The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 10: Joel - The Day(s) of the Lord
Joel means “Yahweh is God.” The theme of Joel is the “day of the Lord” (Joel 1:15 -
“For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty” (also 2:1, 2:11, 2:31, 3:14). Joel includes much imagery of eschatological salvation and judgment (e.g., cited in Revelation).
A Past Day of the Lord Chapter one begins with a horrific description of a “Past” day of the Lord in which locusts and drought devastate the Land of Judah (1:1-20). Locusts are like a nation that “has invaded my land, mighty and without number” (1:6). What one kind of locust left, the others gnawed up. Since these temporal judgments also come from the Lord, there is a call to “Consecrate a fast, Proclaim a solemn assembly” (1:14).
A Near Day of the Lord - Chapter two relates locust devastation to a “Near” day of the Lord in judgment in which the invading armies to come (probably Babylonians) will devastate the People of Judah (2:1-11). “So there is a great and mighty people; there has never been anything like it . . . Like a mighty people arranged for battle” (2:2-5). The result is that “before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness” (2:10). There is a call to turn to the Lord. Joel 2:12-13 - “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.”
A Last Day of the Lord - The last part refers to a “Last” day of the Lord which is fulfilled in the time of Christ (Acts 2). This is a time when, “you will know that I am in the midst of Israel . . . It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind . . . And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD” (2:27-32). The latter chapter (3) addresses the final phase of this eschatological Day in which the Lord will “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” (3:1). In this time God will conduct a divine version of the Nuremberg trials sitting in judgment on the nations “in the valley of Jehoshaphat” (3:2 & 12). Jehoshaphat literally means “Yahweh has judged.” This section is alluded to in the book of Revelation and seems to have reference to the events of 70 A.D. when the Covenant Lord “will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, for the LORD dwells in Zion” (3:20-21).
Joel uses vivid words to show that God punctuates history with judgments. It also points us to the salvation in the midst of judgment, to a God who came “in the midst of Israel” (2:27) and poured out the Spirit. Do you have this Spirit poured out by the Savior? Are you prepared for your coming Day of judgment, personally, when you stand before Him? As Matthew Henry said, “To the wicked it will be a terrible day, but to the righteous it will be a joyful day.”
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more