We don’t need to look much at the horizon regarding the weather in England – sometimes rainy, often grey, we don’t have many dramatic weather fronts to watch out for. In other parts of the world it is different. On a family holiday in Florida three years ago, we assumed hot weather and warm blue skies would be the norm; we didn’t know frequent thunderstorms were possible in the summer months. We soon learned to keep an eye on the horizon, at any brewing thunderclouds; within minutes we could be in a late afternoon deluge, and as soon again, back in hot sun drying out the rain drenched land.
Jesus was once asked for signs by his skeptical audience. He took it as an opportunity to challenge them about their spiritual short-sightedness: “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16v3).
In the 2020’s, in tumultuous and exciting times, I believe we need more horizon level spiritual thinking. We must discern more what is on the way. There is the naturally changing world with its issues and newsworthy events. Yet, through it all and behind it there are supernatural dimensions. What is God saying and doing through it? What do we need to be alert to? In short, what is the spiritual horizon level that we need to be aware of ahead of time?
The prophecies of Joel in the Old Testament can help us with horizon level thinking. He was a prophet-preacher at a time of crisis in his nation. They faced twin problems – they were in a time of drought, and a locust swarm was devastating the country. He was looking to the horizon in prayer to see what God was doing and what the future would look like. God helped Joel to see a future beyond their crisis and a greater kingdom horizon of what God was going to do for His people. This vision became one of the most celebrated prophetic passages in the Old Testament, that begins with the words, ‘In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh’ (Joel 2v28).
I don’t think Joel was expecting to see and hear all that God showed Him. Yet, because he was alert and praying, God gave him horizon level discernment. The hinge phrase in this passage is ‘the Day of the Lord’: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord’ (v31). This is such a powerful phrase. The Day of the Lord in scripture is the season when God breaks in, when He acts to right wrongs and bring salvation to His people. In short, it became a great Messianic hope for the people of God, and in the New Testament, morphed into then phrase ‘the Day of Christ’ for Christians – the return of the Lord.
This Day of the Lord is described as both ‘great’ and ‘dreadful’. Why is that? Well it is because there will be amazing things that God will do – an outpouring of His Spirit – and also troubling things that God will also bring about – wonders on the earth, blood, fire and billows of smoke. I would put these descriptions of the great and dreadful in the categories of glory and shaking that is elsewhere described in the bible, and that I detail in my book ‘The Forerunner Cry’. You see, this prophecy of Joel is important for today, because it still awaits a future fulfilment. It was only partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; the initial eschatological sign of the Spirit poured out on the church was awesome, but there is a greater fulfilment to come, including awesome signs before the Day of the Lord and His return.
So today, I want to encourage you to lift up your eyes, and ask God to give you more horizon level thinking and discernment this year and into this decade. If there is more revealing of God’s glory and more shaking of the earth, then we need to correctly interpret the signs of the times. We will look more at this prophecy of Joel another time, but for now, keep you eyes on the horizon and watch out for what God shows you!