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 no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. “Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord ’s house and will water the valley of acacias. But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood. Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not.” The Lord dwells in Zion! – Joel 3:14-21
What an interesting turn of phrase here in Joel, “the valley of decision”. That can be taken so many ways. At its most literal it would be a geographic location, specifically a valley, where an important decision was made. What was the decision and who made it? Lets plumb these depths and see what we can learn.
Apparently the “valley of decision” was the name of a romantic movie from the 1940’s based on the Marcia Davenport novel by the same name. It tells the story of a young Irish house maid (Greer Garson) who falls in love with the son (Gregory Peck) of her employer, a local steel mill owner. I am pretty sure that God did not have this movie in mind when He inspired Joel to write this passage. I am not sure what romance with a backdrop of the Pittsburgh steel industry has to do with a “valley of decision”. I guess I will have to watch the movie and find out.
In my exhaustive research I also found out that “the valley of decision” is a music album by a group called Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators (2011). I download their album and it is reggae-style music which I do not always like, but this album is pretty good. I found myself head bobbing as my head was pondering this passage, but I am pretty sure this is also not what God had in mind when He inspired Joel.
I digress, too much reggae I guess, but in the words of Elliot from the movie ET “This is *reality*, Greg”. So let us return to the wording in the passage and see what we can learn. The valley of decision was filled with “multitudes” which to me means lots of people or perhaps all people in the world depending on how you think about it. So we have this valley, either a place or perhaps a metaphorical valley, that is filled with people and then something happens, “the day of the Lord is near”. It is a time when “The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine”. This sounds like the end of the world to me, judgement day. In the midst of this end times chaos God will be “a refuge for his people”.
Now one could interpret this verse purely in terms of the people of Israel and historical events, but I think there may be a deeper meaning here. I think it is a description of the end times when we will all be given a choice of whether we will take refuge in God or ourselves. When God comes “the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord ’s house and will water the valley of acacias”. I am not sure what this means, but one could certainly interpret it as a reflection of Him, a reference to the coming of Jesus to rescue His people for all time through His death on the cross, “the new wine”.
The passage ends with a pretty definitive statement, “The Lord dwells in Zion!” I think that is true, but it may be a little more complex than it seems. Is Zion merely a geographic location? Perhaps it represents a holy place that God has prepared in each one of us, a “God-shaped hole” or as Blaise Pascal actually put it:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?
This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”
I think the people of Israel, and all of the “multitude”, including myself, have a God-hole that we seek to fill with everything and anything. In the end we will have a choice whether to let ourselves be stripped down to the soul and replaced by God’s presence, Emmanuel, God with us.
Prayer: God thank You for preparing a place in each of us for Your Holy Spirit to dwell.