Joel and the Day of the Lord

Joel 1:1-3

Primary charge against Christianity – what about the problem of evil? If God is good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? Definitely not a simple sound-bite answer. But then, competing worldviews have no sound basis for defending why there is any good in the world. They ask: since there is evil, how can there be a God? Better question: since there is evil, what purpose can it have? Most atheists fail to really grapple with concept that evil, regardless of its immediate source, might have purpose. Might bring meaning. Might even result in good. The Holocaust was certainly evil; yet Corrie Ten Boom among first to declare God present there, bringing about his good purpose.

Major theme in Joel: “the Day of the Lord”.

These are the five theological themes, then, in this great topic of the Day of the Lord: a divine reckoning on all countries; a demonstration of God’s supremacy over all nature and nations; an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; a divinely permitted call given by all the nations in which they go up against Israel to settle the Jewish question, but in which God finally joins in the fray as judge of all nations and deliverer of the remnant of Israel; a revived Zion with the Lord personally dwelling in the midst.” Walter Kaiser

Popular view of “yom Yahweh” tends to focus too narrowly on Israel the nation, missing out on additional and significant layers of meaning. Remember – Israel / Zion throughout Scripture have more than nation/city in view. Should become more evident as we study through Joel.

A. the man v.1

his identity – name, father’s name

Joel – about a dozen of this name in Bible, this one further identified by family tree; name a combination of Yahweh and El – Jehovah is God (Elijah backwards)

self-existent God of covenant… eternal transcendent God in relationship with his people; El (pl. Elohim) the Creator who brought all things into existence

in Jewish thought, name closely connected with character of individual – think how much revealed about God through his names; name says much about Joel and parents, kind of people they were

Pethuel – another compound word name meaning “enlarged of God”; both names/themes have prominent place in Joel’s prophecies

his date – unknown

no direct statements within book to link it to specific time – in the so-manyeth year of King so-and-so, when these kings ruled

no direct references elsewhere in Bible that include time reference even though quoted numerous times in both OT & NT

long story short – little to no agreement among scholars about dates; is tendency to favor time during reign of Joash, late 9th c.

his vocation – priest?

makes frequent reference to Judah and Jerusalem, assumes existence and operation of temple and temple worship

very familiar with the Temple and the ministry of the priests (Joel 1:9, 13, 14, 16; 2:14, 17; 3:18), perhaps from priestly family

“That he exerted a commanding influence on the popular mind is clear from ch. 2:18, especially if this verse be taken in a historical sense. …the passage shows that the prophet was conscious of his power; for he not only exhorts the nation to repentance, but imperatively demands it, and he does so with the evident assurance that he will be obeyed. For this reason we are inclined to think that he belonged to the order of the priesthood, and that his exhortations were, in the first instance,addressed to his brethren in that office.” Lange

if so, could explain why so hard to date: keep time-specific cultural references to minimum, makes message more broadly applicable… not only to current generation, also later

perhaps confirmed by exhortation of v.3 – truths to be communicated given particularly but not exclusively to contemporaries

his talent – most polished, standard-setter

are number of parallels / quotations among minor prophets; not always certain which came first – does seem Amos and possibly Obadiah may have quoted from Joel

“He stands out as a literary master although his style of writing is simple and vivid. He carefully polishes and beautifies his work. His ability to describe is forceful and minute. Everything is set before us, as though we ourselves saw it. The tenderness of his soul is evidenced by his lingering over the desolation which he foresees. He even portrays nature and the beasts themselves mourning. Joel, as is evidenced by his description of how repentance should be done, was a man of deep religious feelings, heartfelt experience and warm sympathy. His writing seems to characterize him as a poetic man of strength, tenderness, insight and dignity. He definitely is a man of moral integrity.” College Press

his writing is engaging and persuasive, intentionally so – not only effective prophet, a compassionate shepherd also; honored by God to be first to announce outpouring of Holy Spirit, also vision that extended to end of this age and final Day of the Lord

B. his mission v.2-3

immediate audience – elders particularly, everyone in general (in Judah)

important principle: leaders ought to be leading, influencing those in their care; impress message on leaders, rest should follow

2nd point: if anyone should recognize signs, leaders should; what was taking place was unprecedented, “never before” seen in remembered history

implied rebuke here – shoiuldn’t need prophet like Joel to tell them God was acting to get their attention… unless were sleeping, inattentive

quick point of relevance: seems like more disasters in news, non-manmade things – floods, fires, earthquakes, famines, climate change

leaders, esp. those from nations w/Biblical foundation, should be recognizing/acknowledging God’s hand in events

the mandate – tell coming generations

elders/leaders first, then all the rest have God-given duty to tell of God’s works to children, that is, following generations

not new principle: found in Deut. 4:9; 6:7; then in NT: Eph. 6:4, bring them up; also Tit. 2 model, older teaching younger

God’s ideal – fathers/parents teaching children, overseeing instruction of children, not leaving it up to outside entities to influence; we tinker with God’s model at our peril and that of children/grandchildren

read Psa. 78:4-8 emphasize 7-8, “so that they…”

C. his message

magnitude (2b)

what God has done and is about to do demonstrates the mighty sovereignty of God in bringing about His redemptive purposes

God stops at nothing, is stopped by nothing on the way to fulfilling his eternal decree with respect to his people

Joel makes that clear with description of successive times when God directly intervenes in affairs of men to let them know he is achieving his purpose

times of visitation begin during Joel’s lifetime, extend to end of this age / final judgment when God’s redemptive plan complete

content – yom Yahweh

1:15 Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.

2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:

2:11 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?

2:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

3:14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

“As the message of the book develops, one is struck with the sense that it is the will of the sovereign God to work through ever-tightening judgments to enlarge His people.” Parker

1:1-2:11 The Day of the Lord: A Day of Judgment / 2:12-17 The Day of the Lord: A Day of Accountability / 2:18-32 The Day of the Lord: A Day of Blessing / 3:1-21 The Day of the Lord: A Day of Enlargement

first DOL we experience often one of judgment, hardship; when response is faith, next DOL is one of accountability and right acknowledgment of that; then follows blessing flowing out of right relationship with God; finally enlarged perspective, purpose, productivity as God’s view of things including our full redemption permeates life

second theme: “the LORD your God” – perhaps a play on words/his own name?

1:14 Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD.

2:13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.

2:14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him; A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?

2:23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you; The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month.

2:26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

2:27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.

3:17 “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”

cry out to the Lord; return to the Lord; worship the Lord; rejoice in the Lord; praise the Lord; be devoted to the Lord; be satisfied in the Lord

Two interlocking themes in Joel – there is a God and his name is Yahweh; he is Sovereign Lord of all who governs universe to bring about his redemptive purpose. Presently living during time of God’s patience. However…. cannot presume will last indefinitely. In fact, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent”Acts 17:30 Our job – to encourage all who will listen that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.

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