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“Prepare for Judgment Day”

Pentecost 9 – August 1st and 2nd, 2009
Joel 3:9-21

How many of you have ever been through a hurricane? Let me take you back a couple of years ago to 2004.
My family and I were on vacation. As most of you probably know, when the White family goes on vacation, we
spend it in central Florida. In 2004, we were in Orlando in September, right during peak hurricane season. We
arrived in Orlando just about the time that Hurricane Charlie was unleashing its category 4 force on the Caribbean
islands. Two days into our stay at Walt Disney World, we received a written notice from Mickey Mouse himself
that the parks were going to close, something that never, ever happens - and resort guests were to stay in their hotel
rooms because Hurricane Charlie was headed right for us, and the safest place for everybody to be was inside, in
their rooms at the various resorts.
So, there we were, stuck in our hotel rooms for the better part of two days. The winds howled outside our
windows reaching a maximum of 120 miles per hour. The rain pounded against the door and against the sidewalk
outside our room – but we were completely safe. We stayed safe in that very dangerous situation, during the
hurricane because we received a lot of advanced warning about it, we listened to the warning and we sought strong
and sturdy shelter until the storm was over!
In our lesson from Joel chapter 3, we are told of another event that is coming – one far more dangerous than
an F-5 tornado, far more destructive than a tsunami, and far more dreadful and scary than a category 5 hurricane.
Today, we are learning about Judgment Day – the day when, as we just confessed in our creed, the Lord will come
again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Unlike a hurricane that we can track minute-by-minute on a
Doppler radar, we don’t know when Judgment Day is going to come. We simply know that it is near, and our Lord
Jesus reminds us that it will come like a thief in the night, unexpectedly. Thus, we are to prepare right now for
Judgment Day, because we do not want to be caught unprepared for the “Day of the Lord.” And how exactly do we
prepare for Judgment Day? Really, in much the same way that people prepare for hurricanes...listen to the advance
warnings that the Lord gives, pay attention to them, and seek shelter in the arms of your Savior immediately, who
promises that even when the unbelieving world is suffering destruction and death, we will be kept safe and sound in
his care, in his protecting arms.

I. Pay attention to advance warnings

Whenever a hurricane approaches, there is a lot of time for advance warning. Hurricanes are relatively slow
moving systems, and the tracking devices that meteorologists use in our highly technological age are so
sophisticated, that people are warned of danger up to a week ahead of time, which gives them enough advance
warning to board up their houses, stock up on supplies, pack up their valuable possessions and evacuate. Yet, even
with much advance warning, certainly plenty for anyone to prepare for the arrival of a hurricane, there are
thousands of people during Hurricane Charlie in 2004 that waited to the very last minute to try and evacuate.
There were people even on the coastline of Florida who decided not to heed the warnings of the meteorologists to
get out, putting themselves in grave danger. And, as one would expect, there was some loss of life, because people
didn’t heed the warnings as they could have.
Now, when we see those kinds of things on CNN or our local news, usually our initial reaction is, “How
stupid!! Are you serious? It serves them right for not listening!” In the Scriptures how blessed we are to have so
much advanced warning about the Judgment Day, here called “the Day of the Lord.” The prophet Joel lived, most
believe, about 700 years before Jesus was born, and even then the warning call was going out, the sirens were
sounding: “Let the nations be roused...Multitudes, Multitudes in the valley of decision, for the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision! The sun and moon will be darkened and the stars will no longer shine. The LORD will roar
from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble.”
Today, God’s Word continues to sound the warning call of Judgment Day. Jesus words from our gospel
lesson today continue to echo throughout the world and throughout all generations, “No one knows about that day or
hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father...therefore keep watch because you do not know on
what day your Lord will come.” The warning call of God’s Word is going out, but very, very few are listening, which
fulfills what Jesus himself said about the last days, “The love of most will grow cold.” I guess most people are more
concerned about solidifying their financial future in these tough economic times. Most people are more concerned
with “living life to the fullest” by gratifying the sinful nature, indulging it in whatever shameful and disgraceful ways
they choose. Most don’t actually think that today could be the day...or tomorrow or the next day, and therefore
may be caught unprepared for the Day of the LORD. Even many who bear the name “Christian” are not heeding
the warning calls of Scripture. How foolish! What a blessing that the Lord God gives us these warnings at all, and
what a grievous evidence of ignorance when these warnings are completely ignored.
Because that day, the Day of the LORD, is coming, and it will be a horrific and dreadful day for the
unbeliever, who falls under the wrath of God for their sins. In this text from the prophet Joel, the unbelievers of the
world are pictured as a rebel army who are all gathered in one place, the Valley of Jehoshophat, an army that goes
out to fight against God and is completely slaughtered by the angelic army of God. Revelation 14 echoes some of
Joel’s language to speak of unbelievers at the last day as grapes that are ripe with wickedness which will be trampled
and crushed under the winepress (verse 13).
Friends, when we receive a warning about a dangerous situation, say a tornado, we listen, don’t we? When
the sirens go off here in Monroe, we head to the basement, turn on the weather reports, get updates, and ride out
the storm by paying very close attention to the warning systems that are available to us. If we are that concerned
about the welfare of our earthly lives, how much more ought we to be concerned about our eternal welfare? What a
wonderful warning tool we have been given by the grace of God – the tool of his Word, which serves as our warning
system, reminding us day in and day out that we don’t know when our Lord Jesus will fulfill his promise to come
again, but it could be today, tomorrow, the next day, it could be 10,000 years from now. We don’t know. What
we know is that the warnings are going out from Holy Scripture, “The Day of the LORD is near,” warnings which
we should not ignore, but pay attention to and react accordingly, because when that day finally comes, whenever it
is, we want to be prepared...and God’s Word not only warns us of Judgment Day, but tells us where to find shelter
and safety for that Day!

II. Seek shelter immediately
When we received that very special correspondence at Walt Disney World from Mickey Mouse about
Hurricane Charlie, not only were we warned that the hurricane was coming, but we were also told where to go so
that we could be safe during the storm. The note was very clear – Go to your resorts, go to your rooms, stay there
and you will be safe from the wind, the rain and any flying objects that hurricanes tend to produce. If you venture
out into the storm, of course, there was no guarantee of safety. But as long as resort guests stayed in their rooms,
they would be completely safe no matter what was going on outside.
God’s Word not only sounds the warning call for Judgment Day, showing to us the great destruction and
desolation of those who rebel against God in unbelief, unprepared because they did not heed the warnings, but also
God’s Word gives all necessary information as to where one can be appropriately sheltered and kept safe on that
Great and Dreadful Day of the LORD. Listen to verses 14-16, paying close attention to verse 16 specifically, which
is why this text was chosen as a “gospel gem.”
“14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The
sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. 16 The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from
Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of
Israel.”
While the Scriptures certainly warn all people about Judgment Day, they also show all people where they
can find shelter and safety...in the LORD. You see, the ones that are pictured as the rebel army, who are gathered in
the Valley of decision for destruction, are those people who, in unbelief are still responsible for their sins. And how
unfortunate that is...”Multitudes, multitudes,” who remain stuck in sin because they have either actively by false
doctrine or passively through apathy, rejected the world’s Messiah, Jesus.
When Jesus came into the world, he provided safety and shelter for Judgment Day for everybody! He lived
a perfect life under the law not just for himself, and not just for those who would believe in him as Savior. He did
so for everybody. When he died on the cross, the perfect and innocent blood he shed, he offered for everybody,
even those who spit on him and nailed him to the cross, even those who never came to faith in his saving name.
When Jesus, our Lord and Savior, died on the cross, he took responsibility for all the wickedness and sin of the
world, so that on the Last Day, we would not be held responsible and suffer for our sins for an eternity, so that we
would not stand in the Valley of Judgment and have to await the impending eternal destruction, because he has
already faced judgment and hell for us.
That’s why he is our refuge! That’s why Jesus is our place of safety now and always. Through his Word,
and through the sacraments, the Holy Spirit places us under his shelter, under his protection. And when that Last
day does finally come, all who trust in Jesus for salvation, all who are brought under his protection through faith
will be spared the destruction and desolation that will fall on the unbelieving and the unprepared, because Jesus, our
Savior, our refuge, our fortress, already suffered destruction and desolation for us and for our sins. When that Last
Day comes, may we be found prepared – having heeded the warning calls of Scripture, but also having found refuge
and safety in Jesus our Savior who will keep us safe in his tender and loving care through Judgment Day and for all
eternity.
If you really think about it, hurricanes are easy to prepare for. It really doesn’t matter how powerful or
destructive they are. If a person listens to the warnings, takes appropriate action and finds secure shelter, they will
be safe and sound. Judgment Day is coming! Scripture is sounding warnings even this very day, and will continue
to do so until the day finally comes. Don’t turn a deaf ear to God’s Word. Listen and pay attention to the
warnings, and certainly take them seriously, because today or tomorrow could be the day of Christ’s return. Pay
attention to the warnings and seek immediate shelter in the arms of your Savior Jesus, whose blood paid for your sin
and guilt, and who promises to keep you safe and sound both on Judgment Day and to all eternity. Amen.