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Joel 1:1516; 2:1213, 18, 2532comment (0)

May 31, 2007

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Joel 1:1516; 2:1213, 18, 2532

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Joel 1:15–16; 2:12–13, 18, 25–32

This Sunday, we begin our study of the Minor Prophets. They are called “minor” because they are short in comparison to Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, not because they have little to say. Indeed the Minor Prophets proclaim a major message that people of the 21st century desperately need to heed.

Regard God’s Warnings (1:15–16)
Joel begins his prophecy by identifying himself and the divine source of his prophecy. Since this is God’s message, the people should listen carefully and obey. He wastes no time getting to the point. A horrible locust plague has descended on Judah, ruining the crops. Not only is the basic economy of the country disrupted but all levels of society are affected. The agricultural loss even threatens the continuance of the sacrificial offerings.

In these catastrophic circumstances, Joel sees the judgment of God on Judah. Although God had abundantly blessed the Judah of King Uzziah’s day, the people had taken God and His blessings for granted. Faith had degenerated into an empty formalism and their lives into moral decadence. The word of the Lord reveals to Joel that the locust plague is a warning of a greater judgment (the Day of the Lord) that is imminent unless they repent and return to full fellowship with God. The “Day of the Lord” refers to a time when the Lord acts in a mighty way either to bring judgment or deliverance. In verse 15, the phrase refers to a particular act of judgment on His people, namely, the plague of locusts. It also warns of a worse judgment to come in the form of a military invasion from the north (2:1–11).

I believe this “natural” disaster, the plague of locusts, is supernatural in its origin. People today need to understand that El Niño does not control our weather. El Shaddai does. For Joel, the locust plague was an “act of God.” Natural disasters are God’s warning shots for people today to repent and live for the glory of God rather than wasting their lives following after frivolous pursuits.

The Christian response to calamity is both to fear God and trust Him. It is to recognize that I, too, deserve the worst of what has happened to others and must continue in a state of repentance. On the other hand, when tragedy does strike me, it is to realize that God is not necessarily punishing me for sin (John 9). He is sovereign and will work all things out for His glory and our good.

Respond to God’s Invitation (2:12–13)
In the light of the impending attack, Joel counsels the people to react with faith, not with despair. By telling the people to return “even now” and in declaring this to be a word from the Lord, Joel indicates that God has not finally rejected them and that He is ready to heal them. The Lord commands His people to repent of their sin with an attitude of remorse and a cry for forgiveness that weeping and fasting visibly express. The emotional expression is not just for show. The weeping and fasting called for are appropriate indications that the people feel the weight of their sin and do not engage in repentance flippantly.

This is the only place in the Old Testament where a prophet calls on people to tear their hearts and not their clothes. Ritual repentance, no matter how fervently performed, is of no use if the heart is unchanged. Joel pleads with the people for broken and contrite hearts (Ps. 51:17). After reiterating his plea, Joel gives the grounds for its acceptance: God is a God of grace and mercy.

Rejoice in God’s Promise (2:18, 25–32)
In these verses, the Lord promises His repentant people that He will heal them and their land. He will spare them, restore what they had lost, take away the invading army (“the northerner”) so that neither land nor cattle nor Zion herself need again have any fear.

Rather He will give them joy, refreshment and spiritual provision. They will experience satisfaction so that they can praise the Lord and know the security that He alone can give.

The gift of the Spirit to Israel is vindication of their status as the people of God as well as the source of their power to reconstitute as a community of obedience under God’s favor.

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