Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reading Through Joel

Joel ChartWith Joel the reading through the minor prophets picks up speed. Joel is a short book, and is best read through in one sitting to see the comparison that Joel makes between an invasion of locusts in chapter 1, an invasion of a Northern army in chapter 2 and the final Day of the LORD as God comes with judgment and salvation to implement his glorious kingdom. This is sandwiched around an exhortation to the desired response – repentance and a promise of God’s incredible provision for His people.

As Garrett says,

A terrible locust plague apparently precipitated Joel’s prophecy. Out of this event, which Joel saw as no less than an act of God and a manifestation of the day of the Lord, the book develops a theological program that both interprets the disaster for the prophet’s generation and looks ahead to the end of the age. In the process the text shows that the “day of the LORD” is both judgment and salvation and that it appears in diverse historical events.

The Day of the LORD is a recurring time in which God decisively invades human history to punish sin, purify His people and set up His kingdom. The final one will include the tribulation, judgments, 2nd Coming and millennium/eternal kingdom. In the writings of the ancient world "The Day" of a king included his conquering, subjugation and ruling over a group of people. God has invaded the lives of His people for judgment in a pattern of what the final judgment will be like in the destruction of Samaria and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and Romans.

All quotations below are from the New American Commentary, Joel by Duane A. Garrett

The Christian response to calamity, therefore, is both to fear God and to trust him. It is to recognize that I, too, deserve the worst of what has happened to others and must remain in a state of repentance. On the other hand, when tragedy does strike me, it is to realize that God is not necessarily pursuing me for some sin. He is sovereign and will work all things out for his glory and our good. If we are to follow the example of Joel, then in hardship, too, we must look for the hand of God. Joel 1.11-12, 325.

When Yahweh moves, Joel asserted, the old order is inverted, the familiar disappears, and false security collapses. No one can withstand that day because there is nothing left to stand on. On the other hand, as we shall see, Yahweh brings new life and a new world into being. Joel 2.11, 343.

Joel issued “a call to faith not in a doctrinal system, but in an intensely personal God.” Joel 2.14, 347.

One of the greatest comforts for the believer is that, in the midst of tragedy and difficulty, we can have hope because it is not caused by an impersonal karma, but by a personal God who loves us and is working these things to an ultimate good end for us. In the midst of the seeming chaos we don’t always understand what God is doing (Job for example) but we can trust God.

The major characteristic of the outpouring of the Spirit is its universality. All the people of God receive the Spirit. The text specifically erases the major social distinctions of the ancient world: gender, age, and economic status. In an era in which men (not women), the old (not the young), and the landowners (not slaves) ruled society, Joel explicitly rejected all such distinctions as criteria for receiving the Holy Spirit. Joel 2.28, 369.

Joel’s prophecy concerns the eschatological era and that we are now in that era. The church is not an interruption in the plan of God. This is the messianic age. The Spirit has come, Zion has already been exalted in that Gentiles have joined Israel in the worship of Israel’s God, and the judgment of this world has begun. We await the culmination of all things.  Joel 2.28-32, 374.

Neither we nor the New Testament writers need to assign arbitrarily some secondary meaning to Old Testament texts. Rather, we should seek to understand the prophetic themes the prophets proclaimed and in so doing see how all these themes have their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. Hosea, Joel 3, 390–391.

God often works in patterns that unfold over very long periods of time. Thus, the revelation in the New Testament that the final Day of the LORD would begin with the incarnation and ascension of the Messiah, the founding of the church as the Spirit is given to inaugurate the New Age and then finally (at least 2000 years later) the return of the king to bring in the full expression of his rule on earth takes place over a much longer time than one would expect.

Still, the ultimate fulfillment of this verse is in the eternal Jerusalem. It is that city that truly will never become desolate, suffer defeat, or endure drought. This interpretation is not a violation of the promises to historical Israel; it is their fulfillment. Joel 3.20, 396.

As the writer of Hebrews says, we are “looking forward to a city,” the New Jerusalem and the entire earth as a Garden of Eden. Thus, we both dread and look forward to the Day of the LORD. Your attitude toward the Day of the LORD should depend on whether you are reflecting His character and His power in your life. If you are not reflecting Christ in your life you should fear it; if Jesus lives in your life you should welcome it and say, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

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