Judgment Executed in the Low Plain of Decision
“Let the nations . . . come up to the low plain of Jehoshaphat; for there I shall sit in order to judge all the nations.”—JOEL 3:12.
1. Why does Joel see crowds assembled in “the low plain of the decision”?
“CROWDS, crowds are in the low plain of the decision”! We read those stirring words at Joel 3:14. Why are these crowds assembled? Joel answers: “The day of Jehovah is near.” It is the great day of Jehovah’s vindication—the day for executing judgment on the multitudes who have rejected God’s established Kingdom under Christ Jesus. At long last, the “four angels” of Revelation chapter 7 are to release their tight hold on “the four winds of the earth,” resulting in “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”—Revelation 7:1; Matthew 24:21.
2. (a) Why is the place for executing Jehovah’s judgment appropriately called “the low plain of Jehoshaphat”? (b) How did Jehoshaphat properly react when under attack?
2 At Joel 3:12, the location for this execution of judgment is called “the low plain of Jehoshaphat.” Appropriately, during a tempestuous period of Judah’s history, Jehovah executed judgment there in behalf of good King Jehoshaphat, whose name means “Jehovah Is Judge.” A consideration of what happened at that time will help us better to appreciate what is about to take place in our time. The record is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. In 2Ch 20 verse 1 of that chapter, we read that “the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon and with them some of the Ammonim came against Jehoshaphat in war.” How did Jehoshaphat react? He did what faithful servants of Jehovah always do in a crisis. He turned to Jehovah for guidance, praying fervently: “O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For in us there is no power before this large crowd that is coming against us; and we ourselves do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you.”—2 Chronicles 20:12.
Jehovah Answers a Prayer
3. What instructions did Jehovah give to Judah when they faced the onslaught of neighboring nations?
3 While “all those of Judah were standing before Jehovah, even their little ones, their wives and their sons,” Jehovah gave his response. (2 Chronicles 20:13) Just as he uses his “faithful and discreet slave” today, so the great Hearer of prayer empowered the Levite prophet Jahaziel to provide His answer to those assembled. (Matthew 24:45) We read: “Here is what Jehovah has said to you, ‘Do not you be afraid or be terrified because of this large crowd; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . You will not need to fight in this instance. Take your position, stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah in your behalf. . . . Do not be afraid or be terrified. Tomorrow go out against them, and Jehovah will be with you.’”—2 Chronicles 20:15-17.
4. In what way did Jehovah require that his people be active, not passive, when they faced the enemy’s challenge?
4 Jehovah required more of King Jehoshaphat and his people than that they merely sit idly by, awaiting a miraculous deliverance. They were to take the initiative in coping with the enemy’s challenge. The king and ‘all those of Judah, even their little ones, their wives and their sons,’ expressed strong faith as they obediently rose early in the morning and marched out to meet the invading hordes. On the way, the king continued to provide theocratic instruction and encouragement, urging them: “Put faith in Jehovah your God that you may prove yourselves of long duration. Put faith in his prophets and so prove successful.” (2 Chronicles 20:20) Faith in Jehovah! Faith in his prophets! Therein lay the key to success. Likewise today, as we continue active in Jehovah’s service, may we never doubt that he will make our faith victorious!
5. How are Jehovah’s Witnesses today active as they praise Jehovah?
5 Like the Judeans of Jehoshaphat’s day, we must “give praise to Jehovah, for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness.” How do we render this praise? By our zealous Kingdom preaching! As those Judeans “started off with the joyful cry and praise,” so we add to our faith works. (2 Chronicles 20:21, 22) Yes, let us exhibit similar sterling faith as Jehovah prepares to move into action against his enemies! Though the road may appear to be long, let us be determined to endure, active in faith, even as his victorious people are doing in trouble spots of the earth today. In some lands hit hard by persecution, violence, famine, and dire economic conditions, faithful servants of God are experiencing remarkable results, as the 1998 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses reports.
Jehovah Saves His People
6. How does strong faith help to keep us loyal today?
6 The ungodly nations surrounding Judah tried to engulf God’s people, but with exemplary faith Jehovah’s servants responded by singing his praises. We can express the same faith today. By filling our lives with works of praise to Jehovah, we strengthen our spiritual armor, leaving no room for Satan’s crafty devices to penetrate. (Ephesians 6:11) Strong faith will stifle the temptation to become distracted by the degraded entertainment, materialism, and apathy that characterize the dying world around us. This invincible faith will keep us serving loyally with “the faithful and discreet slave” as we are continually nourished by the diet of spiritual food provided “at the proper time.”—Matthew 24:45.
7. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses responded to various attacks against them?
7 Our Bible-based faith will strengthen us to stand firm against hate campaigns stirred up by those who manifest the spirit of the “evil slave” of Matthew 24:48-51. Fulfilling this prophecy in a remarkable way, apostates are actively sowing lies and propaganda in many lands today, even conniving with some in positions of authority among the nations. Where appropriate, Jehovah’s Witnesses have responded, as described at Philippians 1:7, by ‘defending and legally establishing the good news.’ For example, on September 26, 1996, in a case from Greece, the nine judges of the European Court of Human Rights, at Strasbourg, unanimously reaffirmed that “Jehovah’s Witnesses come within the definition of ‘known religion,’” entitled to enjoy freedom of thought, conscience, and belief, and the right to make known their faith. As for apostates, God’s judgment states: “The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’”—2 Peter 2:22.
8. In Jehoshaphat’s day, how did Jehovah execute judgment against the enemies of His people?
8 Back in Jehoshaphat’s day, Jehovah executed judgment against those who wanted to harm His people. We read: “Jehovah set men in ambush against the sons of Ammon, Moab and the mountainous region of Seir who were coming into Judah, and they went smiting one another. And the sons of Ammon and Moab proceeded to stand up against the inhabitants of the mountainous region of Seir to devote them to destruction and annihilate them; and as soon as they finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped each one to bring his own fellow to ruin.” (2 Chronicles 20:22, 23) The Judeans named that place the Low Plain of Beracah, Beracah meaning “Blessing.” In modern times too, Jehovah’s execution of judgment on his enemies will result in great blessings for his own people.
9, 10. Who have shown themselves worthy of Jehovah’s adverse judgment?
9 We may ask, Who in modern times are to receive an adverse judgment from Jehovah? To get the answer to that question, we have to return to Joel’s prophecy. Joel 3:3 speaks of enemies of his people who “would give the male child for a prostitute, and the female child they sold for wine.” Yes, they view God’s servants as far beneath them, their children worth no more than the hire of a prostitute or the cost of a jug of wine. They will have to answer for that.
10 Equally worthy of judgment are those who commit spiritual harlotry. (Revelation 17:3-6) And especially reprehensible are those who nudge the political powers into persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses and obstructing their activity, as some rabble-rousing religious leaders have been doing in Eastern Europe in recent times. Jehovah expresses his determination to act against such workers of iniquity.—Joel 3:4-8.
11. How does Jehovah challenge his enemies to war?
11 Next, Jehovah calls on his people to proclaim a challenge among the nations: “Sanctify war! Arouse the powerful men! Let them draw near! Let them come up, all the men of war!” (Joel 3:9) This is a declaration of an unusual kind of warfare—righteous warfare. Jehovah’s loyal Witnesses rely on spiritual weapons as they respond to lying propaganda, counteracting falsehood with truth. (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:17) Soon, God will sanctify “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14) It will rid the earth of all opposers of God’s sovereignty. His people on earth will have no physical part therein. Literally and figuratively, they have ‘beaten swords into plowshares and spears into pruning shears.’ (Isaiah 2:4) In contrast, Jehovah challenges the opposing nations to do the reverse: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning shears into lances.” (Joel 3:10) He invites them to throw their entire arsenal of war machines and modern armaments into the battle. But they cannot succeed, for the struggle and the victory belong to Jehovah!
12, 13. (a) Despite the end of the Cold War, how have many nations shown that they are still warlike? (b) For what are the nations not prepared?
12 In the early 1990’s, the nations declared that the Cold War was over. In view of that, has the United Nations’ primary goal of peace and security been achieved? Hardly! What do events in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia tell us? In the words of Jeremiah 6:14, they are saying: “‘There is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.”
13 Even though outright war has ceased in some places, member nations of the UN still compete with one another in manufacturing sophisticated weapons of war. Some continue to maintain stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Others develop chemical or bacteriological weapons of mass destruction. As those nations gather to the symbolic location called Armageddon, he challenges them: “As for the weak one, let him say: ‘I am a powerful man.’ Lend your aid and come, all you nations round about, and collect yourselves together.” Joel then breaks in with his own appeal: “To that place, O Jehovah, bring your powerful ones down.”—Joel 3:10, 11.
Jehovah Protects His Own
14. Who are Jehovah’s powerful ones?
14 Who are Jehovah’s powerful ones? Some 280 times in the Bible, the true God is called “Jehovah of armies.” (2 Kings 3:14) These armies are the angelic hosts of heaven that stand ready to do Jehovah’s bidding. When the Syrians sought to seize Elisha, Jehovah finally opened the eyes of Elisha’s attendant so that he could see why they would not succeed: “Look! the mountainous region was full of horses and war chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17) Jesus said that he could have appealed to his Father for “more than twelve legions of angels.” (Matthew 26:53) Describing Jesus’ riding forth to execute judgment at Armageddon, Revelation states: “The armies that were in heaven were following him on white horses, and they were clothed in white, clean, fine linen. And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron. He treads too the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:14, 15) That symbolic winepress is described in vivid terms as “the great winepress of the anger of God.”—Revelation 14:17-20.
15. How does Joel describe Jehovah’s warfare against the nations?
15 How, then, does Jehovah answer Joel’s petition to bring God’s own powerful ones down? It is in these graphic words: “Let the nations be aroused and come up to the low plain of Jehoshaphat; for there I shall sit in order to judge all the nations round about. Thrust in a sickle, for harvest has grown ripe. Come, descend, for the winepress has become full. The press vats actually overflow; for their badness has become abundant. Crowds, crowds are in the low plain of the decision, for the day of Jehovah is near in the low plain of the decision. Sun and moon themselves will certainly become dark, and the very stars will actually withdraw their brightness. And out of Zion Jehovah himself will roar, and out of Jerusalem he will give forth his voice. And heaven and earth certainly will rock.”—Joel 3:12-16.
16. Who will be included among those against whom Jehovah executes judgment?
16 As surely as the name Jehoshaphat means “Jehovah Is Judge,” just as surely God, Jehovah, will fully vindicate his sovereignty when he executes judgment. The prophecy describes those who receive an adverse judgment as ‘crowds, crowds in the low plain of the decision.’ Any remaining advocates of false religion will be among those crowds. Included also will be those described in the second Psalm—the nations, national groups, kings of earth, and high officials—who have preferred the corrupt system of this world to ‘serving Jehovah with fear.’ These decline to “kiss the son.” (Psalm 2:1, 2, 11, 12) They do not acknowledge Jesus as Jehovah’s associate King. Further, the crowds marked for destruction will include all the people whom that glorious King will judge to be “goats.” (Matthew 25:33, 41) When it is Jehovah’s due time to roar out of the heavenly Jerusalem, his appointed King of kings will ride forth to execute that judgment. Heaven and earth certainly will rock! However, we are assured: “Jehovah will be a refuge for his people, and a fortress for the sons of Israel.”—Joel 3:16.
17, 18. Who are identified as survivors of the great tribulation, and what conditions will they enjoy?
17 Revelation 7:9-17 identifies those who survive the great tribulation as “a great crowd” made up of those who exercise faith in the ransoming power of Jesus’ blood. These find protection on Jehovah’s day, while the thronging crowds of Joel’s prophecy meet up with adverse judgment. Joel says to the survivors: “You people will have to know that I am Jehovah your God, residing in Zion my holy mountain,” Jehovah’s heavenly habitation.—Joel 3:17a.
18 The prophecy then informs us that the domain of God’s heavenly Kingdom “must become a holy place; and as regards strangers, they will no more pass through her.” (Joel 3:17b) In heaven and in the earthly realm of that heavenly Kingdom, there will be no strangers, for all will be united in pure worship.
19. How is the paradisaic happiness of God’s people today described by Joel?
19 Even today, an abundance of peace prevails among Jehovah’s people here on earth. Unitedly, they are proclaiming his judgments in over 230 lands and in more than 300 different languages. Their prosperity is beautifully prophesied by Joel: “It must occur in that day that the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the very hills will flow with milk, and the very streambeds of Judah will all flow with water.” (Joel 3:18) Yes, Jehovah will continue to pour out on his praisers on earth an overflow of joyful blessings and prosperity and an increasing stream of precious truth. Jehovah’s sovereignty will have been fully vindicated in the low plain of decision, and joy will abound as he resides forever among his redeemed people.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Do You Remember?
□ How did Jehovah rescue his people in the days of Jehoshaphat?
□ Whom does Jehovah judge worthy of destruction in “the low plain of the decision”?
□ Who are God’s powerful ones and what part will they play in the final conflict?
□ What happinesses do faithful worshipers enjoy?
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Judah was told: ‘Do not be afraid for the battle is not yours but God’s’
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Jehovah challenges his enemies to ‘beat their plowshares into swords’
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The Bible identifies a great crowd of survivors of the great tribulation