Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. 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. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 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. (Joel 3:9-15)
Outside of the U.N. building in New York City, is a park. In the park is a wall, and on the wall is a scripture which contains perhaps the most beloved promise of the Bible to the unbelieving world. It is found in a couple of places in Scripture, Isaiah chapter two, and in Micah chapter four,
… They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation. Nor shall they learn war anymore.” — Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3.
This is the ideal for the World; John Lennon wrote an atheistic anthem to this ideal called “Imagine”, is what the U.N. would love to see, as well as humanism, Communism, Atheism, and any other expression of secular humanism. To their credit the secular humanist doesn’t want war, they all desperately want peace. I don’t fault them I want it too.
This scripture is a favorite among the people of the world, whatever their religion. Peace among nations, the conversion of tanks into tractors, and rifles into fishing poles is definitely an ideal. There is no question that the world wants to see this part of scripture fulfilled. Who doesn’t ?
But they remove the first section of the verse,
He (The LORD) shall judge between the nations. And rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation. Nor shall they learn war anymore.” — Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3.
In Joel’s high-definition vision of our day, the Lord actually inverts his promise, as He calls the nations to gird themselves and come to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to make war with Himself.
The passage above is a “taunt prophecy”, God is being ironic when he tells them “Let the weak say I am strong”. He is not trying to boost their natural confidence and self -esteem, The Most High is telling his enemies, something to this effect” Go ahead and tell yourselves you are strong enough to fight me…” .
Then he inverts the verse that the U.N. loves so much; to paraphrase, “Turn your tractors into tanks,Gentiles, and your fishing rods into rifles, arm yourselves and come and fight me…wake up and come to the valley of God shall Judge”.
He then refers to the harvest, which s normally a cheerful theme. In the Old Testament, the wheat harvest is a prophetic metaphor for salvation. The Psalmist proclaims, that
“They who go forth in tears, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless return again rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves”.
But the Harvest of the Vineyard is often a metaphor for judgment, as in this case;
…Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great… .
He tramps down the Vat of Grapes, and is splattered with blood of his enemies,as in Isaiah’s vision of the second coming of Jesus,
Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth. (Isaiah 63:1-6)
Perhaps this passage in Joel and Isaiah is what inspired an American songwriter when she wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic more than a hundred years ago-
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He hath loosed the fateful lightning with His terrible swift sword,
He has tramples out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
His truth is marching on…(Battle Hymn of the Republic,Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1861)
We are told mournfully, that there are multitudes in the valley of decision. A common misconception of this verse assumes that multitudes are in a place where they must make a decision, for or against the Lord. But by this time the decision has been made, for it is not an individual decision, it is a Judicial sentence that is being spoken of here, for this is the “valley of God shall Judge”, Jehoshaphat. To those multitudes, gathered in the Holy Land, the decision has already occurred and the sword of wrath is set , ready to execute divine Judgment! As it is written, The wicked shall be cast into hell, and all nations that forget God.