JOEL (meaning "one to whom Jehovah is God," that is, worshipper of Jehovah) seems to have belonged to Judah, as no reference occurs to Israel; whereas he speaks of Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the ceremonies, as if he were intimately familiar with them (compare #Joel 1:14 2:1,15,32 3:1,2,6,16,17,20,21). His predictions were probably delivered in the early days of Joash 870-865 B.C.; for no reference is made in them to the Babylonian, Assyrian, or even the Syrian invasion; and the only enemies mentioned are the Philistines, Phoenicians, Edomites, and Egyptians (#Joel 3:4,19). Had he lived after Joash, he would doubtless have mentioned the Syrians among the enemies whom he enumerates since they took Jerusalem and carried off immense spoil to Damascus (#2Ch 24:23,24). No idolatry is mentioned; and the temple services, the priesthood, and other institutions of the theocracy, are represented as flourishing. This all answers to the state of things under the high priesthood of Jehoiada, through whom Joash had been placed on the throne and who lived in the early years of Joash (#2Ki 11:17,18 12:2-16 2Ch 24:4-14). He was the son of Pethuel. (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown)

The first chapter describes the desolation caused by an inroad of locusts—one of the instruments of divine judgment mentioned by Moses (#De 28:38,39) and by Solomon (#1Ki 8:37). The second chapter (#Joel 2:1-11): the appearance of them, under images of a hostile army suggesting that the locusts were symbols and forerunners of a more terrible scourge, namely, foreign enemies who would consume all before them. (The absence of mention of personal injury to the inhabitants is not a just objection to the figurative interpretation; for the figure is consistent throughout in attributing to the locusts only injury to vegetation, thereby injuring indirectly man and beast). #Joel 2:12-17: exhortation to repentance, the result of which will be: God will deliver His people, the former and latter rains shall return to fertilize their desolated lands, and these shall be the pledge of the spiritual outpouring of grace beginning with Judah, and thence extending to "all flesh." #Joel 2:18-3:21: God's judgments on Judah's enemies, whereas Judah shall be established for ever. (Ibid.)

Joel's style is pre-eminently pure. It is characterized by smoothness and fluency in the rhythms, roundness in the sentences, and regularity in the parallelisms. With the strength of Micah it combines the tenderness of Jeremiah, the vividness of Nahum, and the sublimity of Isaiah. As a specimen of his style take the second chapter wherein the terrible aspect of the locusts, their rapidity, irresistible progress, noisy din, and instinct-taught power of marshalling their forces for their career of devastation, are painted with graphic reality. (Ibid.)

Here is another prophet who rises out of nowhere with just "The Word of the Lord."

The book bears witness that Joel lived in Jerusalem, the center of public worship of God. Joel was not a priest, but he calls out to the priests, and gives them charges in the name of the Lord.

Joel and Amos seem to have written about the same time, but an exact date is unknown. Evidently, it was before Jerusalem fell to Babylon. It seems to be another warning for God's people to return to him before it is too late.

The Argument-The Prophet Joel first rebukes those of Judah, that being now punished with a great plague of famine, still remain obstinate. Secondly, he threatens greater plagues, because they grow daily to a more hardness of heart and rebellion against God in spite of his punishments. Thirdly, he exhorts them to repentance, showing that it must be earnest, and proceed from the heart, because they had grievously offended God. And in doing this, Joel promises that God will be merciful, and not forget his covenant that he made with their fathers, but will send his Christ, who will gather the scattered sheep, and restore them to life and liberty, even though they seem to be dead. (Geneva)

Vv. 1-7

Vv. 1-3, Joel seems to be telling them that something new is going to happen. The people were settled in their sins, and saw no reason to change. Joel is going to tell them of the judgment coming, and pleads with them to take what he is saying, and see if anything like it had happened in the past.

God's people are told to pass down his goodness by word of mouth, from generation to generation (Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:6, 7, 11:19, &c.). Christians have not; therefore, the following generations fall away. Christians fail to emphasize that it is by God's hand we have prospered. Rather, they have emphasized that it was by their own strength and knowledge that prosperity came. Results–what do the following generations follow after now?

Now, rather than people looking at work as a blessing from God, it is viewed as a curse. Adam was given work to do before the fall, as was marriage. Both were for man's good. But society has convinced us that our goal in life is to save a bunch of money so we can retire at 55 or 60. The following generations pick up on this, and say, "why work at all?"

We have been convinced that a college education will release one from having to live by the sweat of his brow. Look where that mentality has gotten us, as the "sweaty" jobs have been shipped overseas, and the easy jobs of handling money have gone down the tubes, taking the US economy with them.

Vv. 2, 3. The good things of God's mercy and love did not stir the people to gratitude and obedience, so now Joel is going to give them some miseries to tell their children about—miseries that result from not hearing and doing the law-word of God.

Observe: If we do not pass down the good things of God to our children, encouraging them to serve the Lord, then we will have "bad" things to pass down. Psalms 78

V. 4. There are several things that could be referred to here. In this book, locusts and their destructive ways are mentioned several times, 2:1-11, 25. The prophet is referring to the results of sin—the sin of his people turning from the Lord.

The law of the Lord promised locusts if his people departed from it. Deuteronomy 28:15, 38, 39, 42, &c. Although Solomon's prayer promised forgiveness from God and healing for genuine repentance, 1 Kings 8:37-40, follow the thought:

Deuteronomy promises the result of sin as described by Joel. Solomon promises forgiveness as a result of repentance when the "bugs" come. Joel says the "bugs" have come and done their destructive work. He tells us of the fulfillment of the Deuteronomy threat. The New Testament contains many like promises as Moses gave, Romans 6:16, Galatians 6:7, 8, 1 Corinthians 3:17, 18.

Moses, Solomon and Joel referred to literal "bugs": palmerworms, locust, cankerworms and caterpillars. But the applications go much further than literal bugs. The middle east is known for these bugs.

Application. God strengthens the pagans against his people who turn from him, and sends those pagans against his disobedient people; a theme running throughout the Scriptures.

Four nations came against his Old Testament "church": Assyria, Chaldaea, Macedonia (Greece), and Rome. Rome destroyed everything that was left by the previous nations of the Old Testament church, Israel.

Joel is another call for God's people to return to their obedience to his total law-word. It is another warning to them of what is going to happen if they do not heed his call.

The call is to wake up out of sin. The call is repeated to the church also in 1 Corinthians 15:34 and 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9. Notice 1 Thessalonians 5:9. God had not appointed us to wrath. His goal for his people is not the strengthened heathens against them; rather, it is the inherent benefits and blessings of salvation–serving him.

Not only is Joel warning the Old Testament people of God to wake up because judgment is at hand, but his warning reaches much further. It is sounded over and over in the New Testament.

God's law-word is in effect whether we believe it or not. Deuteronomy 28 is a double edged sword, for heaven and earth will pass away before one speck of Deuteronomy will pass away.

V. 5 application:

I do not think he is referring primarily to a drunk, but one who is asleep in contentment in his sin–a drunken stupor. If I remember right, Hosea complained because God's people used the prosperity provided by God to serve their false gods. The result, of course, was prophesied as judgment.

Is this not what a drunk does? He takes whatever prosperity he might have, and serves his flesh with it? God's people are asleep today. They have served and are serving their bellies, Philippians 3:19. Their cars are under three years old. Their houses have 1 ½ or more baths. They can eat out 2 or 3 times a week, and the kids are in college. Prosperity has ruined them. They are now so caught up in worldly pleasures and cares they no longer have time to seek and serve God. We are seeing all of that now come crashing down, and the results of debt servitude come to pass.

We have forgotten about advancing God's kingdom as we pursue the things which please the belly; that is, the lusts of the flesh.

V. 5 tells us it will all be cut off.

V. 6. Just as sure as there is a God, there are results for not loving God with all our heart, soul and might. The result is a God-hating people being exalted over his people. His people will either serve him out of a pure heart, or they will serve the results of their indifference to him. Isaiah 5:1-7.

Compare v. 4 with v. 6. Evidently, the destructive "bugs" of v. 4 are references to the nation coming against Israel to destroy it.

V. 7. There are some references here:

My vine... A reference to Israel - Judah. Matthew 21:33-46. And a reference to the church, John 15.

My fig tree... A reference to Israel. Matthew 21:19, Luke 13:6-9. See also Hosea 9:10.

Neither as a vine nor as a fig tree would Israel give her fruit to the landowner, so now the landowner has a new vine and fig tree, the church, Romans 11. The church has been called to give fruit to the landowner. John 15:16.

Compare v. 6 with Isaiah 5:1-7. The vine and the tree refused to glorify God as God. The result was that he removed his protection from them, and the adversary devoured them, 1 Peter 5:8, all in accordance with the curses of God's unchanging law, Deuteronomy 28.

There is an adversary moving about the earth, seeking whom he may devour. Job chapters 1 & 2. However, God has established a barrier around his people. That barrier is obedience to God's law-word. Obedience is our protection, and persistence in sin removes the barrier. The lion then strikes. In the case of the Old Testament, that lion took the form of invading pagan nations. See Jeremiah 50:17. (All of Jeremiah 50)

It seems that in 1:6, 7, Joel is warning the people that the wild beast is there waiting to leap in, and unless they turn back with genuine mourning and repentance, they are open for destruction.

For us: Unless God's people turn back to glorifying him as God, we too will be open game for the lion. The feeling today seems to be, "I am one of his; therefore, I don't have to worry if I sin. It is all taken care of." The same presumption was in the days of the Old Testament prophets. Zephaniah 1:12.

This passage in Joel goes both ways. Both the bugs and also the wicked nations. V. 6, "My land" foretells of the coming invasion by the bugs and by the nations. It is also speaking of the church. The ‘happenings' against Israel took place for an illustration for us today. Galatians 4:24, 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Results of Romans 1:21:

1. Leaves the land in the hands of the enemies of God.

2. Brings judgment upon his people, and history shows that the judgment comes through heathen nations.

Accordingly, regardless whether it is the bugs against Israel or an ungodly strong nation, or the wicked prospering against the church, the result of the sin of refusing to glorify God as God over every area of life is fruitlessness and powerlessness in the face of the world.

Furthermore, the vine and the fig tree are not destroyed, but rendered useless, fruitless and powerless. They still have a show but no go. They have social changing power. They look good, big and strong, but the bars next door are still open. The big churches which I hear about claim that we are in revival because their size is increasing. But they have not stopped the downward trend of society. Why?

Scripturally, it is because of the toleration of sin within the church. V. 7, the branches are white, but there is no fruit of righteousness.

Vv. 8-13 lament like a virgin...

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Three points:

1) the nation of Israel as existed here. She had a call to return back to her God. She did not.

2) the church, the bride of Christ. She has a call to remain pure.

3) the individual believer. He has the call to remain pure for Christ.

It is all based in the individual believer. When the individual believer is ‘wooed" away from his husband, Christ, by the ‘subtlety' of the enemy, nothing but problems awaits him. He has committed adultery. The message to him is "lament, and turn back."

When the individual is turned from his husband, Christ, then his fruit is gone. But not only his fruit, but also the fruit of the church is dried up.

V. 9.

The offerings stopped as the strong nations came against Israel. The offerings were finally done away with completely, and were replaced with a pure offering because Israel would not turn to her God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Malachi 1:10, 11 tells of the time when God would no longer accept the offerings of the rebellious people; rather the offerings are replaced with "a pure offering," which is offered "in every place" by the Gentiles.

Such an event is spoken of over and over in the New Testament. Remember what Christ told the woman at the well? (John 4.) He was/is now the pure offering which his people must offer up. Now and forever more, he is the only offering acceptable to God the Father. Hebrews 4, &c.

The meat and drink offerings were cut off permanently before God at the cross. The meat and drink offerings now are the pure body and blood of the lamb of God. We are reminded of this at the Lord's table.

From the time of Christ until the world stops, his offering is the only acceptable to God the Father.

Vv. 10-13.

We will not go into detail here, other than to point out:

1) Israel, because of her stubbornness and refusal to return to her God, lost all her blessings and fruitfulness. She lost her crops, her fruit and her joy. She could no longer sing the songs of Zion in the strange land. Psalms 137.

2) the individual will lose his fruitfulness, blessings and joy for the same reason, which will, of course, affect the church.

V. 11. Look where the blame lies. Be ashamed, O ye husbandmen..." The blame is placed at the feet of the spiritual leaders. They failed to instruct God's people in the paths of righteousness. The harvest perished because God's people were not properly instructed on how to gather it. Jeremiah 8:20.

1) Clean living, clean heart before God. Proverbs 28:1, 1 Timothy 1:19, 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
2) Proper response in all confrontations. 1 Peter 2:15, 3.
3) Proper way to talk to people. 1 Timothy 2:25, Ephesians 4:29-32.
4) They fail because they try to do the convicting work of the Holy Spirit for him. John 16:8ff.

Let us mention under #1: God's people have lost sight of the importance of holiness in every area of life and the church.

V. 12 is the result of the spiritual leaders not keeping up with their responsibility before God.

V. 13. He always gives the answer. The Spirit always gives an answer. The adversary is the one who heaps on convictions and condemnation without the answer being given. The call is to the spiritual leaders to get right with God. The adversary may give an answer with his false conviction, but the answer will be wrong.

Example: He may give us a conviction over hard feelings toward someone which drives us to go to that person when no one else knows about it, as a person did with me in LA. (Louisiana)

Vv. 14-20

V. 14. Call the representatives of the people together. Then call all of the people together, and cry out unto the Lord.

This ‘crying out' is not for him to withhold the results of sin, but a crying out in repentance, and grace to turn from sin.

My, how we need such crying out today, from the top down. (Joel started with the leaders.) Those who claim to be his, the spiritual leaders, must depart from sin, and turn to God in obedience to his word. The elders were called to humble themselves, followed by the people.

I have noticed from the many reports I get back — The big well-known leaders of fundamentalism, though not necessarily involved in sin themselves, allow those around them to be involved in sin. They have built some big, beautiful towers, but they are built on the bodies of many families.

Until the spiritual leaders see sin as sin, even in those around them, we cannot expect the civil authorities nor the people to admit sin is sin.

What about us? Do we tolerate sin around us? Do we tolerate sin in those under us? The house cleaning must start in us and in the house of God. Ezekiel 9:6, 1 Peter 4:17.

It is so easy to believe that society can be turned back to God by numbers, political pressure, money, education, influence with men, and forget that our might and victory lies in our obedience to God and his word in every area. (See my notes on Hosea 10:7.) Certainly, we must not forget involvement in social issues, for that is part of our responsibility as citizens on this earth, but social involvement must not replace holiness before God.

May God help us to remember our power, peace, security, prosperity, lies in our love for God with all our heart, soul and might; this love is shown in our actions:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

The call throughout Scripture is for his people to stay with him, or return to him with a pure heart and desires.

V. 15. For the day of the Lord...

God, in his mercy, allows man to continue on in his stubbornness and rebellion in his sin. God allows man's "free will" to carry him on without repentance, but at his time, the "continuation" will stop, and the results will catch up.

Note Romans 2. God's mercy withholds just judgment, giving man abundant chance to repent, and turn to the Lord. However, man uses that mercy to increase in sin, thinking he has avoided the results of his sin. Ecclesiastes 8:11.

Day of the Lord speaks of the day when "the Almighty" will exercise his "all might and power" against the sin and the sinner. Isaiah 13:6-9.

Joel's context refers to the coming destruction against the sins of God's people still left in the land. There are other days of the Lord. There was one in 70 AD, when God exercised his power and might against sin. The term is quite common in the Revelation as God's wrath against sin is revealed. 6:7, &c. It is the day of His judgment against sin.

For us: There is also a day of the Lord against those sins which we refuse to admit. Joel's call is for God's people of all ages–turn back to him in obedience to his law-word, and he will hold off the day of the Lord, the day of his judgment against sin. He will not do away with that day completely, for the end is coming. But it can be postponed for many generations by turning to him, as Ahab found. 1 Kings 21.


The results of their turning from God are listed:

V. 16. The harvest is lost to the enemy. The joyous feast of harvest will not be held.

V. 17. The future is lost. The seeds which held promise of the future will not sprout. There is no harvest to put into storage.

V. 18. The beasts also pay the price for man's sin. Sin holds back ‘nature' – with no rain, the fields dry up (fire), bugs and other things prevent good pasture and feed grains for the beasts to feed.

V. 19. O LORD... Joel again lays our hope before us. No matter how dark the picture which these prophets paint, they always have a ray of hope. That ray of hope is the Lord.

Here, of course, lies our hope. The picture today is very bleak and dark. Men do not even see their sin, let alone cry out to God about it.

Sadly, even those who have made professions of faith see no need of serving the Lord. They may attend the public assembly, but that seems to be the extent of their faith. Pastors seem to be as blind as moles. They either can not see, or will not see the truth of Scripture.

Society is coming apart at the seams.

Our enemies now own us by holding our debt.

It seems like the Lord is pressing the judgment against this ungodly US social order.

What can we do? Where can we turn?

O Lord, to thee will I cry... Here alone lies our hope to face what is in store for this wicked generation.

The hope for the future lies in Him, and in Him alone.

Vv. 19, 20. Drought (fire hath devoured...) results from man's sin. It has dried up the food for the animals who cry out for hunger.

Notice who they cry to when they are hungry. We thought the cows were crying out to their owners when hungry, but Scripture clearly says they are crying out to God. The birds and beasts cry out to God when hungry. Job 38:41, Psalms 104:21, &c.

Here the "dumb beasts" of the field have more sense than does man. Remember what the people told Jeremiah in chapter 44. "The reason we are hungry is because we have left off burning incense to the queen of heaven." They refused to hear Jeremiah's warning to return to God.

Sad to say, this seems to be the cry of our day. "The reason all of these things are happening to us is because we do not have enough education," or some other human endeavor. Rather than return to God — that is, obedience to his laws, we throw more at the problem, which only makes it worse.

February 5, 2009, the "financial crisis." Rather than obeying God's laws concerning sound money, the wicked are throwing unbelievable amounts of fiat money at it, which will only make it worse.

Vv 18-20, the beasts of the field have more sense than man who is created in the image of God. In his hour of need, he sees no need to cry out to God. Most men would rather starve than return to the Lord God of our fathers.

The problem is, however, that the beast of the field must suffer for man's hardness in sin.

A thought while passing. Why has America been so prosperous in grain that it must be piled on the ground during harvest? (Living in the "corn belt" for 20 years, I was amazed at the hundreds of rail road car loads of corn that were piled on the ground for lack of storage by Cargil. Cargil makes its money by buying less than #1 grade grain at a reduced price to the farmer, and then mixes it with #1 grade grain, and sells it as #1 grain.)

I believe there may be a couple of reasons for prosperous harvests:

1) God in his mercy is giving America a chance to cry out and return to him.

2) The surplus grain is being used to feed the very ones who God has waiting to move in judgment against America if she does not turn back. Without America's grain, the Eastern block nations would have fallen years ago.

The pasture is a wilderness. The flame devoured the trees. The river is dry. The harvest is cut off by the enemy. The seed which has the hope of the future in it will not sprout. In fact, that seed is rotten.

The beasts out of agony cry out to God for food, yet men would rather starve than turn from the "queen of heaven," that is, the fruit of his imagination, and turn to the God of Heaven.

Is there hope in such a dark picture?

O Lord, to thee will I cry...

Jeremiah 31:18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.
Lamentations 5:21 Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.

The beasts: see Joel 1:18.

Cry; the wilder sort, that rove about many miles seeking their livelihood, find no sustenance, they look up to God, and cry to him: these creatures, that can better shift for themselves, yet can make no good shift; they utter their complaints in their sad tones, they have a voice to cry, as well as an eye to look to God.

Unto thee, who only canst open thy hand, and fill them. Learn, ye brutish among men, look and cry to God. And again, Have pity, O God, many of thy sinless creatures perish without relief; hear them, though thou shouldst not hear men.

The rivers are dried up; most extreme and tedious drought, which hath dried up the rivers themselves; there is no drink for the cattle, they must perish without help, unless thou, O God, send a plentiful and fruitful rain. (Matthew Poole)

Joel describes Deuteronomy 28, 29 as it comes to pass in the land, as promised.

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