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Joel 2:1-27

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 19, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Regular:  2900 words    Communion: 2500 words

Joel’s prophecy came when the land was hit by an invasion of locusts, followed by a drought. Joel saw this as a punishment for the sins of the people.

He also saw this locust invasion as a picture of a bigger invasion, one that would come during a time known as “the day of the LORD”.

There are two particular concepts regarding interpretation of prophecy that we ought to be acquainted with.  These are things common to many of the prophetic passages in the Bible.

Prophetic telescoping – where a prophecy skips through time at the drop of a comma.

When Jesus began His ministry (Luke 4:16-22), He came into the synagogue at Nazareth and read from Isaiah 61, and afterward said “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.  What’s fascinating is that Jesus didn’t read the entire passage from Isaiah, but was careful to stop at the “comma” that separates the prophecies of the first coming with the prophecies of the second coming.

Double fulfillment – where a prophecy may have more than one fulfillment.

The prophets declared that Elijah would come before the Messiah.  John the Baptist fulfilled that prophecy, but only partially, only before the first coming.  There is still an Elijah to come.

2:1-11 Locust Army

: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:

:1 the day of the Lord is coming

We saw this phrase introduced last week (1:15).  This specific phrase is used to describe different times when God steps into human history.

I found the specific phrase 17 times in the Old Testament (Is. 2:12; 23:6; 13:9; Eze. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 2:11; 2:31; 3:14; Amos 5:18; 5:20; Oba. 1:15; Zeph 1:7; 1:14; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5).

There are at least three ways that the term is used:

1) Historical
Joel used it to describe his previous locust invasion (1:15)
(Zeph. 1:14-18; Joel 1:15; Isa. 13:6; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 30:3).
2) Double Fulfillment
Joel’s historical locust plague was a picture of soon second event. (2:1, “at hand”)
Here Joel is told it is “at hand”.
3) The Final Day of the Lord
This is the time of the Tribulation, seven years of difficulty on the earth before Jesus comes back.
That will come into focus at the end of the chapter. (2:30-32)
(Isa. 2:12-19; 4:1; Joel 2:30-32; Isa. 4:2; 12; 19:23-25; Jer. 30:7-9).

:2 A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, The like of whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many successive generations.

:2 A people come, great and strong

Joel’s locusts foretold a future (for him) invasion of the Assyrian army, 722 BC

:3 A fire devours before them, And behind them a flame burns; The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, And behind them a desolate wilderness; Surely nothing shall escape them.

:3 before … behind

Before this army arrives, the land looks gorgeous.  After the army passes through, it’s a desert.

:4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like swift steeds, so they run.

:5 With a noise like chariots Over mountaintops they leap, Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, Like a strong people set in battle array.

:6 Before them the people writhe in pain; All faces are drained of color.

:4 Their appearance is like

Keep in mind that Joel has just been talking about a “locust” invasion.

Now he adds more to the picture of the coming invasion.

Fire (2:3)
Horse-like (2:4)
Noisy (2:5)
Painful (2:6)

Now look at the picture John paints for the Tribulation:

(Re 9:3–10 NKJV) —3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. 7 The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. 10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.
It sounds like Joel is talking about John’s locusts to me.

:7 They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like men of war; Every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks.

:7 They climb the wall

You get the picture of locusts massing and climbing on top of each other, swarming over walls.

I think it might be something like zombies.  We have footage …

Play World War Z trailer clip.

:7 they do not break ranks

This is one of the qualities of a locust invasion.  They just keep moving forward… like zombies…  J

(Pr 30:27 NKJV) The locusts have no king, Yet they all advance in ranks;

:8 They do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, They are not cut down.

:9 They run to and fro in the city, They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter at the windows like a thief.

:10 The earth quakes before them, The heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, And the stars diminish their brightness.

: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?

:11 His army

There’s a sense in which this coming army is doing God’s work because they will be His tool to bring the judgment He has promised would one day come.

:11 Who can endure it?

Jesus said of the Tribulation,

(Mt 24:22 NKJV) And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

2:12-17 Call to Repentance

:12 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”

: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.

:13 He is gracious and merciful


This is our God

Through this difficult description of judgment, don’t lose sight of who God is.
God is not the angry old man waiting for you to screw up so He can get you.
When Moses wanted to know God better, pay attention to how God Himself described Himself:
(Ex 34:5–7 NKJV) —5 Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

There will indeed be a day when God will judge the guilty.

In a way that ought to make us happy – for all the times that we thought it unfair that bad people got away with doing evil.

But first of all, God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering (patient), good, true, and forgiving.

Peter talked about how in the last days people will mock us for saying that the Lord is coming back, when things have gone on for thousands of years without God’s judgment.  They would say that God is “slack” in keeping His promise of judgment…
(2 Pe 3:9 NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

There is a reason why the final udgment has not yet happened.  God wants people to have a chance to turn from their sins and follow Him.

: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?

:14 Who knows if He will turn and relent

There have been times when God has held back judgment because people repented.

God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of judgment.

The city repented, and God did not destroy them.

:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly;

:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion

In Numbers 10, the nation of Israel is told to use trumpets to gather the nation and direct them in battle.  It’s something that gets people’s attention.

Play Simon’s Cat clip.

God is predominantly merciful and gracious by nature.  Yet sometimes He has to do something, anything to get your attention.  Does God have your attention today?

We see a hint of this with the coming Rapture:

(1 Th 4:16 NKJV) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

:16 Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

:17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”

:17 Spare Your people

In the Tribulation period, this is what the Israeli religious leaders will be praying for their nation.

I wonder if it isn’t what we ought to be praying for our nation as well, right now.

:13 rend your heart, and not your garments


Inside Out

The ancients used to express sorrow by tearing their clothes, wearing sackcloth, and throwing ashes on top of their heads.
This was sometimes used to describe sorrow over sin.
God challenges people to go a little bit deeper.
Real change starts in your heart.  It starts inside.
It’s not that the outside is unimportant.  John the Baptist had a message about real repentance.
(Lk 3:10–14 NKJV) —10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

John’s point was that repentance means actual, literal change.

You change the way you live.  Outer change is important because if the outside hasn’t changed, then the inside hasn’t changed either.

What Joel is saying is that repentance starts on the inside.
You can “white knuckle” any kind of change for a little while.

But serious, lasting change starts on the inside.

It means that you learn to deal with the issues of your heart, not just the things that people see on the outside.

Deal with the pain, the wrong thoughts that lead to the stupid actions.

Some people try to stop looking at pornography because they were caught and embarrassed about it.  They were told to stop looking at it.

But if you don’t really want to stop looking at pornography, then no matter what you do to stop is only temporary.

Do you want what the Lord wants?

Play “The Stool”.

Real change starts from the inside out.

2:18-27 The Lord’s Response

:18 Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, And pity His people.

:19 The Lord will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

:20 “But I will remove far from you the northern army, And will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, With his face toward the eastern sea And his back toward the western sea; His stench will come up, And his foul odor will rise, Because he has done monstrous things.”

:20 the northern army

This speaks of a victory over the Assyrian army.

When Hezekiah had the people pray, God sent a single angel who wiped out 185,000 in a single night.

It also speaks of God’s victory in the Tribulation.

Another of the future prophetic possibilities is that it could be a description of the invasion mentioned in Ezek. 38-39, where the army comes from the north.

(Eze 38:9 NKJV) You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”
In that future battle, only 1/6 of the enemy army will survive.

:21 Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the Lord has done marvelous things!

:22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.

: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.

:23 former rain … latter rain

We’re seeing a picture of restoration beginning, starting with an end to the drought described in 1:17.

(Joe 1:17 NKJV) —17 The seed shrivels under the clods, Storehouses are in shambles; Barns are broken down, For the grain has withered.

The former rain came in fall (Sept.-Oct).

The latter rain came in spring March-April.

Some have seen these “rains” being a picture of the Holy Spirit being poured out.  The “former rain” might be a picture of Pentecost, while the “latter rain” being a picture of the Spirit being poured out in the last days (Joel 2:28).

:24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.

: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.

: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.

:25 I will restore to you the years

It’s not too fun when we’ve “lost” things…

A 747 was halfway across the Atlantic when the captain got on the loudspeaker: “Attention, passengers. We have lost one of our engines, but we can certainly reach London with the three we have left. Unfortunately, we will arrive an hour late as a result.”  An hour later the captain made another announcement: “Sorry, but we lost another engine. Still, we can travel on two. I’m afraid we will now arrive two hours late.”  Shortly thereafter, the passengers heard the captain’s voice again: “Guess what, folks. We just lost our third engine, but please be assured we can fly with only one. We will now arrive in London three hours late.”  At this point, one passenger became furious. “For Pete’s sake,” he shouted. “If we lose another engine, we’ll be up here all night!”



The promise here is that when the people repent, God will bring restoration.
There are years in South Africa when locusts swarm the land and eat the crops. They come in hordes, blocking out the sun. The crops are lost and a hard winter follows. The “years that the locusts eat” are feared and dreaded. But the year after the locusts, South Africa reaps its greatest crops, for the dead bodies of the locusts serve as fertilizer for the new seed. And the locust year is restored as great crops swell the land. This is a parable of our lives. There are seasons of deep distress and afflictions that sometimes eat all the usefulness of our lives away. Yet, the promise is that God will restore those locust years if we endure. We will reap if we faint not. Although now we do not know all the ‘whys’, we can be assured our times are in His hands.

-- Ron Hembree in, Fruits of the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1969).

I think we have to be careful of thinking that if we “repent”, God will fix every situation the way we want it fixed.
If you’ve been an abusive spouse, but you learn to deal with your anger and stop hurting your spouse, you may still not get your marriage back.
If you’ve been cheating on your taxes and lost your business in the process, repenting might not bring your business back.
But when we repent, God promises to do a good work in exchange.
(2 Co 4:16–18 NKJV) —16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
An evangelist told the following story about a friend who lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home, but tenaciously held to his faith—the only thing he had left. One day he stopped to watch some men building a stone church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. ‘What are you going to do with that?’ asked my friend. The workman said, ‘Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I’m shaping this down here so that it will fit up there.’

God is “fitting” us down here so we’ll “fit” up there.

The kind of restoration depends on the kind of repentance.n