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Icons of the Bible: Joel the Prophet to Judah

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

Icons of the Bible: Joel the Prophet to Judah
Icons of the Bible: Joel the Prophet to Judah

Icons of the Bible

This Is What Was Spoken by the Prophet Joel

The Hebrew Old Testament, from which our English versions are translated, is divided into three major sections, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, in that order. The section of Prophets is divided into two groups called "former prophets" and "latter prophets," not because of their chronology but because of their order in the Hebrew canon. The "former prophets" are Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. The "latter prophets" are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve so-called "minor prophets," Hosea through Malachi. The book of the prophet Joel comes second in the group of minor prophets, but unlike Hosea and Amos and others, it does not tell us when it was written or when the events recorded in it happened. The value of the book remains, even so. What Joel saw happening and what he saw in the future are clear, even if we can't date the book.

The Locust Plague and the Day of the Lord

Joel writes in the midst of crisis. A devastating locust plague had attacked Israel and left virtually no vines or grain: "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 has left, the destroying locust has eaten" (1:4). "The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but after them a desolate wilderness and nothing escapes them" (2:3). Joel tells the drunkards to weep because all wine is now cut off since the vines are eaten and gone (1:5). But for Joel the tragedy is felt most keenly because "the cereal offering and drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord" (1:9). The plague was no accident. Joel sees it as a judgment from God on the people who had left the Lord. The locusts are God's army: "The Lord utters his voice before his army, and his host is exceedingly great; he that executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it?" (2:11).

So Joel calls for repentance: "'Yet even now,' says the Lord, '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 . . . Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave a blessing behind him?" (2:12–14). And the people respond to Joel's preaching with the result that God's jealousy for his people is stirred up. "The Lord answered and said to his people, 'Behold I am sending you grain and wine and oil, and you will be satisfied, and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations"' (2:19). Then after he has spelled out the richness of their restoration, Joel lifts his eyes by divine inspiration to the more distant future in 2:28 and delivers God's word again:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and the maidservants in those days I will pour out my spirit. And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered.

Joel had called the judgment of God in the locust plague "the day of the Lord" (2:11). But now he sees another "day of the Lord" coming, "great and terrible" (2:31). It will be signaled by portents in the sky and signs on earth for all to see, and the whole earth will be summoned for judgment: "I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat (which means Yahweh judges), and I will enter into judgment with them there" (3:2). But before this cataclysmic judgment occurs, God promises that a great outpouring of his Spirit will happen: "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh" (2:28).." from the article: This Is What Was Spoken by the Prophet Joel

4 Lessons We Can Learn from Joel

Again, not much is known about the prophet himself other than what we learn from his writing, which is bold, succinct, grim, and in places hopeful. Though Joel ministered to Judah at a specific time and delivered a specific message, there are several things about this message that are timeless and applicable to believers of all generations.

1. The Day of the Lord Is Still Coming

The theme of judgment is unmistakable in the book of Joel, who prophesied that a day would come when the sovereign God would judge His people and the nations who rebelled against Him. We know from history, however, that Joel’s warning went largely unheeded. As a result, the day of the Lord was partially fulfilled through the Babylonian conquest, invasion, destruction, and captivity of Judah, roughly two hundred years later.

However, it is important to recognize that the day of the Lord is also a day that is still coming when Christ returns and God in His sovereignty executes a final great and terrible judgment on those who’ve rejected Him. As John MacArthur writes in his commentary, “it (the day of the Lord) is exclusively the day which unveils His (Christ’s) character – mighty, powerful, and holy, thus terrifying His enemies” (MacArthur 984).." from the article: 4 Lessons We Can Learn from Joel in the Bible

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