Category Archives: Joel

Joel 3 – The Lord’s Judgment and Blessing on “That Day”

Joel 3 starts with, “In those days and at that time . . . ” and a prophecy about judgment to come on those nations that have destroyed Jerusalem and scattered Judah. This doesn’t sound like any kind of ultimate judgment, but those nations getting some of their own medicine. Then we get full on eschatological when the Lord will “judge all the nations on every side,” and it is not a pretty picture because “so great is their wickedness.” Then we read this poetically beautiful and ominous verse:

14 Multitudes, multitudes
    in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
    in the valley of decision.

While I can see certain kinds of fundamentalists using this verse to prompt an audience to make a decision for the Lord, we find the key to it’s interpretation in verse 2:

I will gather all nations
    and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will put them on trial
    for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
    and divided up my land.

The word Jehoshaphat means the Lord judges, so this valley Joel speaks of is one where the Lord has made his decision to judge the nations, or what is called “the day of judgment.” The concept of such a “day” is mainly a new testament one, but you can find oblique references in some of the prophets a time or two. Here’s it’s “the day of the Lord.” “The day of judgment” is used four times by Jesus, but only in Matthew’s gospel. Paul refers to the “day of God’s wrath,” and Peter and John use it as well. This will not be a great day because God’s just judgment of great wickedness will not be pleasant. 

Being an eschatological phrase, or a phrase referring to the end of things, this judgment Joel refers to is contrasted with the blessing to come for God’s people. This is how things will end on that “day”:

16 The Lord will roar from Zion
    and thunder from Jerusalem;
    the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
    a stronghold for the people of Israel.

He speaks of Judah being “inhabited forever,” and “Jerusalem through all generations,” but there is no way this refers to the nation state of Israel, that tiny piece of land in the Middle East. This blessing promised is not a physical place, but the place where God’s presence resides. We get a hint that this points to Christ when the Lord says:

21 Their bloodguilt which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.”

The Lord dwells in Zion!

The word for pardon is translated in various ways, but the Hebrew word means “to be empty or clean.” The Lord will dwell with his people when their sin is wiped away, forgiven, and atoned for. As the hymn says, Jesus paid it all. On that “day,” which we are currently living in and will one day live in forever (the already and the not yet), God does and will dwell with, in, and through us. Our hope is in his presence, forever!

 

 

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Joel 2 – Those who call on the name of the Lord are those whom the Lord calls!

The day of the Lord makes its appearance in this chapter as horrifying judgment, and ultimate salvation. How could that be? As we’ve seen before in the prophets judgment and salvation always go together, but what we learn from the phrase “the day of the Lord” is that one day salvation will no longer be an option for those who have not been saved.

The initial day Joel speaks of equates locusts coming in the form of an army, which depending on the date Joel wrote is either Assyria or Babylon. Whatever army it is, Joel paints a horrifying picture:

The day of the Lord is great;
    it is dreadful.
    Who can endure it?

Isn’t it interesting that this “day,” this period of time when destruction reigns on the land is the Lord’s, he owns this day because he has made it, he has decreed it, he has set in motion everything that will happen.

Immediately after this question, when all hope seems futile, the Lord switches gears:

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 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.

Maybe he won’t destroy them after all. Then the Lord tells them what they have to do to “return” to him, and knowing what happened they obviously didn’t do it. But the next section explains that at some point things did change, and God’s blessing flows out to his people with the final result being:

27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

All the blessing here are physical and have to with the land, but these promises point way beyond national Israel in a tiny patch of land in the Middle East. We know this because of the very next verse:

28 “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.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Peter in the first Christian sermon preached at Pentecost in Acts two tells us that “afterward” are the days after the resurrection and ascension of Christ:

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

The key phrase in Joel 2, the end game of the whole of God’s blessing is found a few verses later when he says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This “deliverance” comes “among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” Those who call on the name of the Lord are those whom the Lord calls! That certainly warms the cockles of every Reformed Christian’s heart. The Lord is the primary actor in the drama of human salvation from sin. It depends on him, not us! As the hymn says, oh, what a wonderful Savior!

The Israelites did not repent, did not return to the Lord with “all” their heart, and they were destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and then after they did come back to the land, by the Romans. These words are not written to the secular state of Israel today, but to the followers of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, Israel’s true Messiah.

Joel 1 – The Day of The Lord is Coming, and For Us In Christ

Joel is a short book, only three chapters, and there is no agreement as to when he actually wrote or who he was. He’s only referred to as the “son of Pethuel.” All agree it was still when Israel, the northern kingdom, was in the land and the worshiping of the temple was happening. The themes of the prophets continue in Joel, the recitation of sin, the certainty of judgment, God’s promises of mercy and coming blessing.

This first chapter starts with a bang. A nation, in the past tense, has invaded the land and Joel uses the metaphor of locusts, lots of them, for total destruction. But since the Assyrians haven’t invaded and destroyed the land yet, the past tense is predicting a horrifying future event. This is described in the first 12 verses, and in verse 13 there is, therefore, a call to repentance. Given what is coming, Joel implores the leaders and all the people to put on sackcloth, declare a holy fast, and cry out to the Lord.

But either they don’t do this, or as we read in the other prophets, they cry out to idols, so we read a phrase Joel uses four times (more than any other prophet) in his short book, “the day of the Lord” that is coming. He says of it, “What a dreadful day!” God’s judgment is a serious thing, and in this context Joel tells us it will be all about destruction.

The chapter ends with Joel himself calling out to the Lord because maybe he knows the people he’s imploring will not do it. As we know, judgment and destruction do come because God’s judgment against sin must come. Thankfully, that judgment has come for us in Christ, and “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”