By Vinod John @johnvinod | February 23, 2021
Let us begin today by reading chapter 2 of the book of Joel. Having described in graphic details, employing poetic personification, the terrible nature of the locust plague and its vast devastation in Israel Joel now declares that the “day of the Lord” is imminent:
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come (Joel 2: 1-2 NRSV).
Joel proclaimed “the day of the Lord” representing God’s judgement, not upon others, not upon the invading armies or natural disasters, but upon His people (2:1). Notice that in the previous chapter, Joel referred to the beasts and wild animals panting and wailing because of the lack of food and water. Now, as he announces the day of the Lord as a day of judgement upon his people, he is obviously suggesting to the readers: how much more than the beasts, you, as God’s people, should cry out to the Lord in repentance through fasting and prayers (2: 13-15). Also notice that in 1:15 Joel had already alluded to the coming of the “day of the Lord.”
So, what was the day of the Lord for Joel?
First, it was both a day of shock, surprise, as well as hope.
Second, he saw the day of the Lord as God’s tribulation and judgement upon his people as he exclaimed, “Alas for the day!” (1:15 and 2:1). People of his day assumed that despite their disobedience, rebellion and unfaithfulness, God would be merciful, gracious and protect them. However, Joel proclaimed that God would come on His day to punish them to teach obedience.
Third, Joel believed that the purpose of the day of the Lord was to drive the rebellious people to true repentance and provide them an opportunity to reorient to God and align their lives to his covenant.
Fourth, Joel assures that it is a day of hope, because God will indeed turn His face toward them and shower his mercy upon them if they be remorseful. He will even restore the damage caused by the plague, if people lament and return to Him:
Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. In response to his people the Lord said:
I am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations.……
I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. (2: 18-19; 25)
Fifth, Joel revives the hope that through the day of the Lord, God would indeed bring about a spiritual revitalization, leading people to realize that there is only one living God—Yahweh. And he loves to abide with them (2: 27).
Sixth, Joel reassures that the day of the Lord is additionally a day of hope for God’s people because it has the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirt:
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit (2:28-29).
Lastly, even though the ominous signs and wonders will precede the day of the Lord, it will ultimately turn out to be a magnificent day of salvation and renewal (2: 30-32).
Like so, for us this day, I consider these days of death and destruction everywhere caused by the current pandemic would turn out to be the days of opportunity, if we carry out what the prophet Joel demanded of the people of his time. And if we shall also obey what Joel summons us to do in 2: 12-17, we, too, shall be revived, and God will even restore to us what the pandemic has devoured in this past year or so:
The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,…..(2:24-25 ESV).