How is a “decision” like a valley? While decision making can overwhelm us when the consequences of the decision weigh heavily on us, this is NOT the meaning of this metaphor as it is found in the Bible. To apply a common meaning from our time to a metaphor from Bible times in this case will mislead us as to what this means in the Bible. Sometimes metaphors do not translate well. Other times they do. Let the verses before and after and the chapters around those verses be your guide. This is one reason that understanding the context around the verse is so important for understanding our Bibles.. A good commentary is also helpful.
Then, how is a “decision” like being in a valley? How is one like the other? Douglas Stuart in his commentary on Joel translates with a metaphor that helpfully captures the meaning. He translates from the Hebrew language, “valley of the verdict” (Joel 3:14, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 31). The kind of decision in this case is a verdict.
How is a verdict like a valley? For one thing, the particular valley – a real valley – is given the name “Verdict” to emphasize the kind of message from God being delivered by the prophet Joel. Consider a courthouse scene where the guilty verdict has just been announced by the judge! In Joel, God is the judge that has just announced the verdict on those in this valley!
The decision has already been handed down; and God has handed it down. It will happen on the “Day of the Lord” and that day is urgent and ultimate. It was urgent to them because judgement soon followed in their own time. What will happen in our future is not the first time God has judged. He judged at times in the past; but there is coming a time of ultimate judgement in our future. What happens then will be a verdict based on decisions already made. Your decision to respond to the inviting Holy Spirit and turn your life over to Jesus or not will determine if the verdict God hands down on the day of judgement is clemency or condemnation. We are guilty, but because God is loving, it does not have to be condemnation. God sent Jesus to offer forgiveness for all our wrongs and the tendency to do wrong which is the deeper problem we have, so that freedom is available to us from God.
The Bible says that if you declare that you have turned over running your life to Jesus and you trust that he is capable of directing the way you live as powerfully demonstrated by his having overcome death, then you will be saved from this judgement (Romans 10:9). You are committing yourself to living like Jesus wants you to live with his help. Jesus who is the son of God, took our verdict upon himself and served our death-penalty by being hung on a lethal cross. He then rose from the grave forging a path that we can follow by his power. God offers you a better life now and a continuing life later that lasts forever.
“Mobs and mobs are ready to fight in the valley where the verdict will be served on the day of judgement which looms over us” (Joel 3:14 my rendering).