Joel 3 & Psalm 143


Chapter 3

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.

“What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their own border. Behold, I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will return your payment on your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far away, for the LORD has spoken.”

    Proclaim this among the nations:
    Consecrate for war;
        stir up the mighty men.
    Let all the men of war draw near;
        let them come up.
    Beat your plowshares into swords,
        and your pruning hooks into spears;
        let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”
    Hasten and come,
        all you surrounding nations,
        and gather yourselves there.
    Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
    Let the nations stir themselves up
        and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
    for there I will sit to judge
        all the surrounding nations.
    Put in the sickle,
        for the harvest is ripe.
    Go in, tread,
        for the winepress is full.
    The vats overflow,
        for their evil 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 are darkened,
        and the stars withdraw their shining.
    The LORD roars from Zion,
        and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
        and the heavens and the earth quake.
    But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
        a stronghold to the people of Israel.
        “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
        who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain.
    And Jerusalem shall be holy,
        and strangers shall never again pass through it.
    “And in that day
    the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
        and the hills shall flow with milk,
    and all the streambeds of Judah
        shall flow with water;
    and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD
        and water the Valley of Shittim.
    “Egypt shall become a desolation
        and Edom a desolate wilderness,
    for the violence done to the people of Judah,
        because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
    But Judah shall be inhabited forever,
        and Jerusalem to all generations.
    I will avenge their blood,
        blood I have not avenged,
        for the LORD dwells in Zion.”

(Joel 3 ESV)


Chapter 143

A Psalm of David.

    Hear my prayer, O LORD;
        give ear to my pleas for mercy!
        In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
    Enter not into judgment with your servant,
        for no one living is righteous before you.
    For the enemy has pursued my soul;
        he has crushed my life to the ground;
        he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
    Therefore my spirit faints within me;
        my heart within me is appalled.
    I remember the days of old;
        I meditate on all that you have done;
        I ponder the work of your hands.
    I stretch out my hands to you;
        my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
    Answer me quickly, O LORD!
        My spirit fails!
    Hide not your face from me,
        lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
    Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
        for in you I trust.
    Make me know the way I should go,
        for to you I lift up my soul.
    Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
        I have fled to you for refuge.
    Teach me to do your will,
        for you are my God!
    Let your good Spirit lead me
        on level ground!
    For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
        In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
    And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
        and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
        for I am your servant.

(Psalm 143 ESV)

For the Love of God

D.A. Carson


TRADITIONALLY, PSALM 143 IS classified as the last of seven penitential psalms, doubtless because verse 2 admits to universal guilt. Yet regardless of how important that truth is in the Bible as a whole, in this psalm only in the one verse does this theme surface. Most of the psalm is devoted to the troubles David is facing, occasioned by enemies (143:1-6), and David’s growing resolve as he focuses on following God’s way, regardless of what his enemies may do. Some observations:

(1) David’s initial appeal is to God’s faithfulness and righteousness (143:1). This is entirely appropriate, in exactly the same way that the goodness of a potentate or the integrity of a judge is welcomed by those trying to redress a wrong. The difficulty, of course, is that as we sinners appeal to the righteousness of God for vindication, it is easy to remember that we ourselves are horribly soiled compared with the clean glory of the unshielded holiness of the Almighty. Hence verse 2: David acknowledges that “no one living is righteous before you.” This is a tension not finally resolved until the cross (Rom. 3:21-26; cf. 1 John 1:9).

(2) If verses 3-4 wallow in the slough of despond, verses 5-6 find David beginning to climb out. On first reading the line “I remember the days of long ago,” a reader might think that David is succumbing to nostalgia, remembering “the good old days.” But he is not so foolish, as the rest of the verse shows: he commits himself instead to thinking of all the things that God has done — in other words, he meditates on all of God’s creative and chastening and redemptive acts in the past; he sets himself to meditate on the God of the Bible. Nor is this a merely intellectual exercise, like reviewing lists for an impending exam. David knows that this focus on what God has done is a God-given means of connecting with the living God himself, and that is what he wants: “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

(3) Three times in verses 8-10 David prays for guidance. Each petition has a slightly different focus. “Show me the way I should go” (143:8) reflects David’s confusion, but also hints that there are unique and individual elements to the guidance he needs (as there are individual callings in the church, John 21:21-22). “Teach me to do your will” (143:10a) now focuses entirely on God’s agenda (“for you are my God”). Knowing and doing God’s will is the very stuff of guidance.

“[M]ay your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (143:10b) is to admit that we may trip as well as rebel, stumble as well as stray — and always we need help.