Thursday, August 23, 2007

23/08/07 Thursday in the week of the 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Thursday, August 23, 2007 Hieromartyr Irenaios, Bishop of Lyons;
Apodosis - Dormition
Kellia: Joel 3:9-21 Epistle: 2 Corinthians
10:7-18 Gospel: St. Mark 3:28-35

Judgment & Restoration ~ Final Judgment and Restoration: Joel 3:9-21
LXX, especially vs. 12: "Let them be aroused, let all the nations go up
to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the
Gentiles round about." In Joel 2:28-3:8, the focus of the Prophet's
Divine message shifted from a local devastation and recovery experienced
by the people of Judah to worldwide judgment - a great gathering of all
peoples in "the valley of Jehoshaphat" before the Lord (Joel 3:2).
Jehoshaphat means "the Lord judges." Now, in the final verses of Joel,
God proclaims His last dread Judgment and also His final restoration of
His People. How God's final Judgment and His glorious Restoration stand
in marked contrast to each other!

The image of God treading the grapes expresses His wrath, "for their
wickedness is multiplied" and "the press is full" with their evil doings
(vs. 13). At the same time, "the Lord shall spare His people, and shall
strengthen the children of Israel" (vs. 16). God commands all the
peoples who have been at war with Him as well as His People, the Church,
to "declare war, arouse the warriors, draw near and go up, all ye men of
war. Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your sickles into spears:
let the weak say, I am strong. Gather yourselves together, and go in,
all ye nations round about, and gather yourselves there" in the valley
where the Lord judges (vss. 9-11).

Still, the Lord assures those who are His own, that He, "the Lord shall
spare His people, and shall strengthen the children of Israel. And ye
shall know that I Am the Lord your God, Who dwell in Sion My holy
mountain" (vss. 16,17). Make no mistake: the Lord "is our God, and we
are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand" (Ps. 94:7
LXX). Therefore, in the shocks and trials of the last days, the Lord
will be the only secure refuge to which the Faithful will be able to
cling, for the tribulation shall be such as "has not been since the
beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Mt.
24:21). In fact, the Lord Jesus tells us that "unless those days were
shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Mt. 24:22).

Next, because great wickedness has been perpetrated against the Church,
desolation will come to whole nations "because of the wrongs," done to
the children of the Kingdom, "because they have shed righteous blood in
their land" (Joel 3:19). The Lord will avenge their blood, and not
clear the guilty" (Joel 3:21). God's Saints will be justified and
"Jerusalem" - the Church - "shall be holy, and strangers shall not pass
through her anymore" (vs. 17). The blood of the martyrs will be
reckoned to those who tortured and killed them. "Therefore," the Lord
counsels us, " be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do
not expect" (Mt. 24:44).

The great worldly kingdoms, including the enemies of the ancient People
of God, nations such as Egypt and Idumea, as well as all oppressors of
the Church through the ages, "shall become a desolation...a desolate
wilderness, for the violence done" to the People of God (Joel 3:19). In
contrast, the Lord promises that "in that day" of Judgment against the
enemies of God, the Saints will receive the opposite: "the mountains
shall drop sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the
fountains of Judah shall flow with water, and a fountain shall go forth
of the house of the Lord, and water the valley" (Joel 3:18). The Living
Fountain, Jesus, shall accomplish a glorious, eternal restoration.
"Judah," God's eternal Kingdom, "shall be inhabited forever, and
Jerusalem," the Church, "to all generations" (Joel 3:20).

Beloved of the Life-giving and Saving Christ, His grace of restoration
hath risen for us, like the sun, just as the Prophet promised. Let us
not come to the valley of Jehoshaphat as enemies, but repent and be
cleansed at the Fountain Who is our only refuge and true salvation.

O Christ our God, glorified in Thy Saints, in Thy mercy, save us by
their beseechings!



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