By Rev. Dr. J. Patrick Bowman
In verses 15-20, we see what had happened and what was happening.
Woe for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction
from the Almighty. (Joe 1:15 NASB)
This verse is our first real clue that the judgment that came was not just a fluke of nature. It was God’s hand moving swiftly against God’s people for God’s purposes. Moreover, perhaps this was just a foretaste of more that would come. Their relationship with God eroded by layer upon layer of unrepentant sin and failing to hear God’s voice. Their condition was now a national calamity, a judgment of a nation. The Almighty had a controversy with His people.
Has food not been cut off before our eyes, and Joy and rejoicing from the house of
our God? The seeds have dried up under their shovels; The storehouses have
become desolate, The grain silos are ruined, Because the grain has dried up. How
the animals have groaned! The herds of cattle have wandered aimlessly Because
there is no pasture for them; Even the flocks of sheep have suffered. (Joe 1:16-18 NASB)
Joel reiterates once again the horrid state of affairs the people find themselves in. The meat is cut off from before their eyes. Joy and gladness are absent from the house of the Lord. Again, his first concern is for God’s house, the house of prayer. He knows that until revival happens inside the house, nothing will improve outside the house. The seed, or promise, of next year’s crop, is rotten. The barns are broken down with no resolve in the farmers’ hearts to restore them. They will lie empty and in disrepair. The herds and flocks are groaning for their hunger. Even the sheep, who are content with very short grass, are without. We now hear Joel, this prophet crier of God proclaim what he will do:
To You, LORD, I cry out; For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness,
And the flame has burned up all the trees of the field. Even the animals of the field
pant for You; For the stream beds of water are dried up, And fire has devoured
the pastures of the wilderness.
(Joe 1:19-20 NASB)
It seems as though we should mention Psalm 1 again. Not only have the locusts come like a fire, but the rivers of water are dried up. There are no trees planted by the rivers of water. They are burned, their leaves are withered, they sit whitewashed in the heat of judgment, and the water is gone. Joel says I will cry unto thee, O LORD, like the beasts of the field. Is there any other way to cry in light of what has happened?
As we begin chapter 2, Joel once again makes a plea to leadership:
Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the
inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Indeed, it is
near, (Joe 2:1 NASB)
It was the business of the priests to blow the trumpet and sound the alarm. We read in Numbers 10:8-10:
“The sons of Aaron, moreover, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and this shall
be a permanent statute for you throughout your generations. “And when you go to
war in your land against the enemy who attacks you, then you shall sound an
alarm with the trumpets, so that you will be thought of by the LORD your God,
and be saved from your enemies. “Also on the day of your joy and at your
appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets
over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and
they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am the LORD your God.”
(Num 10:8-10 NASB)
There was no need to blow the trumpet for war. The enemy that opposed them was God himself. There was no gladness, there were no feasts, and there were no offerings. Joel was here urging the priests to blow the trumpet in Zion for another reason: complete, unconditional surrender. They had a choice to make; continue, in their haughtiness, fighting with God, or lie before Him and cry for His mercy. For the day of the Lord is at hand. Joel continues his description:
A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As dawn is
spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has
never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many
generations. A fire consumes before them, And behind them a flame devours. The
land is like the Garden of Eden before them, But a desolate wilderness behind
them, And nothing at all escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of
horses; And like war horses, so they run. With a noise as of chariots They leap
about on the tops of the mountains, Like the crackling of a flame of fire
consuming the stubble, Like a mighty people drawn up for battle. Before them the people are in anguish; All faces turn pale. They run like warriors, They climb the
wall like soldiers; And each of them marches in line, Nor do they lose their way.
They do not crowd each other, Every warrior of them marches in his path; When
they burst through the defenses, They do not break ranks. They storm the city,
They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter through the windows
like a thief. Before them the earth quakes, The heavens tremble, The sun and the
moon become dark, And the stars lose their brightness. The LORD utters His
voice before His army; His camp is indeed very great, For mighty is one who
carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it? (Joe 2:2-11 NASB)
Again we learn that it is God commanding this great army of opposition against His people. God’s hand moving swiftly against God’s people for God’s purposes. It is His day in His way.
Joel now offers hope in a hopeless situation:
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with
fasting, weeping, and mourning; And tear your heart and not merely your
garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and
compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in mercy And relenting of catastrophe.
Who knows, He might turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him, Resulting
in a grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God.
(Joe 2:12-14 NASB)
Here God asks His people to do what the Shema commands them to do: love the Lord with all their heart. It will take more than what they have been doing to make it right; fasting, weeping and mourning. Moreover, God is not interested in an empty, half-heartedness here. He tells them to forget their religiosity in rending their garments; He wants their broken hearts. The sign without what it signifies would only be a mockery in God’s sight. We read of King David calling on the Lord for mercy after he had transgressed with Bathsheba and killed Uriah the Hittite:
Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation; Then my
tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, So that my
mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I
would give it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God
are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.
(Psa 51:14-17 NASB)
Even in the midst of the judgment, Joel reminds them that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, able to repent Himself of the evil He has laid upon them if they will only repent and turn to the Lord and cry out as King David cried in Psalm 51:10:
Create in me a clean heart, God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psa 51:10 NASB)
Joel next throws out an honest question. He says, in essence, I do not know all the details. I do not know how God will exercise His grace and mercy to us. I do not know to what extent we will be restored as a nation. Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome, our course of action can be nothing else but repentance before God.
He answers his question in the following verses as he again places responsibility on the priests to blow the trumpet and rally the people for repentance:
Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, Gather
the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children
and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room And the bride out
of her bridal chamber. Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers, Weep between the
porch and the altar, And let them say, “Spare Your people, LORD, And do not
make Your inheritance a disgrace, With the nations jeering at them. Why should
those among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’”
(Joe 2:15-17 NASB)
Everyone is to be included in this solemn assembly; the elders, the children, the babies, and even those who otherwise might be off-limits to interruptions, a newlywed couple. The priests are called upon to weep between the porch and the altar. They are to offer up spiritual sacrifices. They were to move out of their normal sacrificial duties, which were now suspended, and intercede for the people: Spare thy people, O LORD. Do not allow a human enemy to bring them to reproach and give them the right to say, “Where is their God?” The leadership was to call, not on God’s justice, but God’s mercy. Furthermore, in faith that if mercy is asked for, mercy will be given.
Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, And will have compassion for His
people. The LORD will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I am going to
send you grain, new wine, and oil, And you will be satisfied in full with them; And
I will never again make you a disgrace among the nations.
Here is a promise from God. If you do what I have required of you, then. Then will the LORD be zealous. Then will the LORD have compassion. Then will the LORD send corn and wine and oil. Then shall the LORD remove your disgrace. Then. Moreover, here is the restoration that awaits them:
“But I will remove the northern army far from you, And I will drive it into a dry
and desolate land, Its advance guard into the eastern sea, And its rear guard into
the western sea. And its stench will ascend and its odor of decay will come up,
Because it has done great things.” Do not fear, land; shout for joy and rejoice,
For the LORD has done great things. (Joe 2:20-21 NASB)
Joel paints quite a picture here of restoration. The army of locusts will be removed in a judgment not unlike the one in which they had been used. The recompense here is great. The great things that the enemy had done will now be reversed with the greatness of mercy upon God’s people. Joy will be restored to God’s house and His people.
Do not fear, animals of the field, For the pastures of the wilderness have turned
green, For the tree has produced its fruit, The fig tree and the vine have yielded in
full. So shout for joy, you sons of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For
He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has brought down
for you the rain, The early and latter rain as before. The threshing floors will be
full of grain, And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.
(Joe 2:22-24 NASB)
His mercy shall come as needed and when expected, in such measure and schedule that the people will be once again glad and rejoice in the Lord. Even the inferior creatures shall be comforted.
“Then I will compensate you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust— My great army
which I sent among you. “You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied, And you
will praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you;
Then My people will never be put to shame. “So you will know that I am in the
midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God And there is no other; And My
people will never be put to shame. (Joe 2:25-27 NASB)
The restoration of the Lord is wonderful for those who know they need to be restored. We sometimes miss the process of God’s goodness by rushing to read Joel 2:28 and following without realizing that it took 37 previous verses to get there. Remember Joel 2:28 begins, “And it shall come to pass afterward.” Revival comes afterward.
I am certainly not here pointing my finger, but I am here to ask some hard questions of myself and others that deserve active consideration and response. I will ask some of the same questions I believe Joel would ask the Priests and ministers if he were here now.
Are we willing to awake from the stupor we find ourselves in and look at how we as a nation and His church have offended a Holy God? Is church leadership willing to lead the way in calling God’s people to prayer and repentance? Are we willing to spend less time asking God to bless the plans we have made and spend more time asking God what He would have us do? Are we willing to slow down and show restraint in our personal lives and schedules, allowing God the time He wants to speak to us? Are we willing to do what God asks us to do, even if it is not seeker-friendly and may offend some? Remember, revival comes afterward.