Drawn and Separated: The Valley of Decision

I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land (Joel 3:2 ESV)

Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:13-14)

Just one chapter on from that great prophetic declaration of what the Lord would do at Pentecost, we see another example of God drawing and separating the peoples of the nations. It is a passage of judgement, but also one of harvest and salvation. God draws all men to himself, but separates them in judgement based on the decision they make in relation to his Son — Jesus. So it will be in the final judgement (Mt 13:47-50)

At Pentecost too, we see a great harvest as God draws the peoples of the nations and then separates them. If the way the church was born is a pattern for how it should grow then we should expect this process of drawing and separating to continue. There is no substitute for the message of the gospel. It was Peter's declaration that cut the people to the heart and caused them to call on the Lord for their salvation. But was the baptism in the Spirit and the tongues that accompanied it just a side show, an optional extra, or an integral part of the process? And does God equip his church with gifts today as a fringe benefit or as tools to get the job done?

Theologians have debated (and still do!) as to whether the tongues that were given, and still are given, were for the edification of believers, or the evangelisation of unbelievers. I have no doubt as to the former, and if tongues truly is a sign for unbelievers, and its purpose towards them is to draw and separate, the process in which the church was born and continues to grow, then the answer might not be an either-or.


Libbie said...

But was the baptism in the Spirit and the tongues that accompanied it just a side show, an optional extra, or an integral part of the process?

Definitely the last one. Definitely not optional extra, or a side-show. But there's the rub.. part of what process?
i'm trying to follow along, and I'm hoping you have more to share..

Mark H said...

It seems to me that without the Holy Spirit ... it's hopeless! Jesus instructions regarding the great commission were very clear:

(Acts 1:4-8)
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me;
for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

i.e. Before we can be Jesus' witnesses, we must wait for the Holy Spirit. So Holy Spirit is very much an integral, essential, and pre-requisite part of the process. How often do we wait for Him, before running headlong into a situation purely on the basis of our theology?

IMHO it is the work of the Holy Spirit to draw and to separate, and, having mulled this topic over for a wee while, I think I am concluding that tongues and interpretation are perhaps some of the most visible signs of the work of the Holy Spirit which unbelievers find it difficult to ignore or "explain away".

Our modern world culture tries to rationalise gifts such as prophecy and healing in terms of "humanism spirituality", and to explain away close communion with God during worship as simply emotionalism. But I've recently noticed that gifts such as words of knowledge, and interpretted tongues seem to cut right through that.

They also cut through any doubts in the minds of believers as to the manifest presence of God, hence instilling faith and stirring up spiritual gifts in the church. For example, in a recent meeeting, a Christian of many years admitted to being "freaked out" when a tongue and its interpretation was given - but that person has since started engaging with Holy Spirit in ways I have been crying out to God for them for some time. THANK YOU Holy Spirit!

carl said...

I think it is important to remember that the main reason we have tongues and interpretation, or straight prophesy for that matter is first and foremost because God wants to convey a message.

1 Cor 14 tells us that tongues is a sign for non-believers. Not everyone follows signs. Stand on a busy street corner and you will see that.

But when there is a tongue and an interpretation the Spirit of god bears wittness. Those who are sensitive to the Spirit will readily agree that God has spoken through men. Those who are not interested in hearing won't. The seperation happened before the tongue came. The reaction to the tongue confirmed the condition of the heart.

As others could testify, it is awesome to hear people weap as the tongue is being interpreted. Surely this is God. And this is the power (I believe) that mark h, and Jesus were referring to.