Five Strategic Steps and Four Areas of Preparation
Joel 1:14 & 1:13
The Five Strategic Steps
Joel 1:14 Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.
God has five-steps He wants us to follow when responding to Him in the midst of crisis. This God-given action plan anyone can do, regardless of education, ministry experience, gifts, or economics. It is The Response that God requires of us.
Step one: consecrate a fast. We must set apart specific periods of time for corporate fasting. (Joel 2:12-13).
Fasting positions us to receive more from God. We do not fast to move God, but that God would move our heart by His Spirit.
Fasting is not optional if we want to experience the fullness of the grace of God. We cannot face the coming crisis without wholeheartedness enhanced by fasting.
The ability to fast God makes available to everyone. We begin by simply asking the Lord for grace to fast and the desire to fast.
Step two: call a sacred assembly. The Lord wants communities to come together to pursue Him. Private prayer is essential, but it is not enough to answer a national crisis. God requires corporate gatherings of prayer and worship.
Assembly means to gather in one place together. In Joel’s day they gathered into the temple, the house of the Lord. The Father releases His power in context to His family.
Ps. 133:1, 3 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity … 3 For there the LORD commanded the blessing.
The greatest blessing for a geographic area is found when God’s people come together with a unified response of wholeheartedness.
Scripture tells us even the most anointed individual intercessors could not stop the coming judgment. God desires corporate intercession offered by people living wholeheartedly before Him.
Ezek. 14:14 “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord GOD.
Jer. 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people.”
Sacred in this context means “dedicated” or “set apart” to God. The sacred assembly speaks of its importance to God. God calls it sacred, therefore, it is to be important to us. What is of high priority to God must not be casual or optional to us. When the assembly is sacred, there are very few excuses for neglecting it. It takes great effort to organize sacred assemblies. Much time and effort are required in traveling to mobilize leaders and rally the people.
Step three: gather the elders. God honors the authority that He has given to the leaders of His people. Joel is saying, “Go cast the vision to other spiritual leaders (elders) and rally them.”
The most difficult people to rally are those in positions of leadership, because they are so busy. Most have many responsibilities and full schedules.
It takes much vision-casting and relational building—along with a lot of time, effort, and money—to gather the elders of a city or nation.
The Lord told Joel to cast the vision and expend the energy necessary to gather them.
Step four: gather all of the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord. All are welcome.
Step five: cry out to God together. To cry out means that we come into agreement with what God has promised for our geographic area. We are to pray in the prayer meetings.
THE FOUR WAYS TO PREPARE
Preparation #1: the call to gird ourselves, to make preparation in practical areas.
Joel 1:13 Gird yourselves and lament, you priests…
The call to gird ourselves is a call to remove things that hinder prayer. Joel summoned the priests to make things ready in the practical areas of their lives so that they could pray with less distraction. He was saying, “Change your schedule!Settle practical issues in your life that will hinder your prayer focus during the solemn assembly!”
Jesus used this same language in His earthly ministry.
Lk. 12:35 Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning…
We have to rearrange our lives in a sober way and consider the cost. To do this we must say “no” to many things because it takes time to cultivate the spirit of prayer in our lives.
Preparation #2: the call to lament, having a heart-connect with God in the situation.
Joel 1:13 Lament, you priests; wail, you who minister before the altar…
The call to lament and wail speaks of a heart-connect with God and the people who are suffering in the crisis. Joel called them to feel the pain of the current crisis and any coming crisis. We are to have compassion for those all affected—to identify with them.
The Spirit will release deep compassion for the human suffering that will come in a time of judgment. God’s people are not to be disconnected from the distress of others.
God’s people will experience God’s grief, as well as His compassion, for the pain that results from judgment.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Mt. 5:4). This indicates desperation, urgency and sobriety.
Preparation #3: to lie in sackcloth is to call the leaders to humility.
Joel 1:13 You priests…come lie all night in sackcloth, you who minister to my God…
2 Chr. 7:14 If My people…will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face…
Zeph. 2:3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.
Joel tells the spiritual leadership to lie down in sackcloth.
Sackcloth was made of goat’s hair while the priest’s attire was a beautiful linen garment, as ordained by God in Exodus 28; the priest’s garment was one of status, honor, and prestige.
The call to dress in sackcloth was not a call to discomfort, but to lay down their privileged and prestigious position. A call to humble ourselves in the presence of God for the purpose of prayer.
Everyone stands on equal ground before the throne. Joel was essentially saying, “Take off your priestly robes; lay down your ecclesiastical titles, your positions, and degrees.” All are equal before God, without any special honor or status, regardless of leadership roles. It was a call for everyone to come together before the Lord in humility.
Preparation #4: all night—extreme and radical.
Joel 1:13 Lament, you priests…come lie all night in sackcloth, you who minister to God…
To lie all night before the Lord requires significant effort. Yet this is the Lord’s mandate to leaders. Joel is not merely preaching his personal ministry preferences. It was from God. He was not presenting this as an option. He was crying out: “You have to act!”