Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
I was with a small group of believers last night, worshiping the Lord God before we entered into Bible study. As often happens to me, even as we sang songs of praise my spirit compelled me to search for a passage from the Word of God to read aloud. Yesterday morning I had been reading in Amos, and so my Bible fell open to that book, and then I backed up a page and found this verse in the latter end of the book of Joel. I did not read this one aloud, but like Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 2:19, 51), I treasured it in my heart until such time as I should understand it.
Joel is here prophesying about the day of the Lord, the final judgment of all mankind. The trials and tribulations that we now see will seem as nought next to God’s terrible judgment and the turmoil of the end times. (Read Revelation 6-19.) It is the time when people will be faced with the inevitability of God’s judgment. As the saying went in those terrible wars of the past century, “there are no atheists in a fox hole.” In those dreadful future days of the tribulation, there will be no atheists save those who willfully and pridefully reject the evidence of God’s wrath and mercy displayed before them. The Lord’s plan is to pour out justice upon the wicked and unjust who do not believe, and to save the faithful believers and acquit them of the bloodshed of their sins. Blessing will come to those who have chosen Christ and stayed firm in their belief despite the tribulations of life. Desolation and death await those who choose to blaspheme the name of the Lord and who have shed innocent blood and set up idols of all kinds.
On the surface, if we simply accept the English translation above, the multitudes of the earth will have an opportunity to decide something–perhaps to decide for the Lord. The Hebrew word here translated as “decision” is “chârûts,” which means cut inward or incised–like a trench that is dug or gold that is mined or a thresher that combs through the field with teeth. The root word is one that means to wound or pierce as with a sharp pointed instrument. When we think of decision, we think of it as an either-or choice that we make, but for Joel and the Word of God, the decision here is less about OUR decision than it is about GOD’s decision. The decision that awaits us in those final days is not about us “deciding for Christ”–a popular if somewhat misleading phrase in evangelical Christianity–but about Christ deciding for us, about His judgment of our hearts.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
Is there room, then, for us to make a decision? Certainly. When God has elected us and called us, how to we respond? Do we repent and believe in the gospel? (Mark 1:15) Or do we pay lip service to the Lord and invite His later condemnation? Or do we choose to disbelieve altogether, to ignore the evidence of the glory of God and His work in our lives, and instead follow whatever our chosen “gods”? (Yes, even atheists have “idols” in their lives.)
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!” What once was a fertile place shall be trampled under as all humanity faces the judgment of God. God will cut deep to see the true heart of each man, woman, and child, to see if they are truly the ones He chose before the foundation of the world. He will sort the wheat from the chaff, the grain from the tares, the sheep from the goats, the elect from the ungodly.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
We stand now on the cusp of decision, on the moment of incision, when we can choose to follow God’s election unto adoption or choose instead to refuse His Son and deny His name. We must cut deep to find the true intent of our hearts, whether it is to merely call Jesus “Lord” or to truly make Him our Lord, the ruler of our hearts and minds. Have we dug up the gold that shines as the light of God in our hearts, or when we cut deep do we find instead the dross of faithless “spirituality” and selfishness and pride? When Jesus threshes the field of our deeds and our speech, will He reap great storehouses of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), or will He find little healthy grain at all? When the Lord God draws us to the valley of decision, when the world seems to have fallen into chaos, war, famine, and despair, will we be among the faithful whose number will be counted among the martyrs (literally “witnesses”) of God?
19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
20 “that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
One day, a little over three thousand years ago, the Israelite army was encamped in the Valley of Elah, there to face the army of the Philistines. At the head of that army was a mighty warrior from the town or tribe of Gath, who spoke blasphemy against the Lord God and His chosen people. In that day, while the rest of the army of Israel cowered behind their shields, a shepherd who loved the Lord, the little seventh son of Jesse of Bethlehem, stood up and faced this giant of Gath. This boy approached this armored and weaponed warrior with just five stones and a sling. And he prevailed. The Lord God propelled that first and only rock from the sling of David and it dug deep into the forehead of Goliath, felling this blasphemous enemy like a ox. God showed His decision by letting the meek humble the mighty, by letting the faithful be left standing as the enemies of God fell. (1 Samuel 17)
In the valley of decision, God will perform a similar work. In that day, the Lord will cut furrows in the soil of our hearts to see how deep His Word truly runs. He will fell the mighty and prideful, destroy those who prey upon the innocent, He will put the sickle to the harvest and keep only the good and the just and the faithful. Even as the heavens and earth shake under His terrible wrath, the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of His children.
Come, then, and let us cut deep into our own hearts, and see what the Lord will find there. Let us examine ourselves for repentance and faith, and see if Jesus truly is Lord of our lives. Whatever we find there, know this: the Lord will find more. Today, there is still time to plow up the fertile ground and allow the seed of the gospel to grow in our hearts. We know that the day of the Lord is coming, and when it comes it shall be as fire and melting heat. (2 Peter 3:5-7) Knowing this, what manner of persons ought we to be “in holy conduct and godliness”? (2 Peter 3:11-12) The decision right now is ours, but in the end days, in that valley of decision, it will be the Lord’s. Let us decide now, before it is too late.
Righteous and Holy God, Maker of all the universe and Savior of all whom You have called, I have made my decision. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. But I know, Father, that there are many who have not made that decision, and many who have not truly been presented with the gospel and had the opportunity to choose life. Let my words be Your Word, Lord God, and let Your will be worked through me, to bring believers to You, always to Your glory. May my life be used as You see fit to help multitudes decide today–before that day when You decide for them. Amen.