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Bible: What Does Joel Teach Us About the "Day of the LORD"?
The Prophet Joel
The Desert Locust
A Locust Invasion
THE BOOK OF JOEL
Joel, the recipient of Yahweh's word, addresses all the people of the land, but especially the elders, and asks them to consider the extraordinary nature of the days in which they live: how the current times far outstrip in moment any event in recent memory, and how what is happening provides great material for folk literature and tradition (vv. 1-3).
What is the subject of such an introduction? A locust invasion completely devastates the land (v. 4).
Vines and fig trees alike—stripped of their skin and bark by this hungry multitude—can no longer provide Israel with their fruits.
Joel understands this calamity as divine punishment especially against those who misuse "the fruit of the vine" (vv. 5-7).
In addition, the "invasion" also prevents the priests from offering grain and drink at the temple (vv. 9-10).
The prophet therefore calls the people to a community lament (v. 8).
Those whose livelihoods the locusts have especially affected should join the sorrowful event; joy has withered away because of the land's decimation (vv. 11-12).
Joel, however, does not stop here.
Next, he addresses the priests directly, exhorting them to perform two duties:
(1) Lament and mourn over the postponement of the daily sacrifices (v. 13), and
(2) Lead a nationwide time of fasting and prayer before Yahweh (v. 14).
The "day of the LORD" has come (v. 15)!
Here Joel treats this "day" as a period of divine judgment; widespread agricultural failure has led to severe food shortages (vv. 16-17).
Farm animals also suffer because of the people's sin (v. 18).
The prophet cries out for relief from the famine, drought, and brush fires that continue to ravage all life (vv. 19-20).
An Accurate Analogy
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By means of a blowing of trumpets, Joel warns Jerusalem that God has permitted a fierce human invader to destroy the land and its people during the "day of the LORD" (v. 1).
The writer's description of both the terrible, dark day and the enemy adds to the horror the city faced.
The invasion is reminiscent of that of the locusts.
Apparently, this army espouses a “Scorched Earth” policy—that is, if the reader should understand the passage literally—as it advances.
Again, the soldiers' effect upon the country is not unlike the conditions the locusts (and other natural phenomena) had produced earlier (vv. 2, 3; cf. 1: 2-3, 19-20).
[This entire passage is, in fact, a remarkable comparison of the two "armies" in their appearance and movements.
Yet there is a sense in which the human army is different; it does not have teeth like lions (cf. 1:6)].
The language of appearance assumes such prominence that it is difficult to distinguish which army Joel is describing.
Their speed of advance and the noise they make as they approach the city greatly impress the prophet.
Every movement is orderly and quick, and their military discipline is extraordinary.
Indeed, once they penetrate the city, they spread everywhere and efficiently execute their plan (vv. 4-9).
Whether employing hyperbole or not, Joel notes the effects the army produces on the heavenly bodies (v. 10).
God, through this army, executes His word of destruction—a message that no one can withstand (v. 11).
Yahweh still holds out hope for Jerusalem if her people would only repent wholeheartedly, for He is gracious and may relent from chastening them (vv. 12-14).
Acting upon this wisdom, the prophet immediately calls for a citywide assembly with the purpose of turning back to God.
Every individual—from infants to elders—must participate, but the priests should especially intercede for the people (vv. 15-17; cf. Ex. 32:11-14).
Israel's Spiritual Salvation and Kingdom
Salvation for Israel
Once Jerusalem meets this condition, in whatever period she might find herself, Yahweh will respond compassionately, bless her abundantly with material prosperity and peace, and confound her adversaries (vv. 18-20).
Despite hearing the promise of a coming time of joy and abundant fruitfulness to replace the appalling fear and destruction, the land, the beasts, and the people still need the exhortations "Do not fear" and "Be glad" (vv. 21-23).
A great spiritual recrudescence will accompany God's marvelous and wondrous dealings in the land (vv. 23, 26-27).
Joyous praise and knowledge of God abound, especially as the Spirit, having been divinely "poured out," manifests Himself in all flesh (vv. 28-29; cf. Acts 2:16-21).
Joel also alludes to other ominous signs that will occur before "the day of the LORD" (vv. 30-31; see Walter Kaiser's The Uses of the Old Testament in the New for his treatment of this generic prophecy).
Called by God, the remnant in Jerusalem will then experience personal salvation (v. 32).
The Future Site of a "Day of the LORD" Judgment
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The Second Coming of Messiah Jesus
Judgment as well as deliverance will characterize "those days" and "that time" when God brings back the "captives of Judah and Jerusalem."
Yahweh will also gather together the nations which scattered Israel throughout the world, divided up the land, and sold God's people (vv. 1-3).
[Matthew 25:31-46 describe this judgment of the nations in more detail; it will take place after the Great Tribulation and just prior to the beginning of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus].
Yahweh alludes to several of Israel's neighboring enemies (Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia) and two other powers (Greeks and Sabeans) that He will judge harshly because they mistreated His people.
Their actions (stealing, v. 5; slavery, v. 6) during Joel's time resemble those deeds to be performed in "the last times" (cf. vv. 2, 3).
God will ensure that these Gentiles will reap what they have sown, for Israel will "turn the tables" on them (vv. 7-8).
Joel describes the assembling of the nations for war and the LORD’s subsequent judgment (vv. 9-17; cf. 2: 10-11; 3:1, 2).
So motivated for conflict will many become that they will wage war with farm implements (v. 10; cf. Is. 2:4 for its reversal).
Elect angels will participate in these terrible battles (vv. 11, 13; cf. Rev. 14:14-20; 16:12-16), as well as demonic forces which will incite the kings of the nations to come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (v. 12; cf. Rev. 16:14).
The prophet records this spectacle—an historic day of judgment.
Undoubtedly, millions gather in a relatively small area (perhaps including sixteen hundred furlongs [two hundred miles], Rev. 15:20), and fight in dim or negligible light.
Then suddenly, the glorious “Revelation” of Christ occurs, causing even greater terror.
Perhaps near His arrival, the great earthquake hits (vv. 14-16; see Rev. 16:18 ff).
Nevertheless, through all of this “Great Tribulation,” God protects His elect and concludes the war in a just and holy manner (v. 17).
Joel gives his perspective about the glorious future prepared for Israel as well as the desolation of the enemies of the chosen people (vv. 18-21).
SUMMARY QUESTIONS OF JOEL
1. What two leadership groups does the prophet address in chapter one? What are their individual responsibilities?
2. In what sense does the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts resemble the scene Joel describes in chapter two?
3. What battle occurs in the Valley of Jehoshaphat?
4. Who will be involved in this “great” war?
5. What NT book speaks specifically about this last battle?
6. To what event does Joel compare the coming invasion?
7. What will follow this war?
8. What could Israel have done to avoid total destruction in Joel’s day?
9. Who in Israel will obtain salvation?
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