Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 46. Joel
Joel 2:28,29 I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
Commentators are all over the place as to dating Joel but, as I read it, my conclusion is that the date is really irrelevant because he deals with such major issues spanning history. Simply by what is said, here I believe, is a reasonable suggestion to what is in it:
Part 1: 1:1-2:11 The plight of Israel
Part 2: 2:12-18 That concludes in a call to repentance
Part 3: 2:19-27 That flows into an assurance that the Lord will hear and bless.
Part 4: 2:28-32 Now a jump to the period of salvation, the period of the Church
Part 5: 3:1-21 This flows on to the last days, of judgment on the nations.
Now before we examine the contents of each part, note in v.15 the first reference to “the day of the Lord” which we’ll examine in a moment. It is significant in the number of times it appears (5) but it is unclear initially, I would suggest, whether this refers to just one specific day of judgment at the end, or is simply a phrase used to describe the various times God comes to bring judgment. Perhaps we should look more closely:
1:15 “Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.”
2:1b “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming.”
2:11 “The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?
2:31 “the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”
3:14,15 “For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.”
The common thing about this day is that it will be terrible and will be accompanied by judgmental destruction. So now let’s note how it appears.
Part 1: The Plight of Israel: (1:1-2:11) starts with a call to recognise the plight of the land, having been ravaged by ‘locusts’– an invader from the north (v.6) who has ravished the land. It appears to conclude with the first call to repentance (v.13,14). Yet although that has already happened, there is coming a worse day (v.15), the ‘day of the Lord’. However he then appears to pick up and continue bewailing the present state of the land in the same tone as the earlier verses (v.16-20). It is almost as if the Spirit breaks in on his anguish about the present state, as if to say, yes, but there is a much worse day that will come later in history that makes this present time pall into insignificance.
Continuing the same section, bemoaning the state of the land, in Chapter 2 we find the Spirit seems to break in yet again with this reference to ‘the day of the Lord’ (2:1,2) but when he says, “It is close at hand” (v.1c) we should understand that in prophetic language, terms and experience, it so often does NOT mean ‘it’s coming shortly’ but ‘it’s high on my prophetic horizon as of major significance in the world’s history’; be aware of this day, pray, repent and adjust your lives in anticipation of it.
I say these verses in chapter 2 are all part of this first section because in v.3 Joel keeps on referring to “them” and “they”, (count the number of times), referring to this invading army from the north (see in v.3 to 11). But then we appear to have a problem, for this description finishes in v.11 with “The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” which seems to point back to what has just been written. Again, in prophetic terms, what we find is that this latter part (v.3-11) of the whole section is a description of what is happening in the IMMEDIATE FUTURE, indeed what seems to have already started according to the earlier verses, AND what we might term the END TIME FUTURE.
Part 2: The Call to Repentance: (2:12-18) In the light of this awareness of the state of the land and of the invading army, both now and in the long-term future, together with the reasons for both, the obvious call is for repentance. That is the only way to stop the present disciplinary judgment and to avoid the wrath of the end-time Day.
Part 3: The Lord’s Response – Blessing: (2:19-27) Whenever there is repentance, the Lord will always bless. The blessing spelled out is provision, (v.18,19) deliverance from the invader (v.20), abundance of harvest (v.21-24), and restoration after the work of the ‘locusts’ (v.25-27). In the light of what follows it seems this could well describe the restoration that followed the Exile.
Part 4: The Period of Salvation: (2:28-32) Although this might be seen as ongoing blessing continuing on from the period of the Lord restorative goodness above, we have separated it out (as our highlight of this book!) because of the words, “And afterward” in v.28 and the application of these verses under the anointing of the Spirit on the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost in the light of the outpouring at the beginning of Acts 2 (see Acts 2:16-21). Those verses have just been fulfilled, he says. It was the start of the period of the Church, a period during which “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Joel 2:32 & Acts 2:21) and it will end at “the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” (Joel 2:20)
Part 5: Judgment on the nations: (3:1-21) The “coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD,” referred to in 2:31 is clearly spelled out in chapter 3, a time of restoration of Israel (all the people of God) and judgment of the (unbelieving) peoples of the nations (v.1 & 2). And why this latter judgment? Because of the way the nations had treated the people of God (v.3-8). OK, get ready for battle, says the Lord, you versus me (v.9-11), just as we see in Rev 19:11-21. This will be a time of great judgment on all who oppose, reject and rebel against the Lord and against His people (v.12-21)
To summarise: the word comes to the people of God in the Promised Land (Judah is not mentioned until chapter 3) to a) take stock of their situation, ravaged by an enemy and b) repent so that God may bring blessing on them. In due time, part of that blessing will be the outpouring of His Holy Spirit, which will usher in a new era, the era of salvation for whoever believes in the Son of God and his work on the Cross. It is an era that will continue until the Lord winds up history on that fateful “Day of the Lord” when He enters into judgment with all who oppose Him, a time of accounting and final judgment. In this short three-chapter book, this amazing prophet catches the sense of the day and puts it in the perspective of the whole of history yet to come, yes a time of trouble that will give way to blessing, a time of trouble that will appear minor in comparison to the end-time judgment that he also senses. What a prophetic spectrum!