By @johnvinod | February 27, 2021
Let us begin today by reading from Joel 2: 30 to chapter 3 because they are interconnected. This is a rather difficult section in Joel’s prophecy as he repeats a popular theme among the Old Testament prophets—”the day of the Lord.” Joel tone takes a dramatic turn as he begins predicting God’s judgement upon the nations. Remember, like all the prophecies Joel’s words are both literal as well as figurative. He has been addressing the devastation the locust plague had caused, which I believe was a physical reality in Israel/Judah. However, the plague is also a symbol of the northern nations who invaded and ravaged Israel. Of course, the Israelites had a role in this because of their disobedience and idolatry. And Joel made it clear that the plague was a judgement of God upon his people.
From 2: 30 to 3: 21, however, Joel turns his focus to the judgement of rebellious nations. God’s people are forgiven, restored, and saved because they had repented and called on the name of Yahweh (see, vs 1: 19-20 & 2: 17). God showed mercy and they are being saved. But what about the nations?
Joel announces that the Lord will deal with the nations in a catastrophic way through the events of the day of the Lord. He goes on to provide the signs of this event which will be visible on earth as well as in the sky in 2: 30-32 and then again in 3: 15. The “blood,” “fire,” and “smoke” clearly symbolize the destruction that invasions and wars create. They were a reminder of the ruin caused by the locust plague. The extent of damage the people of Israel experienced is equated metaphorically with the dreadfulness of “the day of the Lord” (see 2: 10-11). Now in the final days, Joel says, the tables will be turned, and the same judgement will be poured on the rebelling nations. He zooms on the details of the character of this judgement in 3: 1-14.
Nowadays, I understand that many people, perhaps you, too, are curious to know the specifics and interpretations of the passages regarding the end times, as the New Testament writers also displayed an intense interest in Joel’s prophecy. They link it to the return of Christ and the end times. However, my concern is with the prophet’s interest here as well as with the other writers of the New Testament who wrote about the end times. They were writing in the context of persecution and sufferings of God’s people. Therefore, their purpose was not to provide every minute information to satisfy our curiosity for the chronology of events or their interpretation. The writers’ language is mostly metaphorical, and their message is two-fold:
- Provide meaning, comfort, and assurance of God’s favor to those who believe in the grace of God and call on his name.
- Make it plain that Yahweh is a just God. He will certainly judge the rebellious and their punishment will fit their crimes.
That is why, Joel envisages a day when God will save his people while he carries out judgement of the nations. While judging other nations, God wanted to assure his people that he cares for his covenant and will deal with those who intermeddle with it or its people (see 3:1-2). Just as Yahweh could save his people from the plague, he can and will do it again in the future, even if that involved as apocalyptic an event as the day of the Lord. As in the past, so in the future, too, the means of his grace and his salvation will be for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (2:32). This declaration became the pivotal text for the Apostle Peter, when he invited the people gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost representing not only the Jewish people but all nations:
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself (Acts 2: 38-39 ESV).
This, friends, should also be our prayer and focus for us, as we go through our pandemic today. God is in the business of restoring and saving. It is possible only in and through the name of Jesus Christ. And those who receive his grace and salvation, cannot but share with others. Will you share this good news during this Lent season?