On Monday we read about a man who questioned God’s seeming inconsistency in sending judgment to His people via the evil Babylonians. Today we read about Joel. He interpreted a national calamity (a plague of locusts and a drought) while emphasizing God’s glorious kingdom. Joel was concerned about the day of the Lord and the need for God’s people to prepare. Although he focuses on the problems at hand, he emphasizes a future time when God will judge all the nations. He talks about three separate events:
1. The plague of locusts (1:1-20) – an immediate day of the Lord. The locusts are a metaphorical army. Joel was trying to get his people’s attention.
Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. 16 Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? 17 The seed shrivels under the clods; the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. 18 How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. Joel 1:15-18 (ESV)
Joel got the people’s attention!
2. Judah’s invasion by Assyria (2:1-27) – an imminent day of the Lord. The locusts symbolize a real army. Their first line of defense would be fasting, repentance and prayer. God would fight for them if they truly repented.
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 2 Chron 7:13-16 (ESV)
Do you take time to thank God for the blessings you have – food, water, shelter, friends, family, a job – or do you cry to God about the things you don’t have? Do you talk to God only during calamity, or do you have an ongoing relationship with Him that will help you see the potholes in the road before you fall into them? When you find yourself in trouble, do you humble yourself before God, or do you continue to go through the motions of being “religious”? God requires a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalms 51:17 (ESV)
3. The final judgment of the world (2:27-3:21) – the ultimate day of the Lord. The armies we see are very real and very dangerous. We find that before the day, God’s Spirit will be poured out. Peter quotes 2:28-32 on Pentecost and interprets afterward as the last days.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. 30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Joel 2:28-32 (ESV)
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Acts 2:16-21 (ESV)
It’s important to note that Peter, referring to his time, did not say that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled. At that point, the big “sign” that was causing people to think that the new Christians were drunk was their ability to speak in other languages. None of the remainder of the prophecy is said to have been fulfilled during that time.
Joel warns of the coming judgment (3:1-8) and commands the nations to prepare for both war (9-15) and defeat (16). But after that great day of judgment for the nations, God promises to pour out His blessings. We will see the holy city of Jerusalem cleansed and dedicated to God (3:17), the land restored (3:18-19), its people cleansed (3:20-21a) and King Jesus dwelling there (3:21b).
Joel takes us on quite a ride – from storms of locusts, through drought, despair, and disasters, but it closes in the most magnificent way possible – the earthly reign of Jesus Christ.
I pray that this overview has helped you see the beauty of the prophecies of Joel. I will post once more this week to keep the posting from becoming too long. As always, I pray that you will leave me comments or questions. See you on Saturday!