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Sermon 6/12/05 – The Walled City
Joel 2:7-11

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This sermon came out of a presentation to the Team at a recent Kairos Prison Ministry, in Victorville, California.  Before you and I can be useful to prisoners or to anyone else, WE must first be changed by the Lord – inside, where it counts.

The Walled City

They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; everyone marches in formation, and they do not break ranks.  They do not push one another; everyone marches in his own column. And when they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down.  They run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief.  The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The Lord gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word.  For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it?” (Joel 2:7-11)

Today’s Scripture seems obscure until you look at the Day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, where the Apostle Peter’s sermon linked the amazing acts of the Holy Spirit to the Book of Joel, written hundreds of years earlier.  Those who are filled with God’s Spirit are the “mighty men” (and women - Joel 2:28-29), of these verses, though the “army of the Lord” is just people like you and me.  But from His perspective, we storm the walled cities, the camps of the enemy and take spoil from him.  God does wonders through our human limitations.  Notice that the “mighty men” in His imagery don’t criticize or find fault with one another.  In a human war, some carry guns, others have medical kits, still others have radios, but all are the same army.  In the church, some are evangelists, some teachers, others are comforters, but all are one.  It’s time to respect and love one another – “They” are US!  We are one army “in formation” and victorious armies do “not push one another!”  We are ONE in our Lord and Savior.

When we were in Israel, a few years ago, we saw crusader forts from a thousand years ago, built from blocks of stone.  Some of them are surprisingly intact, and we saw double walls, where if you managed to punch through the first wall, you would be instantly in great trouble for there was another wall right behind it.  Men would be shooting arrows and rolling stones down and pouring hot oil on you.  Not a pretty picture.  Invaders would cheer when the outer defenses fell, only to suffer in relation to the second wall, just moments later.

When I look back on my life, I realize that in the past, I have been like one of those “walled cities.”  I had strong defenses to keep people out; to keep them from really knowing me.  The “walls” we create are made out of superficiality, shyness, fear, anger, prejudice and pride.  These are pretend walls of indifference and haughtiness.  I wondered why I didn’t have friends, and it was me who was the problem.  Before we can be effective in God’s service, OUR walls must be breached and we must LOSE the battle before we can win the war.

Those who meet us, see us more clearly than we see ourselves.  If you have strong double walls, places to shoot out “arrows” onto those who get too close, and a moat around you, along with other defenses, others will know.  They may not understand what it is about you that bothers them; they just sense a “distance” in you.  The fact is, your “walls” have already been breached, or it is unlikely you would be listening to these words.  The Lord has crossed the moat and has broken through your double walls.  He is inside you, right now.

Our tendency, all too often, has been to run from the Lord’s victory in us to some other part of our fortress, to prolong the illusion that we somehow are in charge of our lives.  Our “walls” made us feel safe and we have tended to cling to them.

It’s time to take down whatever remaining barriers we have in our lives and open up to those we have considered the “enemy” (other people).  We can’t do this alone – It’s the Lord who knocked down our defenses in the first place, and it is Him who also will defend us and cover us when we feel naked and exposed to the world.

If our walls actually do come down, it’s possible, even likely that people around us may not like us.  Isn’t that why we hid behind those walls in the first place?  But it’s even more likely they won’t see us at all.  God will take the “ruins” of our lives and REBUILD what we are into God’s temple.  All they will see is Him, and He is – beautiful!

Do you trust Him to defend you and protect you from shame, if you let your defenses down and allow Him to be your security?  I have seen that He has great resources, along with great love for those who say: “Yes Lord, I will not resist anymore. I am Yours.”

Today’s Scripture reveals that those who are in God's “army” are actually more effective than we think.  Outwardly, one group doesn’t like another and it seems like we all too often pull in different directions.  But from His perspective, we are “mighty men” who “do not break ranks” - He protects us, and we “are not cut down.”  We enter the camp of the enemy, run on his walls, and enter his “windows,” taking spoil – Because GOD is the One who makes it happen!  He remakes our puny efforts, these feeble attempts and turns them into great coordinated triumphs for His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Scripture in Joel continues with God telling us HOW our walls come down.  He says, “’Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness and He relents from doing harm.” (Joel 2:12-13).  His victory in us is not won with the weaponry of this world - and the enemies’ stronghold is not taken through our strength at all.  We tend to merely build “walls” and “tilt at windmills,” but it’s God who ultimately wins – every time!  In the imagery of Joel’s words, to “rendyour garments” was a phrase that described the religious acts WE perform – and we are not to rely on such acts.  We are to turn to the LORD and trust in Him, for only HE can have the victory over the “walled cities” that are built everywhere within this people we call the “human race.”  To “rend your heart” is to give up defending yourself, and trust in HIM that He can (and will) turn stony hearts like yours and mine into hearts that love.

To give up, to lose, sounds backwards to everything we have ever learned.  But our “walls” MUST come down.  “Your” church might actually not like “my church” – but it’s time to “rend your heart” and understand you’re not the only one who loves and serves the Lord.  In order for others to look at us and want the Lord in us, He teaches us to fight this war against the sinful nature that besets us, “not by might, nor by power, but BY MY SPIRIT, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).  He said to Paul the Apostle and He says it to you and me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for MY STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Your weakness and mine, reflected in our RESPECT for one another, and in love, is an opportunity for the LORD’S strength to be manifested within us.  And it is HIM the world needs.  Not your religion or mine.  Not our strength.  We need Him!  Let’s pray together:

Lord, I do not know how to let down my walls and trust in You.  But I see that what I cannot do, You can.  I trust in You now, Lord.  I give my heart and life to You.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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