A single bomb devastates a city, and the world is ushered into the nuclear age. A split atom… power and force such as we have never seen.
At a launch site, rockets roar and a payload is thrust into space. Discoveries dreamed of for centuries are ours as we begin to explore the edge of the universe.
Volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, and tornadoes unleash uncontrollable and unstoppable force. And we can only avoid them and then pick up the pieces.
Power, strength, might – we stand in awe at the natural and man-made display. But these forces cannot touch the power of our omnipotent God. Creator of galaxies, atoms, and natural laws, the sovereign Lord rules all there is and ever will be. How silly to live without him; how foolish to run and hide from him; how ridiculous to disobey him. But we do. Since Eden, we have sought independence from his control, as though we were gods and could control our destiny. And he has allowed our rebellion. But soon the day of the Lord will come.
It is about this day that the prophet Joel speaks, and it is the theme of his book. On this day God will judge all uprighteousness and disobedience – all accounts will be settled and the crooked made straight.
We know very little about Joel – only that he was a prophet and the son of Pethuel. He may have lived in Jerusalem because his audience was Judah, the southern kingdom. Whoever he was, Joel speaks forthrightly and forcefully in this short and powerful book. His message is one of foreboding and warning, but it is also filled with hope, Joel states that our Creator, the omnipotent Judge, is also merciful, and he wants to bless all those who trust him.
Joel begins by describing a terrible plague of locusts that covers the land and devours the crops. The devastation wrought by these creatures is but a foretaste of the coming judgment of God, the “day of the LORD”. Joel therefore urges the people to turn from their sin and turn back to God. Woven into this message of judgment and the need for repentance is an affirmation of God’s kindness and the blessings he promises for all those who follow him. In fact, “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved” (2:32).
As you read Joel, catch his vision of the power and might of God and of God’s ultimate judgment of sin. Choose to follow, obey, and worship God alone as your sovereign Lord.
PURPOSE: To warn Judah of God’s impending judgment because of their sins, and to urge them to turn back to God
AUTHOR: Joel son of Pethuel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The people of Judah, the southern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Probably during the time Joel may have prophesied, from about 853 to 796 B.C.
SETTING: The people of Judah had become prosperous and complacent. Taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centredness, idolatry, and sin. Joel warned them that this kind of lifestyle would inevitably bring down God’s judgment.
KEY VERSES: “ ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (2:12, 13).
KEY PEOPLE: Joel, the people of Judah
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
The locust plague was only a foretaste of the judgment to come in the day of the Lord. This is a timeless call to repentance with the promise of blessing. Just as the people faced the tragedy of their crops being destroyed, we too will face tragic judgment if we live in sin. But God’s graceis available to us both now and in that coming day.
- The day of the locusts (1:1-2:27)
- The day of the Lord (2:28-3:21)
Explanation: Like a destroying army of locusts, God’s punishment for sin is overwhelming, dreadful, and unavoidable. When it comes, there will be no food, no water, no protection, and no escape. The day for settling accounts with God for how we have lived is fast approaching.
Importance: God is the one with whom we must all reckon – not nature, the economy, or a foreign invader. We can’t ignore or offend God for ever. We must pay attention to his message now, or we will face his anger later.
Explanation: God stood ready to forgive and restore all those who would come to him and turn away from sin. God wanted to shower his people with his love and restore them to a proper relationship with him.
Importance: Forgiveness comes by turning from sin and turning towards God. It is not too late to receive God’s forgiveness. God’s greatest desire is for you to come to him.
Promise of the Holy Spirit
Explanation: Joel predicts the time when God will pour out his Holy Spirit on all people. It will be the beginning of new and fresh worship of God by those who believe in him, but also the beginning of judgment on all who reject him.
Importance: God is in control. Justice and restoration are in his hands. The Holy Spirit confirms God’s love for us just as he did for the first Christians (Acts 2). We must be faithful to God and place our lives under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
©KingsWay International Church, 1973.