Scripture reading – Joel 1; Joel 2


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We come to the Book of Joel as we continue our chronological study of the Scriptures. Joel is named among the minor prophets because the book that bears his name is only three chapters long. The book’s subject was the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and God’s imminent judgment of Judah. The date for this book is uncertain; however, some scholars propose it was one of the earliest prophetic writings. Nevertheless, it preceded the destruction and judgment of Jerusalem and Judah.


Joel 1 – “The Day of the LORD is at Hand”


Summons to Old Men (Joel 1:2-4)

Summoning the “old men” to hear and give ear, Joel called upon them to testify of the judgment coming upon the nation and that it was like none other that preceded it (Joel 1:2). The severity of God’s judgment would be so great, that it behooved the “old men” to tell the story of God’s judgment to the generations that would follow (Joel 1:3). Taking the locust and its four stages of growth as a symbol of four judgments, the portrait was drawn of a vast judgment that might provoke God’s people to repent and turn to the LORD (Joel 1:4; Jeremiah 15:3; Ezekiel 14:21).


Summons to the Drunkards (Joel 1:5-7)

After awakening the “old men,” the “drunkards” were summoned by Joel (Joel 1:5-7). These “drunkards” symbolized a hedonistic, pleasure-seeking people who reveled in the indulgences of wine and drunkenness (Joel 1:5). Joel prophesied that God’s judgment would fall upon the drunkards, and “the new wine…[would be] cut off from [their] mouth” (Joel 1:5b). Rather than locusts, the prophecy described the LORD’s judgment that would be carried out by “a nation [that was] come up upon [the LORD’s] land” (Joel 1:6).

Scholars generally agree that this nation was Assyria, which, a century before Joel’s prophecy, had taken northern Israel captive (the ten tribes of the north). Described as “strong, and without number,” Assyria’s soldiers were the bane of the ancient world.  Twice, we read that the Assyrian army had “the teeth of a lion” (Joel 1:6). Joel foretold how the enemy would strip the land bare, wasting the vine (symbol of Judah) and the fig tree (most likely a symbol of Jerusalem, Joel 1:7).

A General Summons to the Congregation (Joel 1:8-14)

A General Summons to the Congregation (Joel 1:8-14)

Joel summoned the people to “lament like a virgin” who mourns the death of her husband (Joel 1:8). In their distress, Judah was urged to cry to the LORD. The people were impoverished. With no harvest, they had no offerings for “the house of the LORD” (Joel 1:9).

The farmers were commanded to bemoan the failure of their crops and “be ye ashamed…because the harvest of the field is perished” (Joel 1:11). Of the workers of the orchards, it was said that their “joy [was] withered away,” for the vines and the fruit trees were withered (Joel 1:12). The priests and those who served as “ministers of the altar, were called to mourn and lament, for there were no offerings to present to the LORD (Joel 1:13).

Joel longed for the LORD to deliver Jerusalem from the enemy. He called upon the people to gather at the Temple in “a solemn assembly” and urged them to “fast” (sign of grief) and “cry unto the LORD” to save them (Joel 1:14).


A Prophetic Lamentation (Joel 1:15-20) 

Understanding that only the LORD could save Judah, Joel cried, “15Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand [Day of Judgment]” (Joel 1:15). The siege of Jerusalem brought famine (“meat cut off before our eyes”) and a time of sorrow (Joel 1:16). There was no harvest, no offerings, and the barns rotted. The crops withered (Joel 1:17). Not even the beasts were spared, for there was no pasture (Joel 1:18). Joel cried to the LORD and confessed, “The fire hath devoured the pastures…the flame hath burned all the trees” (Joel 1:19-20). All was lost without the LORD’s help.


Joel 2


The Day of the LORD, the Day of Judgment (Joel 2:1-11)

Joel’s penitent prayer for Jerusalem (Zion) continued in chapter 2, as the prophet summoned the priests to pray for the nation. We read, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (Joel 2:1). The judgment the LORD was imminent.

It is generally believed that the immediate threat to Judah and Jerusalem in Joel’s lifetime was Assyria. The approach of that nation’s army was described as “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness” (Joel 2:2a). The Assyrians had destroyed everything in their path (Joel 2:3). The army encamped outside of Jerusalem’s walls was mighty and terrifying to look upon (Joel 2:4-5). 

All nations, walled fortresses, and cities were fallen to Assyria, and without the LORD, there was no hope that Jerusalem would be spared (Joel 2:6-9). Indeed, the mass movement of a great army was described as causing the earth and the heavens to tremble (Joel 2:10). In the words of the prophet, even the sun, moon, and stars were moved by the sight of Assyria’s great army (Joel 2:10-11).

Return to the LORD

Return to the LORD (Joel 2:12-17)

Despite the sins and rebellion of the people, the LORD called upon Judah to return to Him with all their heart, and “with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). Joel exhorted the people, “rend [tear]your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God” (Joel 2:13). Cut away the callousness of your sinful hearts and repent, for “the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (Joel 2:13).

Longing for a national revival, Joel called on the priests to “blow the trumpet in Zion” and “gather the people” (Joel 2:15-16). The spiritual leaders of Judah were to “weep between the porch and the altar” and pray, “Spare thy people, O Lord, And give not thine heritage to reproach, That the heathen should rule over them: Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:17)


Repent and Be Restored (Joel 2:18-27)

Joel assured the people that if they returned to the LORD, He would pity and show them compassion (Joel 2:18). He would answer their cries and send them “corn, and wine, and oil” (Joel 2:19) and drive “the northern army” out of the land (Joel 2:20). Amid their sorrows, the prophet exhorted the people that should they repent, the land would “be glad and rejoice: For the Lord will do great things” (Joel 2:21).” The pastures would thrive with life. The trees would bear fruit (Joel 2:22). The rains would return. The storehouses would be “full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil” (Joel 2:24).

Is it not the longing of every believer that the LORD would “restore to [them] the years that the locust hath eaten”? (Joel 2:25) Yet, the LORD requires that His people acknowledge and confess their sins and turn to Him. In His grace, He can repay what was lost in our foolishness and give us cause to praise His name (Joel 2:26).


Closing thoughts (Joel 2:28-32)

Joel foretold a season of sorrow and suffering Judah would endure because of their sins and rebellion; however, the LORD promised those who repented and turned to Him, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). Joel prophesied the day would come when “all flesh” would receive the outpouring of God’s Spirit. On that day, sons and daughters would prophesy, old men would “dream dreams,” and young men would “see visions” (Joel 2:28).

When did this prophecy come to pass? It was partially fulfilled after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, when the Spirit of God was poured out, the apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 (note Acts 2:17-21).

However, the “wonders in the heavens and in the earth,” the sun being turned into darkness, and “the moon into blood” is still the future. Those wonders will occur “before the great and the terrible day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:19-20).

What a blessed promise when we read, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32). Friend, if you are not saved, stop now and trust the LORD’s promise, and “call on the name of the LORD, and be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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