In his song “Jubilee,” Michael Card captures the essence of the gospel’s comfort when he writes:
To be so completely guilty,
Given over to despair;
To look into your Judge’s face,
And see a Savior there!
When we realize who God is, in all of His righteous judgment, and then turn to see all that He is for us in Christ Jesus, we stand in astonishment, knowing that the God who “sits to judge all the nations” is also “a refuge to his people” (Joel 3:12,16).
God intends to bless His people with all His rich and bountiful blessings. In order to stir up the reality of this truth in our minds and hearts, the Lord sets the stage, painting the picture of all the nations being brought before Him in judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat, in order to “enter into judgment with them there” (v. 2).
In that valley, the Lord holds the nations in contempt for all the ways they have oppressed His people (vv. 4-8), and then calls the nations to appear before Him as in a battle. The outcome is most certainly judgment and desolation (v. 19).
Joel draws a strong contrast between the nations and the people of God (vv. 16-21). Instead of executing judgment in the “winepress” of His wrath (v. 13), the Lord promises to make “the mountains drip with new wine” (v. 18). Instead of making a desolate wilderness out of His enemies (v. 19), the Lord promised to send a streambed and a fountain forth from His house for the blessing of His people (v. 18). Borrowing language that reminds us of the blessings of God in the garden of Eden, the Lord symbolizes the spiritual blessings He will give His people in Christ.
What makes the difference between Israel and the nations? Why has God promised to be a refuge to His people when they deserve exactly the same treatment as that of the nations? The answer is discovered in the references to Judah—“the streambeds of Judah” that will leave “Judah inhabited forever” (Joel 3:18-21). Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the One who drinks the bitter cup of wrath in the place of His people, so they can drink the sweet wine that flows from the mountain of His grace.
God’s promises are good and true because of who He is. As we look to Him by faith, we will find not just the face of our Judge, but the face of our Savior as well.
Written by Nick Batzig