We have already seen the connection between a present temporal event and the future it represents in the first two chapters of Joel. Recall the plague of locusts in chapter 1, real and present; a crisis that required immediate action. Contrast that with the future presented in chapter 2, a future in which all of the people would have to face God’s final judgment. In both cases, repentance was called for: In the first case, repentance was need because God had sent a warning and a judgment upon the land for wickedness in the here and now. In the second case, repentance is required to secure our eternal future. Thus, the literal and physical circumstances of chapter 1 are illustrative of the much greater truth of eternity. If you followed along in our recent study of Hebrews, this will sound familiar to you, for everything involved in the Old Covenant was an illustration of the greater reality that came in the Person of Christ.
Joel is making that same point.
Chapter 1 is a physical illustration of the ultimate reality of chapter 2 for God’s people; chapter 3 continues farther into the future to reveal the ultimate reality of the final judgment, both for God’s opponents, and for His redeemed.
“In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
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.
They cast lots for my people
and traded boys for prostitutes;
they sold girls for wine to drink.
As we begin to look at these verses, it is very important that we keep them in context, for if we do not, we will soon be lost. Notice how the chapter begins: “In those days and at that time…”
In what days and at what time?
Don’t be confused by the chapter break that was added centuries later, this continues directly from chapter 2; we are talking about the messianic age here, for nothing in the text has indicated any kind of a scene change. Note also that he says “in those days” which is plural; this is an age, the age in which you and I are living in now.
Those “nations” that live in opposition to God and His people have a serious problem, for in their opposition to the people of God (the redeemed) they have chosen opposition to God Himself. As we saw in our study of Revelation, this is the physical manifestation of the spiritual battle described in that prophecy as “this present evil age”. Joel’s point is made clearly in verse 4:
“Now what have you against me, Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done.
Once again, the kingdoms of Tyre, Sidon and Philistia are representative of all who oppose the people of God, represented in the text by “Judah and Jerusalem”. This is an important principle in Scripture:
To oppose the people of God is to oppose God Himself.
The next section, Joel 3:5-16 gives an account of God’s response to this opposition; see you next time!