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SERMON X I.

THE VALLEY OF DECISION.

LINCOLN'S INN, QUINQUAGESIMA SUNDAY.-FEB. 22, 1852.

JOEL, II. 32. " In Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as

the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call."

JOEL is probably an earlier prophet than Amos: I spoke of the latter first, because his message related to the revolted kingdom of Israel and threw great light upon the history of it. Joel is strictly a prophet of Judah. He does not merely belong to the south as Amos did; his words touch less upon

the

peculiar sins of the northern tribes than those of any other of the prophets previous to the Assyrian captivity. His book therefore recals us to Mount Zion and to Jerusalem.

The broad and obvious distinction between the history of the two tribes and that of the ten, is that the hereditary succession which was so continually violated in the one, is rigidly preserved in the other. Abijam succeeds Rehoboam; Asa Abijam, Jehoshaphat Asa. Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, becomes connected with the house of Ahab. His son, Ahaziah, is destroyed with the rest of that house XI.]

ORDERLY CONDITION OF THE TWO TRIBES.

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by Jehu.

A usurpation by the queen-mother for six years follows; the child Joash, the son of Ahaziah, is

preserved and becomes king. Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz succeed each other in strict order, though Joash and Amaziah both died by conspiracy, and Ahaziah became a leper.

If the regularity of royal succession is a point of difference, the regularity of the priestly succession and of the divine services is quite as remarkable a one. The feasts might be sometimes intermitted; the rights of the year of jubilee violated. But the temple which Solomon had dedicated was continually in sight of the people. The daily sacrifices went on there; it was the perpetual resort of seers who desired to know the innermost meaning of the covenant; to acquaint themselves with Him who had promised to fill the house with His presence.

An inference might be drawn from this outward regularity as to the inward state of the people which would lead us astray. We are told that in the days of Rehoboam

. “Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that their fathers had done, for they built them high places and images and groves on every high hill and under every green tree. And they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” Punishment followed directly upon their sins.

Shishak, the king of Egypt, to whom Jeroboam had fled, came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all." Still" Abijam walked in the sins

“ of his father which he had done before him." Asa is a reformer; he removes all the idols which his father had made, puts his mother away from being queen, because

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178

SUCCESSION OF THEIR KINGS.

[Serm.

she had made an idol in a grove, burns the idol and casts it into the brook Kidron. During these reigns the ten tribes are in continual war with the two: in Asa's time we even hear of a strange league between Judah and Syria to oppose Baasha, king of Israel, who had built Ramah that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to the king of Judah. All this is changed in the time of Jehoshaphat. He makes peace with Ahab and goes down with him against the Syrians to Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat seems to have made Solomon his model. We are told that he built ships at Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold. He might hope to restore union to the tribes if he could not bring them again under his yoke. In spite of his connexion with the idolatrous house we are taught that he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. In the book of Chronicles he is stated “to have set judges in all the land, throughout all the fenced cities, city by city, and to have said to them, ' Take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, and he is with you in the judgment.'” In the same record is a description of a great battle of his with the children of Moab and the children of Ammon and of others beside, and how they were smitten before a small host which trusted in the Lord. But the intermarriages with the house of Ahab led to two ignominious and idolatrous reigns, to the destruction of Jehosaphat's grandson, and the tyranny of Athaliah. She first seems to have established the Baal worship in Jerusalem. It was Jehoiada the priest who delivered the land from that worship and from her, and who restored and educated Joash.

Some writers assign the prophecy of Joel to the time of Joash. There is no sufficient evidence for that date exXI.]

JOEL A PRIEST.

179

cept this; that he must be considerably earlier than Hosea, or Isaiah, who belong to the times of Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz, and that passages in his prophecy show

, him to have been subsequent to Jehoshaphat. He is one of those prophets who appears to have been also a priest. In the history of Israel the prophet stands often in marked distinction from the priests. He is the witness for the true God; for the divine order; the priests as well as the kings are the patrons or authors of disorder. In Judah, as we have

seen,

the case is different. There were plentiful elements of division and confusion, but there was a standing witness against them. Kings and priests were open to the same temptations here as in the other part of the land. But it was probable that some would always appear to restore the old discipline when it had been broken through. At the same time it is quite evident that a strong necessity was beginning to arise in the land for witnesses against religious formality, as well as against the irregularity which is so frequently the reaction against it. It was the special vocation of the prophet to declare the meaning of his country's order, and thereby to prevent his brethren from mistaking it for routine. There was no reason why a priest should not vindicate his own hereditary work by fulfilling this function. After an unusual breach in the royal line and disturbance of the divine rites, it would seem likely that the two offices would be united. In later times they may have been quite as often separated, though Jeremiah an Ezekiel were priests of the temple at the time of its destruction.

This book of Joel is then a type of the early Jewish prophetical discourse, and may explain to us what distant events in the history of the land would expand it, and

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180 THE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS. (c. 1. & 11.)

[Serm. bring fresh discoveries within the sphere of the inspired man's vision. Joel speaks of a terrible northern army which is coming against Judah. It is an army of locusts, as really formidable as any human hosts could be. For, says the prophet, “A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth. The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses, and as horsemen so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap. Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. Before their face the people shall be much pained. All faces shall gather blackness. They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war, and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks. Neither shall one thrust another. They shall walk every one in his path, and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the walls; they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. The earth shall quake before them, the Heavens shall tremble; the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining."

I have quoted this passage, though it is probably familiar to you all and is connected with one which we shall be reading next Wednesday, because it may assist in removing some misapprehensions, more prevalent perhaps in the last century than in our own, but not yet extinct, respecting what is called the metaphorical language of the Old Testament writers. The eminent Bishop who wrote Prelections on Hebrew poetry and made a new translation of Isaiah

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