Within a half hour of reading in the minor prophets (those short books at the end of the Old Testament) I came across these two verses that seem to contradict each other:
“Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears..” (Joel 3:10 NIV)
“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks..” (Micah 4:3, also Isaiah 2:4)
I am told that in that day, people could and actually did convert these tools into weapons and vice versa, depending on whether it was a time of peace or war.
With that insight and looking at the context of these two verses, we see that Joel is warning Israel’s enemies to get ready for the war that God will wage against them.
On the other hand, Micah is describing the state of eternal peace that will be inaugurated when God finally rules all nations and hearts without rival.
God’s arrival can mean disaster or peace, depending on whether we’re on His side or not. Which side are you on? Are you looking forward to His direct intervention in world history or dreading it?
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. (2 Peter 3:9-13 NLT)
Speaking of sordid stories—the current headlines have nothing on the final chapters of the book of Judges which I read recently with growing loathing. The “disclaimer” says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (17:6 & 21:25) Since they had already turned away from God in favor of pagan gods, these are the sorts of things that seemed “right” to them:
Abimelech killed 69 of his half-brothers and convinced the people of Shechem to make him their king solely on the grounds that he was their relative. The whistle-blower went unheeded. After three years, the citizens finally caught on that they’d made a poor choice. Abimelech cared only for himself and for power, not for them. But when they resisted, Abimelech slaughtered them all and demolished their city. (He met his end when a woman dropped a big stone on his head.) (Judges chapter 9)
Micah stole 1100 pieces of silver from his mom. When she found out, she blessed him (!) and dedicated that silver to be made into an idol for him to worship! He made other religious trapping to go with it and even hired his own priest to serve his manmade religion—concluding that the Lord would bless him for it. (Chapter 17)
An unnamed man went to retrieve his runaway concubine. On the way back home, they overnighted in the territory of Benjamin. That night they were thronged by a gang of perverts who gang-raped the woman and left her dead. The man rounded up an army from all over Israel to take revenge on the Benjaminites, who refused to hand over the culprits. After three bloody battles, 40,000 of the Israelites were dead and 25,100 of the Benjaminites—all but 600 of them. Then, feeling sorry for their “cousins” whom they had almost wiped out, the Israelites sat down and wept and then took more drastic measures to procure wives for them. (Chapters 19-21)
That’s enough! Enough to make one sick! These are the kinds of things that happen when people do what they think is right. Are we any different today? Should we be surprised at how low society stoops when they have turned their backs on God?
One more story, though. After all the sordid stories of Judges, I turned the page and breathed a sigh of relief! There is Ruth, a bright spot of faithfulness and hope in the midst of all that darkness. God was still at work, preparing the way for the Savior who would be Ruth’s descendant. Interestingly, it was a foreigner (she was a Moabite) who showed this unfaithful nation the faithfulness of God.