In the first part of this chapter, Joel has set up a picture, a picture in which the people have been in open and gross rebellion against God, and God has sent a serious plague upon them. Then the prophet calls upon the people to repent of their wickedness and to change their hearts, not to simply provide outward display; he has called them to get real and right with God. Now in these verses it is God’s turn to respond, and what a response!
In verse 18 we see that God became “jealous” for His land and took pity on His people in their repentance. What we see in v. 18 is the depth of God’s love for His people. Did you notice the change in tense? Joel is speaking in the past tense which clues us in to the fact that this is archetype; it is for all times and peoples.
God takes away the “locusts”, takes away their suffering and once again provides for the needs of His people. Now that they have turned away from their rebellion (sin) He provides them with abundant blessings. Take careful notice: By the time we come to the end of the passage, the people have been restored so completely it is as if they had never sinned. Of course that should come as no surprise, for I told you in the beginning that Joel’s is a messianic prophecy. God is once again dwelling with His people in a very special way, now that the people have been delivered from judgment.
These verses enable us to nail down Joel’s discussion as being without question messianic in nature, for they are quoted by Peter in his address to the crowds on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21). Peter as you know, told the crowd that day after the Holy Spirit had come to the Apostles, the pouring out of the Spirit at that time, was exactly what Joel had foretold. Jesus Messiah had come to earth bringing the good news of reconciliation between God and Man, and had then willingly gone to the cross so that His blood could be shed to take away the sins of Mankind; this is what Joel was alluding to in the previous verses. After that, came Pentecost and the pouring out of the Spirit thereby giving a sign to all humanity that God had carried out His purpose.
Now we can easily see why the crowd was so quickly impacted by Peter’s address to them, for they had come to recognize that on that very day, God was doing His greatest work; redeeming humanity.
This text falls into three parts as we will see, but more than that, it is the challenge that faces every human being alive today, for as you recall this chapter is in a context of Final Judgment. Each person at one point or another faces a decision; repent and turn to God, or refuse and deal with the consequences.
The first part of this section is comprised of 2:12-13a:
“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.
Verse 12 is God’s invitation to repentance, and then 13a takes us beyond the Old Testament acts of contrition into something much more vital and real: “Rend your heart.” Of course grief and lamentation were demonstrated by the tearing of a person’s garments as an outward sign of their regret and sorrow; God doesn’t care about outward signs, He is calling for an inward change of heart something real.
2:13b-14 is a sort of inducement to repent, reminding the people of God’s love for them, His mercy and graciousness. It even goes so far as to suggest that God may reward them with blessings in place of perils…
2:15-17 give the methodology of repentance for the people. Everyone should return to God; Joel lists several classes of people to illustrate this (2:16). They should earnestly pray to God asking for His forgiveness as they repent and turn back to Him.
Up to this point, it almost seems as though Joel were once again speaking of the assembly he called for in chapter 1, but let’s not be hasty; God’s reply is in the next section. As you will see next time, Joel suddenly begins to speak in the past tense, a sure sign that he is speaking in a transcendent sense. This transcendent tone is indicative that what is happening in the text is for all time.
In the first chapter Joel described the plague of locusts that had devastated the land that was supposed to flow with milk and honey; it was the present national crisis before the people of Joel’s day. In this section, Joel is telling the people that they will face a much greater peril than the one that faces them now: The Final Judgment of God.
The first verse calls for the great trumpets to sound the warning, but we mustn’t confuse this with his call for Lamentation in the previous chapter for keep in mind again, he is now talking about the Final Judgment. Since they were facing an actual and literal plague of locusts, the prophet uses locusts here as a metaphor for the judgment; I’m sure you will see this in the verses, for these are obviously not literal insects being described. One clue in the text that tells us this is not a literal passage is the use of the word “like” 9 times to tell us that these “locusts” look or act “like” something other than locusts. Notice also the use of apocalyptic elements that refer to judgment: “darkness, gloom, clouds, blackness, fire, flame” and “desert”.
To ensure that we comprehend that he is referring to the Final Judgment, Joel adds these two verses at the end of our passage:
Before them the earth shakes,
the heavens tremble,
the sun and moon are darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
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? (2:10-11)
These are all apocalyptic elements that, when used in a prophetic context, always refer to the judgment of God, and when this is accompanied by the “day of the Lord” being “great”, they refer to the Final judgment.
Consequently, this passage is a warning that the people must wake up now, for not only are they faced with temporal judgment for their wickedness in the here and now, they face their ultimate doom on Judgment Day. For the original recipients, this is a much more urgent call to repent that it normally would have been because of the simple fact that because of the current crisis, they are facing starvation in the short term and simply cannot put off for a single day responding to Joel’s message. Thus, their preset and literal plague served as both God’s temporal judgment, but His warning of what would come.
I was informed last Tuesday by She Who Must Be Obeyed that we were going on a little trip to the Martha Brae River about an hour away from where we were staying in Jamaica. I wasn’t all that anxious to do this, but since there is no “He Who Must Be Obeyed” in our family, I grabbed my trusty camera and off we went. Upon arrival, I realized right away that having gotten away from the coast, we were out of the gale that had been going since before we had arrived in Jamaica, so at least we would have a respite.
The shades of green that we found were nothing short of amazing. The trees were of various shades, as was the river itself, depending upon the way the light struck it. It was an overcast day on the edges of Tropical Storm Otto (soon to be Hurricane Otto), but every so often the sun would peek out between the clouds, and the entire appearance of the surroundings would change. Add that to the overhanging trees, and there are some interesting opportunities for photography. Yet along with interesting opportunities came some equally interesting challenges, like the fact that I am not all that good at photography, oh yes, there’s also my very poor eyesight. Above all however is the fact that when in a raft going down a river, you get no second chances.
If you have never been in a place like this, and this was my first time, you would be amazed at the silence and the slowly moving river twists and turns its way through the jungle.
Then suddenly the sun pops out and a shot looms right above you…
A moment later, the sun is gone and there is a heron watching for an unsuspecting fish.
Up ahead the sun pops in again and creates the most amazing shades of green…
…and around the next bend a completely different scene
All the while you gently float down the river as though there were nobody else in the world in a sort of serene amazement at what God has created.
I’ve returned home from my tropical adventure and have some things to share with you about it, which I will do as this week continues. First and foremost, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who visited this blog over the past week, for your “likes” and comments. I must admit that I was surprised at how many comments there were; it’s going to take me quite a while to read them all, but please know that I appreciate them very much.
As for our trip, we met three other couples in Jamaica, dear friends all, and had a great time together, in spite of being impacted somewhat by Hurricane Otto… and the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever had… I have some research to do so I can figure how that chef did some of the marvelous things he did to make a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner, Jamaican.
Look for two photo essays this week, one from a river raft deep in a tropical forest, and the other from a small coastal island overlooking the surf as it pounds the rocks below, powered by a distant hurricane.
Thanks again for your visits here in my absence; I hope everyone had a wonderful week!
As Joel’s account opens, there is disaster in the land in the form of an invasion of locusts. They have destroyed everything in their path that grows; crops in the fields, grain in the barns; everything. The situation is dire indeed.
God has given him a message to the people, a message in five parts. Each of these contains a summons to a different group of people to come at once to the temple for lamentations. He begins in 1:2-4 with a summons to the elders of the land. In those days during the minority of King Joash, these are the men who would have served as regents over the land until the King was old enough to serve on his own. No doubt you have noticed that Joel has not mentioned who the King was when he wrote the book as the prophets normally did, and that would be explained by the minority of Joash.
In the next section, 1:5-7, Joel summons the drunkards of the land, those who would drown their sorrows about the disaster with wine. Notice that Joel points out that the locusts have destroyed the vines; their precious alcohol is about to run out.
Next he delivers his wake up call to those who live in cities (1:8-10). Here, he likens the city dweller to a betrothed young maiden who has lost her beloved; her joy and anticipation has been replaced with sackcloth and ashes. His reference to the lack of offerings made at the temple refer to the fact that the entire rhythm of the city had been set by the morning and afternoon offerings, announced citywide with the blasting of trumpets; they had ceased, for there was nothing left to offer.
Next, his warning goes out to the farmers who have lost everything (1:11-12). Next he calls to the priests (1:13) who can no longer mediate between God and the people. Everyone is to mourn and lament for God’s judgment is upon the land; they must come and cry out to God:
Alas for that day!
For the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty. (1:15)
In verse 15 the Prophet alludes to something even more dire, for not only has God’s judgment come upon the land in the form of an invasion of locusts with devastating results, there is the final judgment yet to come. The time has arrived for the people to repent and return to God’s ways.