Joel 3 has the prophet brings a prophecy related to the Last Days. According to Guzik, ‘Many have the wrong idea of the “last days,” thinking only in terms of the final years or months immediately before the return of Jesus in glory to this earth, or the rapture of the Church. Scripturally, we can think of the last days as an era, one that began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Since that time, the Church has not been rushing towards a distant edge that represents the consummation of all things. Instead, at the Day of Pentecost the Church came to the edge – and has run parallel to the brink for some 2,000 years’.
God’s already in motion moving toward those final days. God’s judgment is pending, and will come upon us soon. Beside the judgment we will face for our individual sins, where we stand before God and give account, there will also be a judgment of the nations. God cares about how His people have been treated. “I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel”. Held on the earth after His return in glory, this judgment determines who is allowed to enter into the Millennial Earth, and who goes straight to judgment.
God is going to retaliate against those who have mistreated His people. All of us will stand before a righteous Judge. Judgment is about the only aspect of God’s plan of the ages that is plainly logical. The grace and mercy of God is not plainly logical. Salvation by grace through faith is not plainly logical. The high standing and destiny of the believer in Jesus is not plainly logical. Judgment – God simply giving those who reject Him what they deserve – is plainly logical. We’ll all stand before Him and face that judgment, for our own actions, and for our actions as a nation.
God’s clear that He will be on the throne making the call. “I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations”. His time, His place, His standards – it’s all about Him. In those days, everyone will come before Him and face the outcome of their choices. Sin is always our choice. It never happens to us. We choose it. “For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”. Joel sees the vision of all mankind coming before God to get His decision. There is only one way for us to avoid that terrible valley – to receive God’s mercy and grace through Christ. “But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel”. We should decide for Jesus right now so we never stand in this valley of decision. It’s our choice how we prepare for our face to face with God at Judgment Day. Don’t be unprepared to stand before a Holy and Righteous God!
Joel 2 reminds us all the Lord’s judgment was arriving against Judah. “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near”. We’re in a similar situation with Christ’s pending return. When we are right with God, we want the day of the Lord. We long for Him to show His strength because we know that we abide in Him. When we are not right with God, we dread the day of the Lord, because when God shows Himself strong, His strength may work against us. It is coming for us, as it did for Judah. We need to be ready.
Christ’s return will change everything. And as it was for Judah, it will be amazing for us. “For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it”? That return will begin the end of time and eternal judgment. It’s reckoning for how we have lived. And even though we don’t deserve anything except punishment for our sin, God still wants us to come back to Him. “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster”. Even at the point of judgment, God is in the restoration business.
What’s God want from us? In a word it is repentance. He wants us to turn back to Him with sincerity, and Joel tells us how to do that:
- Sincere repentance is to turn to God, and therefore away from our sin.
- Sincere repentance is done with all your heart, giving everything you can in surrender to God.
- Sincere repentance is marked by action (with fasting) and emotion (with weeping . . . mourning). Not every act of repentance will include fasting and weeping, but if action and emotion are absent, it isn’t real repentance.
God desires restoration. And if we come back to Him, promises abound. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you….You shall know….that I am the Lord your God and there is none else”.
Joel prophesies the future and how God will pour out His Holy Spirit on those who repent and are restored to Him. We see this come to pass in Acts 2. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions”. That is the foretelling of Pentecost. Centuries before Christ was born, God spoke through Joel to tell the amazing story of Acts 2. But that wasn’t the end of the story – it continues today. “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth….it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. Are you in right relationship with God? Have you called on Him to save you from your sin? He’s still in the restoration business, just waiting for you to confess, repent and believe!
Joel 1 has a new prophet speaking the word from God. “The word of the Lord that came to Joel”. The prophet Joel spoke to the southern kingdom of Judah, and makes no reference to the northern kingdom of Israel. It’s hard to pin down when this writing occurs, because he doesn’t mention any other kings or prophets. Many scholars date the book of Joel to around 800 b.c. Joel is one of the earliest prophets – only Obadiah prophesied before him – and this prophecy happens prior to the fall of both kingdoms.
Joel is a prophet that gets truth directly from God. But he not only proclaims that to the people – he instructs them how to spread the truth and make impact. That means to teach it to the children. “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation”. Teaching our kids God’s truth is of extreme importance. It’s how the word truly gets spread. This is discipleship demonstrated as it should happen in a family. Parents teach their kids, who teach their kids, and on it goes for generations. It has to be interntional and continual. But this simple principle can change the world and a family forever.
Joel also demonstrates the impact of ongoing devastation. “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten”. There is a progression of destruction here where each type of locust takes a little bit more and causes a bit more damage. It’s how unrepented sin works. If we don’t address it through confession and repentance, it gradually eats away at our life and the judgment of God will take more and more.
Joel makes it clear that God’s people need to wake up and pay attention. Joel tells Judah that they should look at their condition and mourn, with emotion and passion. They should not miss the lesson and opportunity here – they need to turn around and come back to the Lord. Joel gives the formula for what that repentance should look like:
- “Consecrate a fast – make getting right with God the main thing, even more than eating
- call a solemn assembly – call all God’s people together to repent
- Gather the elders – it starts with the leaders
- all the inhabitants of the land – it should include all people
- to the house of the Lord your God – it happens in God’s house
- cry out to the Lord” – it simply is a cry to God for His grace and mercy and to restore right relationship
Joel paints a picture of how we should get right with God. Things are in shambles and destruction has happened. He informs the people how to turn that around and get right with God.
Joel 3 has the prophet talking about God’s plan to restore His people. “I will gather all the nations and bring them down….into judgment”. God is going to “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” by bringing His people back together. But in order to do that, He will gather all the nations that have mistreated and scattered His people. They will be brought before Him to stand judgment for their actions. God will give back that which has been taken from His people, and restore their land.
Joel tells us that God “will stir them up from the place to which you sold them”. God is going to grab the hearts of His people and draw them together. They have been separated for many years and living in many places, but God has the ability to stir any heart open to Him. And He will stir our hearts toward good and righteousness if we are in relationship with Him. He’ll stir our conscience and make us sensitive to sin and righteousness. He will convict our hearts and lead us to repentance if we are only open to His Spirit.
God also is not only going to stir people up, but call them to action. “Let the weak say, I am a warrior”. God has the ability for us to become warriors, or anything for that matter. He only needs a willing heart to take us from where we are to where we need to be. Scripture is full of stories of men and women who were not equipped or capable of the task which God called and made capable. If God originates it, God orchestrates it. He will equip us when He calls us to do things. We simply need to be willing and respond to His call. The details lie in His hands.
Joel writes about “the valley of decisions”. I love that description. While this passage is not speaking about us today – we all are in a valley filled with decisions we need to make. Every day our life is filled with hundreds or more choices we must make. We need to walk wisely through those decisions and be sure we are focused on obedience to God’s will. “The Lord is a refuge to his people”. That is a promise we all need to cling to. But it has a qualifier – we need to be one of His people. We need to be walking with Him. That is a continual choice as we face the decisions of life every day. Do you choose Jesus? Or do you just go about doing things your own way?
Joel 2 gives us hope after the prophet paints a very challenging and hopeless picture in the first chapter. And for good reason, as God’s wrath is certainly nothing to ignore. “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness”. If we choose to be disobedient and bring God’s punishment, He is more than able to destroy and make life miserable for all.
But God is a God of love, and even in the midst of disaster and utter destruction, there is hope. “For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it….Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning….Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster”. God wants us to come back. He is there waiting for us. We just need to get our heart right – to be obedient and make Him Lord.
The leaders were to take action too. “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants”. This was an all hands on deck kind of rally. They were to bring all ages together and come before God. The leaders were to intercede as well – to get between God and His people and seek God’s forgiveness. “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, Spare your people, O Lord”. There is power in intercession when a leader does it right.
And what will be the result of a people with a changed heart that is obedient to God, and leaders that rally the people to consecrate themselves and repent? God responds. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you”. He’ll meet their immediate needs and provide for them. But beyond that, God also wants to meet their eternal and spiritual needs and will make a way for them to spend eternity with Him. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. That is the God of the Bible, and He is our God and will work the same way today!
Joel 1 has us hearing from another of God’s prophets – and he too has the “word of the Lord”. Joel gets God’s instruction and makes it clear it is not only for the people of the day, but to be passed to generations to come. God’s words are often timeless and continue on for ever. “Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation”.
He begins by speaking to the leaders, but quickly passes the focus to all who live there. And then the tells them to tell their children, and children’s children and on the message is to go. The message is pretty strong – destruction is coming, and he describes four kinds of locusts that will come and wreak havoc with the land. Cutting locusts….swarming locusts…..hopping locusts…..destroying locusts – one after another they come and cut off the food. It is going to be a tough time as “the harvest of the field has perished”.
Joel tells the people how to respond. He breaks it down and gives them specific instruction:
– “Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests
– wail, O ministers of the altar
– Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God!
– Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast
– call a solemn assembly
– Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God
– cry out to the Lord”
There is action to be taken as not only will locusts come to destroy the crops, drought will follow as well. That means nothing for man or beast to eat. And it will be severe. “For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field”. It is one thing to struggle with weather – but a drought like this is going to really cause some suffering. Water is dried up. There will be little they can do when this happens except to call to the Lord. He alone will be able to meet their needs.