The Minor Prophets, Part 2

Joel is like a caricature of what most people think the minor prophets are all about. His ministry, like most prophets, took place during a terrible crisis: a locus plague and a drought. It was an extraordinarily bad time for Judah; the food stocks were running low and the outlook was bleak indeed.

In the locust invasion, Joel saw something else: the coming of the fearsome Day of the Lord when the Lord would lead an army against His own people in judgment. It sounds monotonous, but the the biggest problem with Joel’s people was that they were outwardly religious but inwardly far, far from God.

Nobody is sure when the locust plague took place or the drought. There are no references anywhere in Joel’s book to help us pinpoint a date. The fact that it is sandwiched between Hosea and Amos is irrelevant. Yet even with a shroud of mystery around it, Joel is an important piece of writing for modern Christians to take note of. God’s people always face one crisis or another and Joel’s words speak to us as much as they spoke to the people of his generation.

Call on God

The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel. (Joel 1:1 | NIV84)

Here’s about all we know concerning Joel. His father’s name was Pethuel, a nice name which means “openheartedness” or “sincerity of God.” And that’s it. But the value in verse 1 are the opening words, “the word of the Lord that came to Joel.” This tells us that Joel’s words – the next three chapters, weren’t his idea, they were God’s. Joel was just a spokesman for the Almighty.

What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. (Joel 1:4 | NIV84)

The locust plague was bad – the worst ever experienced by Israel. These insects came in waves, upon unrelenting waves, leaving nothing in their wake. Joel addressed the elders of the community first because they held positions of responsibility and influence. He challenges them to look at what was going on and compare it with past events, and to recognize that what was happening to them was unprecedented.

While the elders were his main audience, Joel wanted all citizens of the land to think about the plague and devastation and to pass on what they’ve learned to their children. This is important for modern Christian parents to take note of. It’s important to develop a Biblical worldview; to view the events and circumstances of the world and be able to put them into a perspective that has God and His Word at the center.

The destruction caused by this locust infestation was not unique, but that wasn’t Joel’s point. It was the degree of the destruction that made the locust attack in Joel’s time an extraordinary event and it was primarily what the locust plague exposed about the people’s relationship to God. They had drifted from Him and were consequently unprepared to face the crisis. That’s not an unimportant lesson. When God is at the center of your worldview, life is seen in perfect perspective. That goes for a locust plague.

This is something children need to be taught, hence Joel’s admonition.

Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the Lord.The priests are in mourning,, those who minister before the Lord. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. (Joel 1:8-10 | NIV84)

The locusts had ruined the national economy, but far worse was the state of the spiritual lives of the people. The worship of God had been compromised. Why weren’t they concerned about that? In response to that – the fact that offerings couldn’t be made, not the plague itself – the people were to mourn like an espoused virgin whose intended was taken just before the wedding.

Mourning over what a ruined economy does to the Church of Jesus Christ is the proper perspective for a Christian to take, but how many of us have that perspective? When the downturn occurs, all we think about is how it affects us, rarely do we think about how it affects the Church. A Biblical worldview demands all the events of your life be viewed with an eye to their connection to the Lord.

Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. (Joel 1:15 | TNIV)

Joel made that connection. He rightly viewed the locust plague as sort of “mini day of the Lord.” The proper day of the Lord refers to the end times when the world is a complete mess just before Jesus Christ returns in glory and judgment.. In our lives, crises invade like a plague of locusts sometimes and produce that kind of “mini day of the Lord,” too. God uses the circumstances of our lives to remind us that we are accountable to Him for the way we live and to remind us that He is there, watching.

Repent

Chapter 1 looked at events that were happening in the here and now. But in chapter 2, Joel looks to the future. The events of chapter 1 served as a warning of things to come and now with a new chapter, Joel wanted his readers to know for sure that a real day of the Lord was coming.

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come. (Joel 2:1, 2 | TNIV)

The “mighty army” Joel sees here is the Assyrian army, an army so large and all-consuming, it will be “locust-like.” Now we know that the locust plague of the first chapter was a precursor of the plague-like Assyrian army. And the judgment wrought by the coming Assyrian army would be in turn a precursor of a greater judgment to come at the end times. The prophet Isaiah described this period of time this way:

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. (Isaiah 13:6, 9, 10 | TNIV)

And another minor prophet, Amos, described the day of the Lord like this:

Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:20 | TNIV)

The coming day of the Lord will be a time of great distress, destruction, and judgment. Remarkably, we read this in Joel 2:11 –

The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (NIV)

It was the Lord who was calling the shots, not the Assyrians. God is ultimately in control, and in the case of Israel, He used the Assyrians to judge His wayward, rebellious people. But, all is not lost:

Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. (Joel 2:12 – 14 | NIV)

So severe will be the coming judgment (“Who can endure it?”) that God provides an out. Judgment is coming; there is no escape. But, a person can prepare for it: Return to God. Repentance is the only way out of a bad situation. In light of the coming judgment, Joel wanted his people to respond the only way that made sense: Pray. The prophet saw a broken and contrite heart as the only response to a holy God. As important as outward acts of worship may be, the condition of the heart is more important to God. Joel’s people had the acts of worship down to a “T,” but their hearts had strayed far from Him. It was essential for them to get their hearts back to the a right condition in light of the coming judgment.

God’s Mercy and Judgment

Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. (Joel 2:18 | NIV)

When people turn to God in repentance, His promise is clear: He will have pity on them. He would restore them (verse 19), and would take away the threat of invasion (verse 20). There you have it. Israel need not have been destroyed. The destruction caused by the Assyrians need never have happened had the people repented and changed.

But there’s more yet:

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:25, 26 | NIV)

This is God’s continued response to the repentance of His people. Should they truly repent, God would restore them and more. Of course, what we’re reading here is completely conditional on the people. Will they truly repent? If so, then God would fulfill His promises. Of course, we know they didn’t.

In between verses 27 and 28 is a gap of many centuries.

And afterward, 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. (Joel 2:28, 29 | NIV)

Peter referred to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts as the fulfillment of these two verses. Up to this point, God’s covenant people are in view, but here God widens the scope of blessing: All people would be blessed by the coming of the Holy Spirit, not just the Jews. Young and old, male or female, regardless of social status, all believers would be filled with God’s Spirit personally.

And in between verses 28 and 29 is yet another gap of an indeterminate number of years:

I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Joel 2:30, 31 | NIV)

Eschatologically speaking, these things will take place during the future day of the Lord, beginning with Daniel’s 70th week, a period of time known as the the Tribulation.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:32 | NIV)

Both Peter and Paul take this verse in a universal sense, but Joel had in mind a faithful remnant who would call upon the name of the Lord. This is one of many examples of Bible prophecies that meant one thing when originally spoken but in light of the New Testament, have come to mean something more. Of course, Joel had no idea how Peter or Paul would apply his words, but the Holy Spirit did.

The promise is forever established in Heaven. Everyone who calls upon God will be saved. Period.

Advertisements

0 Responses to “The Minor Prophets, Part 2”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 163,937 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 149 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket

%d bloggers like this: