This opening session in our verse-by-verse study of the book of Joel was given by pastor Barry Forder at Calvary Portsmouth on 19th September 2021.
The book of Joel. Little is known about this man, whose name means ‘Jehovah is God’, but conservative scholars place the book around 835 B.C., making it the oldest of the prophetic books and as such the subject matter is even more provocative!
The theme is ‘The Day of the LORD’; Joel uses this phrase 5 times in these 3 chapters.
The immediate context seems to have been a devastating locust plague that had come upon the land, as a judgment from God. However, Joel speak beyond his own day to the final climactic 7 years of this age; the time Jesus Himself called the Great Tribulation. Just as the locust plague of Joel’s time had destroyed the land, so will the coming time of judgment be upon this world. Isaiah would later prophesy of this coming judgment saying:
Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand;
it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
Therefore shall all hands be faint,
and every man’s heart shall melt:
And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them;
they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth:
they shall be amazed one at another;
their faces shall be as flames.
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh,
cruel both with wrath and fierce anger,
to lay the land desolate:
and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light:
the sun shall be darkened in his going forth,
and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
And I will punish the world for their evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease,
and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
I will make a man more precious than fine gold;
even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
Therefore I will shake the heavens,
and the earth shall remove out of her place,
in the wrath of the Lord of hosts,
and in the day of his fierce anger.
Against the backdrop of the National calamity Joel had just witnessed, he speaks of the end of this age, the Church and the World and the ultimate deliverance for his people, Israel.
Montague Mills commented:
“Joel, … was probably the first of the so called writing prophets; so this book provides a valuable insight into the history of prophecy, particularly as it furnishes a framework for the end times which is faithfully followed by all subsequent Scripture. God started a new work with the writing of Joel, that of preparing the human race for the end of this temporal era, and thus gave an outline of His total plan. Later prophets, including even our Lord, would only flesh out this outline, but in keeping with the divine nature of true Scripture, never found it necessary to deviate from this, the initial revelation.”
As we saw in our study of Hosea, God uses types and ‘similitudes’ to communicate to his people through His Word. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul and Dr Luke specifically tell us that the Feasts of Israel, as well as being real events to commemorate the deliverance from Egypt and the wilderness wanderings, were models in advance of Christ’s death (Feast of Passover), burial (Feast of Unleavened Bread), resurrection (Feast of Firstfruits), and the birth of the Church (Pentecost).
(See Colossians 2:16-17 / 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 / 1 Corinthians 5:7 / 1 Corinthians 15:20 / Acts 2:1)
Joel seems to prophetically model the last three feasts in Israel’s calendar, the Feast of Trumpets (Joel 1:1-2:11), the Feast of Atonement (Joel 2:12-2:32), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Joel 3:1-21).
The outline of the book is as follows:
- Description of the locust plague
–Chapter 1 (Historical & Prophetic)
- Description of the enemy invasion
–Chapter 2: 1-11
- Divine appeal to Judah to repent
- Declaration of a fast
- Divine deliverance promised
–Chapter 2:18 – 3:21
The book opens by telling us that God’s Word came to Joel. What we do know is that Joel had ‘ears to hear’, not all do. God’s Word has gone out to the whole world, but as our next prophet to study – Amos – will say, there is a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. People cannot blame God when judgment comes if they refuse to listen to what He has said through His servants like Joel.
God had warned though Moses and Solomon that He would being plagues, including locusts, on the land of Israel if they refused to walk in His ways – see Deuteronomy 28:38-39 and 1 Kings 8:37
In vs. 2&3 Joel pleads with the old men, heads of the families, the nations leaders, to look around at the devastation. Could any of them remember anything quite like this? They have the evidence before their eyes in the form of hungry people, ruined crops and starving animals. Surely, they must see that this is God’s judgment upon them?
What about our world today? Covid has ravaged the country. Countless numbers have lost their jobs, the NHS is overrun, there are shortages and supply problems from everything like electrical components to food & milk. Are we just going to say ‘oh well, it’s just one of those things…’ Is this not a judgment from God; birthpangs of what is coming?
“One of the reasons, therefore, why God gave his word to Joel upon the occasion of a great natural disaster is that men of all subsequent centuries should know how to interpret such things.” – Coffman
The world today says judgment will not come – so we can live as we please, make our own rules, without fear of Divine wrath!
The Bible says: you are running out of time! Judgment is coming, you might not have seen it before, even your fathers might not have seen it in their lifetimes, but don’t mistake God’s longsuffering with indifference!
As we journey through this book we will see a prophetic outline of Israel’s history, and the time of coming Tribulation.
May you be blessed and encouraged by this study