Scriptures

Joel 2

Introduction

‘Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste—nothing escapes them. They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defences without breaking ranks. They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows. 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?’ Joel 2:1-11

Joel describes the coming of the Lord as a re-occurrence of the locust plague, he tells us that the locust plague is actually an invading army, led by God as He comes in judgment against His people, Isaiah 2:12 / Amos 5:18.

The Trumpet

The trumpet was blown for 4 reasons.

1. A warning.

2. To call people together.

3. To get the people to move as a body.

4. To proclaim rejoicing.

The Locusts

Here the trumpet is to be blown as a warning, the locusts are coming, and they will be a destructive force. Locusts never fought over food, they were disciplined, hence this is a very well-trained army. This army is going to be God’s army and they were brutal and the fiercest of all, it was the Babylonians, Ezekiel 1.

The army is so great and powerful the whole earth would shake, things were going to be bad. Joel is telling them that the land is going to be totally destroyed by the locusts, just like a fire sweeps through a forest, nothing will be left.

The locusts were so numerous, the sky turned dark and they climb the city walls and went into every house. The people needed to know that this locust plague was sent from God, after all, He commands them, but if the people didn’t repent, then this huge army would come later to destroy them, in other words the Assyrians and Babylonians would come.

‘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. 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. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ Joel 2:12-17

God Himself speaks here and elaborates on the fact, if the people repent, they will receive mercy. Because every aspect concerning repentance is mentioned here, ‘fasting, weeping and mourning’, make no mistake about it, He is looking for true repentance, Psalm 51:17 / 2 Corinthians 7:10 and if they repent, then God would truly bless them.

Blowing the trumpet here was for the reason of bringing the people together, this was to be repentance on a national scale. Because all the elders, children and priests were to come together, this tell us the scale of their sin, everyone was involved, everyone was guilty. Everyone needed to repent and turn to God.

We can imagine the nations surrounding Palestine thinking to themselves, ‘the God of Israel was no different from any of their gods,’ hence the reason God’s people needed to repent, so that God could bring them some kind of relief to them and show the nations around that He isn’t like their gods.

‘Then the LORD was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. The LORD replied to them: ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. ‘I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.’ Surely, he has done great things! Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things! Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 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.’ Joel 2:18-27

Here God speaks of immediate, temporal and future blessings. All their possessions, which were taken away, would be replaced, rain would come again, and produce would be grown, this is restoration of the land and the people. They would have no doubts that God was behind these blessings.

Remember that the plague and the drought had gone on for some time and so, God promises, if they continue to repent, they would be fine but if they turned their backs on God again, they would need to watch out, trouble would come.

This ends the first part of Joel’s prophecy and it’s clearly related to the people of his day. The rest of the book looks forward to a period described as ‘afterward’, Joel 2:28, ‘in those days and at that time’, Joel 3:1, and ‘in that day’, Joel 3:18.

‘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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.’ Joel 2:28-32

The last days

There is so much going on in the ‘religious world’ concerning the last days, people are looking for signs and wonders to prove we’re in the last days, they say ‘there are wars and there are terrors which all point to the end of the world.’

I wonder what the Bible actually teaches us concerning ‘the last days’, I think you’ll find it fairly straightforward, ‘In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.’ Hebrews 1:1-2.

Notice how the writer begins, he writes as a matter of fact. There’s no doubt or question about the existence of God, he simply says, ‘in the past God’. We find a similar style of writing in Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning God.’ Again, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ John 1:1.

And notice again that there’s no doubt or question about the existence of God in these author’s minds. In other words, the Bible never sets out to argue for the existence of God, it’s taken as a matter of fact that God is, God exists.

And because the writer says, ‘at many times and in various ways’ this actually implies that God had more to say. In other words, each prophet didn’t carry the final message.

The whole truth wasn’t out yet, God’s revelation wasn’t complete yet. We know that God first spoke directly to the patriarchs, then God spoke through the written law. Then God spoke in dreams and visions and God also spoke through the prophets. But God wasn’t done revealing His word yet.

And I use the word ‘but’ because that’s the word the writer of this letter uses. And he uses that word to emphasise the contrast between how God spoke and revealed His Word to mankind in the past and how He revealed His complete and final revelation in Jesus. He says, ‘but in these last days’ which is obviously a Messianic reference.

We’ve been living in the last days ever since the arrival of Jesus. The last days are the days of the Messiah, not the end of the world. Several centuries before the birth of Christ, the prophet Joel in Joel 2:28-29 foretold that the Spirit of God would be ‘poured out’ in the ‘last days’.

When Peter preached the first Gospel message to the Jews in Acts 2 he says, ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.’ Acts 2:17.

Peter quotes from Joel 2 and notice how he describes the days in which they were living at that point in time. He describes them at ‘that point in time’ as living in ‘the last days’.

Countless sermons have been preached, thousands of books have been sold which all try tell to tell us that certain things are happening in the world today and they tell us these are all ‘signs’ that Jesus is about to return. And so, they go out on the streets preaching and they have these posters which say, ‘the end is near, we’re in the last days.’

Look at what Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy, ‘There will be terrible times in the last days’. 2 Timothy 3:1. And then Paul lists a whole bunch of non-Christ like attitudes but look at what he tells Timothy later, ‘Have nothing to do with such people.’ 2 Timothy 3:5.

This is present tense, have nothing to do with those people who were around at that time. That in itself, tells us that Timothy was living in ‘the last days’. When Peter is talking about the Christ, he says, ‘He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake’. 1 Peter 1:20.

Was Jesus around during the time of the Apostle Peter? Of course, He was. Peter understood he was living in the last times. Jesus uses a similar kind of language in Matthew 24:1-35.

Now remember the disciples have come to Jesus privately to ask Him ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And so, Jesus is answering their questions. Let me give you an example of how Jesus answers them. Jesus says, ‘How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!’ Matthew 24:19

He uses the words ‘those days’ throughout this text, when He’s describing the destruction of Jerusalem. But when we carry on reading from Matthew 24:36 through to Matthew 26:46, He uses the words ‘that day’ to describe what will happen at the end of the world. ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’. Matthew 24:36

Do you see how His words are more specific?

Now if we were studying the topic of ‘the end of the world’ that’s one of the texts we would go to. But we’re not studying that today, we’re studying the topic of ‘the last days’ which aren’t something still to come.

‘The last days’ were then, as the prophets looked forward to the time by speaking of ‘in those days and at that time.’ If the world continues for another thousand years, we would still be in the last days.

And so, God formerly spoke through the prophets at many times and many ways, but in these ‘last days’ He has spoken to us by His Son.

Joel here in our text, promises future blessings, He encourages them to repent and tells them He will personally be with them individually. Prophets, kings and priests would usually have God’s Spirit, Numbers 11:16-30, but God says He would do this for everybody.

Yes, this if for the Jews, but it’s also a future prophecy, concerning every generation, this promise is for everyone who would accept God on His terms. The day of the Lord had been postponed in 840 B.C. until later when two things would happen.

1. God’s Spirit would be poured out.

2. The day of the Lord would happen.

Notice that Joel mentions, sons, daughters, old men and young men, this is used to tell us that that there’s no special class of people upon whom God’s Spirit will be poured out, like happened with the Old Testament prophets and kings, 2 Kings 24:2 / Hebrews 1:1.

Notice also the miraculous aspect of God pouring out His Spirit, first of all we find prophesy.

A ‘prophet’ was one who ‘spoke forth’ for God. A ‘prophecy’ was the message ‘spoken forth’ by the servant of God who spoke as he was given words to speak by the Spirit of God and ‘prophesy’ denotes the act of speaking for God. All of these words cover both delivering the message of God, that is, preaching and teaching God’s Word.

Remember the daughters of Philip, Acts 21:9, we should understand that they were enabled to speak on God’s behalf. They had been granted the gift of prophecy, and we shouldn’t be surprised at this, because, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter reminded his hearers that Joel had spoken of the coming of a time when, ‘Your sons and daughters shall prophecy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.’ Acts 2:17 / Joel 2:28

We know that people had visions in the New Testament, but dreams are not so common, except for Joseph, a Jew, Matthew 2:19-23 and Pilate’s wife, a Gentile, Matthew 27:19. More importantly there’s nothing in the New Testament which indicates that Christians today would have dreams and visions, Hebrews 1:1-2.

Joel continues about the prophecy of what God would do in the last days. The wonders are describing about the end of the Jewish nation. When God speaks of ‘the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood’

is figurative language which God uses to describe the judgement and end of an earthly nation, Isaiah 13:9-10 / Isaiah 34:4 / Malachi 4:1 / Malachi 4:5-6. When the Jews heard this language, they wouldn’t be thinking the end of the world, as some believe today, they would be thinking ‘which nation is God judging now!’

The sun usually referred to the king of the nation, the moon and stars referred to the governors, generals and captains who received their power from the king. Joel here is speaking about the nation of Israel, Israel as a nation would come to an end. And when was this going to happen?

When the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days, Galatians 3:26-29. Notice that Joel says that this will be ‘the great and dreadful day of the Lord’.

Although this would be a great and wonderful day for believers, it would certainly be a really sad day for those who refuse to believe. For them, this day would be the day of judgment for all those who wouldn’t accept the results of the outpouring of the Spirit.

In the light of Peter’s use of this passage, in terms of deliverance, the main meaning of it, is applicable to salvation from sin, with the related indication that just a few, a ‘remnant’, will actually participate in this salvation.

In the wider meaning of the prophecy, ‘mount Zion and Jerusalem’ stand for the church or kingdom of Jesus Christ which began there. In the spiritual sense, it’s still true that ‘The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.’ Isaiah 2:3

The Holy Spirit

We need to remember the place which the Holy Spirit occupies in God’s plan of salvation, and that we should also recognise that Acts 2 marks the commencement of the age of His ministry, the age in which we now live and understand the significance of His ministry in God’s plan of salvation.

The Spirit of God in the Old Testament age

In Old Testament times the ‘Spirit of God’ didn’t have a constant ministry, so far as the nation of Israel was concerned. For example, He’s never said to ‘indwell’ or ‘fill’ that nation which was created at Sinai by the enacting of the Mosaic Covenant, in the way He is said to indwell the new people of God that were created by the New Covenant, ratified by the death of Jesus.

Instead, the Old Testament, Scriptures reveal that there were special periods of time when specially chosen individuals were inspired and motivated by the Spirit of God, to enable them to fulfil special purposes. But He had no constant ministry, and no special relationship with the individuals who made up God’s ancient people.

The Scriptures reveal how the plan of redemption unfolded

1. The decision to make Man’s salvation possible originated in the mind of God Himself, 1 John 4:9 / 1 John 4:16.

2. The plan of salvation was put into effect by the Word of God, who ‘appeared at the end of the age to put away sin.’ Hebrews 9:26 / Galatians 4:4-5 / John 1:1 / John 1:14.

3. When the redemptive work of Christ had been accomplished, the Holy Spirit came to make the Gospel effective, John.16:7-11.

But the Spirit’s ministry couldn’t commence until the Lord Jesus had returned to the Father. This is made clear in John 7:39, and in John 14:26, where the Lord speaks of ‘the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name’.

We see, then, that each member of the Godhead, that is, God, the Word of God and the Spirit of God, or, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are all involved in our redemption.

And today, wherever and whenever the Gospel is faithfully preached, the Holy Spirit will seek to produce conviction of the hearts of men and women, on the three important matters stated by the Lord Jesus Himself in the last passage mentioned, because the Gospel Age is the Age of the Spirit’s ministry.

The prophet Joel, therefore, was predicting the coming of a time when those individuals who received the forgiveness of their sins through faith in, and obedience to, the Christ, would also be granted God’s ‘dorea’, His ‘free’ or ‘extra’ gift of the Holy Spirit, as an ‘indwelling Presence’, enabling them to become the people He intends them to become.

It’s to this coming of the Holy Spirit that Peter referred on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38. In explaining how he and his fellow apostles were able to speak in languages they had never learned, Peter said, ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel’.

What did Joel and Peter mean by ‘poured out on all flesh’?

1. He did NOT mean that ‘all flesh’ would receive the ‘measure’ of the Spirit then being demonstrated by the apostles.

John 3:34, ‘measure’ is from ‘metron’ and means ‘capacity’. The apostles’ ‘baptism in the Spirit’ was something uniquely promised to them by the Lord Jesus Himself, and it was given in order to equip them to undertake an equally unique responsibility as His ‘witnesses’, Acts 1:8.

Their baptism, their ‘overwhelming’ in the Spirit, would:

a. Guide them into all truth.

b. Give them total recall of all the things Jesus had taught them.

c. Reveal to them new truths, John 14:13 / John 14:26, and,

d. ‘Clothe’ them with power, Luke 24:49.

Such promises were never made to anyone else in all of biblical history, and, regardless of what some denominations may claim, no-one today receives the ‘baptism of the Spirit’.

2. Peter meant that ALL who accepted Jesus as the Christ and submitted to Him in obedience, would also receive God’s gift of the Spirit.

This means that the Holy Spirit is God’s own gift. It doesn’t relate to a gift from the Holy Spirit, nor does it relate to the ‘gifts of the Spirit’, the ‘charismata’, or miraculous ‘grace gifts’, about which Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

That God’s gift of the Spirit is available to all, is clear from the fact that Peter said the promise was made ‘to you and your children’, the Jews to whom he was then speaking, ‘and to all who are afar off’, the non-Jews, or Gentiles, Ephesians 2:17.

In Acts 5:32, he further states that God gives this gift ‘to those who obey Him’.

3. This ‘free’ or ‘extra gift’ is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. He ‘dwells in you’, 1 Corinthians 3:16, so that ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have (received) from God’, 1 Corinthians 6:19

Furthermore, ‘you are in the Spirit if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him’, Romans 8:9.

Summary

ALL obedient believers receive the ‘Gift of the Spirit’, that is, the Holy Spirit is GOD’S own gift, Romans 8:11. This is ‘the Spirit who dwells in you’. 1 Corinthians 3:16 / 1 Corinthians 6:19.

The miraculous gifts were gifts which the Holy Spirit HIMSELF bestowed on certain individuals, and, according to 1 Corinthians 12:11, the Spirit’s gifts are given ‘as He chooses’, or, ‘as He wills’, and were not given to everyone.

This question, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’, clearly implied by Paul in his rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30.

The purpose of the miraculous gifts was to establish the truth and build up the church, Romans 1:11. Paul longed to visit the church in Rome, to impart some spiritual gift ‘to strengthen you’.

He was writing about a ‘measure’ of the Spirit beyond the usual ‘gift of the Spirit’, which these Roman Christians had already received when they were baptised into Christ, Romans 6.

These spiritual gifts were bestowed on believers by the laying on of the hands of the apostles, Romans 1:11. Read also, Paul to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 1:6, and notice, ‘by the laying on of my hands’.

Only Apostles had the power to lay on hands, to impart spiritual gifts. In Acts 8 we read that Philip went to Samaria to preach the Gospel, Acts 8:4ff. There he displayed miraculous power, performing ‘signs and wonders’ which endorsed his preaching of the Gospel. The Samaritans believed and were baptized, Acts 8:12.

The apostles in Jerusalem heard of their conversion and ‘sent down Peter and John’, Acts 8:14, who laid hands on the converts. Peter himself stated that baptism into Christ brings ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’.

Since the Samaritans had already been baptized into Christ, this imposition of the hands of the apostles was an additional blessing and was followed by a demonstration of gifts of the Spirit, which Simon must have witnessed, and which impressed him so powerfully that he offered to buy ‘this power’, Acts 8:18-19.

Acts 6:6 records that Philip, the evangelist, had, himself, already received the laying on of apostolic hands. Yet, although he performed acts of power in Samaria, he was not able to do what the apostles did. He couldn’t pass on the spiritual gifts to others. Had he been able to do so, the visit of the apostles, Peter and John, would have been unnecessary.

This surely means that the age of miraculous spiritual gifts was limited to the lifetime of the apostles and those on whom they laid their hands, and it ended with their deaths.

It’s a shame that many seek the ‘gifts’ but not the ‘Gift’. We must remember that the Holy Spirit is God’s Gift, Acts 2:28, but a gift is only a gift when it is accepted. And the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus as the Holy Guest, but He will not enter uninvited!

Application

God really wants to bless us, but we must be willing to repent, when He commands us to, Luke 13:5 / Acts 2:38. Repentance simply means to reconsider our ways and then change the direction of our lives and start following God and His ways.

There’s always the temptation to read too much into any text and make it mean something it was never meant to mean. Joel 2 is one of those chapters where people make it mean something it was never meant to mean.

All kinds of doctrines have come from this text, especially when it comes to God’s Spirit being poured out and the miraculous gifts.

Go To Joel 3

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Romans 15:13

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