Joel uses a recent calamity in the nation of Judah to teach his hearers a prophetic lesson. A locust plague had invaded the land, destroying every green thing in its path. Grapevines were stripped clean; grain fields lay bare; fruit trees stood leafless and unproductive. The devastation was so complete that even grain offerings to God were impossible. Joel uses the locust invasion as the starting point of his sermon. As bad as the locust plague was, it would pale by comparison with what God was about to bring upon His people. An army from the north would come to attack the nation, leaving behind devastation even more complete than that of the locusts. The only hope for Joel’s hearers: heartfelt repentance before that terrible day arrives. (1.)
Joel 1:1 “The Word of the Lord that came to Joel” – this underscores that this is the very word of God, and I don’t think we can be reminded of this too often.
What Joel received, Judah heard, and today we’re reading it.
A major theme of Joel is: The day of the Lord.
Joel 1:15, Joel 2:1, Joel 2:11, Joel 2:31, Joel 3:14
The day of the Lord has several fields of meaning, but at the heart of this phrase is God’s coming judgment. We will either enter that judgment repentant or unrepentant.
Joel is also speaking of the end times. We can safely conclude Joel understood a single future event where God will intervene to destroy His enemies, restore His people, and ultimately deliver believers from all enemies.
The day of the Lord, as other Scriptures show, will include other events:
- Before Israel’s enemies will be destroyed they will plunder and devastate Israel (Zechariah 14:1-2). This will be a time of anguish for Israel (Zephaniah 1:7-18, Daniel 12:1). Jesus called this time a time of great distress for the nation (Matthew 24:21).
- After the Lord will destroys His enemies, the day of the Lord will include a time of blessing for Israel (Obadiah 15/Obadiah 21). known as the Millennium.
- Then, after the Millennium, the day of the Lord will also include the destruction of the present heavens and earth, and the making of a new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 12-13).
According to Scripture passages besides those in Joel, “the day of the Lord” will be a lengthy time period including both judgment and blessing. It will begin soon after the Rapture and will include the seven-year Tribulation, the return of the Messiah, the Millennium, and the making of the new heavens and new earth. (2.)
To outline simply, we could think of Joel in two parts:
- Joel 1:1-1:20 – Historic / Past
- Joel 2:1-3:21 – Prophetic / Future
The most frequently repeated phrase in the book is, “I will,” underscoring that God will act, He will judge, He will fulfill every promise, every judgment, every blessing, every word that He has said.
Every word the Lord has spoken can be trusted.
In terms of repetition, land occurs 11 times, underscoring God’s promises again and again: He will be faithful to the promise He made to Abraham and to Israel regarding the land.
Joel in the New Testament
Joel’s prophecies are specifically noted in the New Testament.
Joel 2:28-29 clearly prophesies of a coming time, a precise and specific time, when the Holy Spirit will come–yet some of the prophecy looks further into the future.
Joel is referenced several times in the New Testament. Two in particular:
- Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 in reference to the promise of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:16-21.
- Jesus quotes Joel 2:31 in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:29 with the signs of His second coming.
The bottom line of this whole book, to me, is: we need to repent.
Repentance is sometimes a misunderstood idea. We’re not making our flesh better. We’re not ‘cleaning up our act.’ We’re turning from sin.
The word is simply to turn. Are you going to turn?
It is never too late to repent and humbly seek God’s mercy, forgiveness, and grace.
God is more merciful, gracious, and compassionate than any human on the planet.
When we humble ourselves and come before Him, He always forgives.
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 239.
- Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Joel,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1412–1413.