that we cannot hate anyone into the arms of God, we love them. We pray for our enemies to become our brothers even as they afflict us. And we do so rejoicing to know that the God who hungers for their salvation hungered for ours as well when we were His enemies. But we also will get to rejoice on the Last Day when those who persisted in their unbelief are reduced to nothing. We will rejoice as the enemies of Jesus Christ can no longer hurt us, afflict us, mock or taunt us. We will rejoice that their tongues will begrudgingly confess that Jesus is the Christ and never again be able to hurt us with their sharp words. This is the great joy of being a Christian. Whatever happens, God’s will is done and we win. No matter how much or how little destruction there is in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, through the mercy and justice of Jesus Christ, we have conquered.