The Book of Joel predicts a great locus plague that will devastate the land of Judah, a plague that will be a harbinger of an even more dreadful “day of the Lord” that Judah will face, if it does not repent. Repentance is crucial for the reversal of Judah’s fortunes. Structurally we see negative messages of doom and judgment in 1:2—2:11 and positive messages of hope and restoration in 2:18—3:21; in between the two messages is the call to repent and return to the Lord (2:12-17). The placement of the promise of restoration after the call to repentance emphasizes the point that Judah’s repentance must precede restoration.
The Day of the Lord
The “day of the Lord” is the dominant theme of the book of Joel. Both the nations (3:2-3) and Israel (1:15; 2:1-2) experience the judgment of God in that day when the Lord visits. However, for the repentant community, the ‘day’ also holds out the hope of restoration (2:12-14). Ultimately, the Lord’s covenant faithfulness is expressed in his promises of abundance and protection (2:23-26; 3:1). This is epitomized in the great promise of “my Spirit” that would be poured out on “all flesh” (2:28, 29; cf. Acts 2:17-21).
The concept of the day of the Lord in Joel has several facets. First, it is used to refer to a day of judgment for Israel, and this may well have been a surprise to the people, who had positive anticipation of such a day (cf. 1:15). The imminence of the judgment may well have added to this surprise. Secondly, the phrase, “the day of the Lord” can refer to a special visitation when God’s saving power on behalf of his people is demonstrated (cf. 2:28-29; 3:14-16). More over as these passages show, the phrase could refer to both an imminent day of deliverance and such a day in the distant future. This explains why the New Testament writers at times applied such passages to their own day: they realized that the end-time events were the ultimate demonstration of the concepts of judgment and deliverance spoken of by the prophets.
The Gospel in Joel
In typical prophetic form, Joel gives his readers both the bad news of God’s judgment and the good news of his promised deliverance. The book contains a description of a dramatic judgment on God’s people through a devastating plague of locusts. This serves as a warning of the great “day of the Lord” at the end of time. Joel also includes one of the Old Testament’s most significant promises regarding the future coming of the Holy Spirit.
Both the judgment and the promise remind us of our desperate need for God’s help. The judgment that our sins deserve is far worse than a plague of locusts. The promise of the Spirit reminds us that the help we need is nothing less than supernatural. Through the ministry of Jesus Christ, the requirements of judgment and of supernatural provision have both been met. Jesus took upon himself the plague of judgment for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24) and then promised (John 14:16) and provided (Acts 2) the gift of the Holy Spirit. Preaching at Pentecost, the apostle Peter explains that in Jesus the “day of the Lord” prophesied by Joel has taken place—not at the end of history but in the middle of history (Acts 2:16–21). For believers, the end-time judgment has been carried out already—at the cross of Christ. The Spirit not only enables us to believe and receive this free gift but also empowers us to live a new, gospel-shaped life (Rom. 8:11).
* Adapted from ESV Study Bible & Gospel Transformation Bible.
This week’s Bible reading schedule:
|Monday: Joel 3||☐||Thursday: Amos 3||☐|
|Tuesday: Amos 1||☐||Friday: Amos 4||☐|
|Wednesday: Amos 2||☐||Saturday: Amos 5||☐|