Last Sunday evening, we began our study of the book of Joel. As we noted last time, Joel’s name means “Yahweh is God,” which can also be the theme for the oracle. We also noted why Joel is probably a post-exile prophet, traced the overall theme in the book, and dealt with the first chapter of the book. We saw how a great locust plague had devoured everything (Joel 1:4) and how the Prophet calls the nation to mourn a lament. We begin tonight in Joel 2, starting with the coming of the day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-11):
Joel continues the oracle by announcing the coming of the day of the Lord once again (Joel 2:1-2). It is described as a “day of darkness and gloominess” (2:2a). It is a day in which “a people come, great and strong” (2:2b). The locust were the bringers of the day of the Lord and part of the fierce judgment from God. When they came, it was a day of darkness and gloom for, they were without number, and nothing could be done to prevent them from devouring and destroying.
Beginning in 2:3 and continuing until 2:10, Joel switches to present tense (in the English text) to speak of the plague of locust when he had been speaking of them in the past tense previously. A simple explanation offered by Tom Hamilton is that “when the nation first experienced the locust plague, it was just that to them, a locust plague. Now that Joel has explained to the people that the locust invasion was the harbinger of the Day of the Lord (1:15), they need to go back, so to speak, and relive the experience by looking at it through this new perspective” (Hamilton 2007, 377). Sometimes, we are ignorant, deaf, and blind to the spiritual realities around us, and it takes someone else to point out what was happened, after the fact, for us to get the full impact of those events.
This section ends with, “The LORD gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). God is behind this plague, and the locust is God executing His word. Since this is the case, no one will be able to endure the day of the Lord. All will be destroyed on that day unless Yahweh intervenes.
A Call to Repentance (Joel 2:12-17):
Consistent with God’s own nature, there is now the opportunity to repent and, perhaps, avoid the coming calamity. The ESV translates 2:12 as, “Yet even now…” that is, there is still time to return to God. This is the same thought expressed in Psalm 32:6 NLT, “Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.”
But why should any Israelite repent if the locust are already here? Because God “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:13). The Prophet continues with, “Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him – A grain offering and a drink offering form the LORD your God (Joel 2:14). The imagery here contrasts what the locust have done in judgment. There was plenty before, the locust come and leave nothing but devastation.
On the other hand, God can come and take devastation and leave abundance afterward. With repentance, forgiveness can be a reality, but forgiveness is not for the one seeking to give but for the one who has been wronged. So Joel “leaves the outcome where it belongs – in the hands of God. All he can bring himself to say is, Who knoweth? This questioning uncertainty is not directed against God’s character but is a reflection of the genuine humility that is a necessary prerequisite for true repentance” (Hamilton 2007, 413).
This section ends with the people being called to pray and petition God for His grace and forgiveness (2:15-17). Why? Because Yahweh is God.
The Land Refreshed (Joel 2:18-27):
An inference based on the text seems that the people listened to Joel and did indeed repent. The ASV renders 2:18 as “Then was Jehovah jealous for his land and had pity on his people.” Because the nation repented, God did indeed “leave a blessing behind Him” (v.14).
- V.19 – God sends abundance in grain, wine, and oil and promises that He would no longer make them a reproach among the nations.
- V.20 – The great army of locusts will be driven far beyond the boundaries of the land to a desolate place.
- VV.21-22 – The land and the animals (who mourned in Joel 1:10, 20) are comforted. All has been restored, and God is praised for having done “marvelous things” (2:21).
- VV.23-25 – The nation is instructed to rejoice in God, for He has acted gracefully restoring all that the locust had destroyed (2:25).
All of this, the locust, the lamenting, the judgment, repentance, and restoration were done so that God’s people would know that He was “in the midst of Israel; I am the LORD your God, and there is no other” (2:27).
God’s Spirit Poured Out (Joel 2:28-32):
“And it shall come to pass afterward” (2:28). This phrase does not indicate specific time but rather sequential order (Hamilton 2007, 445-446). In short, after Israel’s shame is removed, at some future time, God is going to do what Joel describes in the following verses.
- vv.28-29 – The pouring out of God’s Spirit. The people of God at some later day will experience His Spirit or presence in a new and fuller way than they had previously known.
- vv.30-31 – These verses have to do with the idea that on that day, God’s judgment will be all-encompassing. Hamilton adds that “Joel indicates that God’s judgment is cosmic in its dimensions, with the bloody destruction of God’s enemies traversing both even and earth” (Hamilton 2007, 457).
- v.32 – This is the climax of the book. Yahweh is God. So, will you call upon His name to be saved? Or will you persist in rebellion and face the day of the Lord?
While the verses of Joel 2:28-32 probably were applied multiple times and saw partial fulfillments over the centuries, its full fulfillment was and is in Christ. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:16-24, Peter quotes this section of Joel to explain the events on that day.
- There was the outpouring of God’s Spirit. God was dwelling personally with men (the baptism of the Holy Spirit).
- God was in totality victorious over all His enemies in that Christ’s death on the Cross rendered powerless Satan and his dominion.
- And it is Christ’s name that we call on to be saved (Acts 22:16).
While preaching a message of repentance to his generation, Joel looked forward to the day in which repentance would be preached to all men. We are living in the days that Joel saw. So, will you repent and live? Or do you choose to stand alone on the day of the Lord in which no one can withstand?
Hamilton, Tom. The Book of Joel. Truth Commentaries, Minor Prophets I. Bowling Green, Kentucky: Guardian of Truth Foundation, 2007.