College & Career Class Lesson Summary, July 14, 2019
Today we began our first look at the book of Joel. This book is a short book, compared to some of its counterparts in the Old Testament, only spanning 3 chapters in our English Bible and maintains the themes of the Day of the Lord, Judah’s Return unto God, God’s Response to Judah’s Return and Ultimate Settlement with God, in God’s Land. Much of Joel’s book contains information that would be considered apocalyptic, or that which pertains to the end of the world. This will be key in understanding his book, but there is a twist which we’ll look at momentarily.
Joel maintains some interesting characteristics in that we aren’t really sure as to when it is was written (as shown in the timeline below). There are many reasons as to why there is such diversion of opinions on it, which you can research for your own fun. The historicity of a book is important when it drives the context of the content. Joel, while concerned with actual events, does not draw distinct lines in the sands of time that would anchor this book to a particular time period. Joel also makes use (by quoting or by allusion) to many other books in the Old Testament. Joel draws on information from Exodus, Isaiah, Obadiah, Nahum, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Amos, et al. This is one of the reasons that some believe Joel is later as some of these prophets weren’t around yet had Joel been prophesying earlier in time. (However, it is fair to say that we can’t be sure that these other writers (excluding Exodus) aren’t quoting from Joel.)
Joel is also unique as he is one of the few (if not the only) of the scriptural prophets that does not accuse Judah of any particular sin. He is adamant that judgment is coming, nonetheless, but appears to assume that his audience should be well aware of why judgment will happen. It seems, to me, that Joel’s writing is later (after the exile in Babylon) as his opening chapter seems to allude to what Babylon has done to Judah. Judah would have been very well informed of their sin through Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s prophecies and Joel seems to be coming in after the exile to affirm that God isn’t done with exacting His purpose upon Judah (and the people of the earth).
So, with that, let’s begin exploring the book of Joel by looking at Acts 2. No, that’s not a typo!
It is the day of Pentecost and there are Jews gathered in from all over the Hellenized world and as the Holy Spirit begins to move within the apostles, they begin speaking with new tongues (languages). These are not utterances of gibberish, but actual languages of the earth. These Jews who had come back into the land spoke the languages of where they resided. God used this gathering as a means to unify the message by supernaturally gifting the apostles with the ability to speak, fluently/natively in the tongues represented. (As a side bar, it is assumed that the apostles spoke in new tongues, but it is also very likely that the apostles spoke in their own tongue and, as the scriptures record, the hearers HEARD it in their language–the Holy Spirit was the interpreter service). The people stand amazed at what they are witnessing and some start to propose that these apostles are drunk. Here is Peter’s response,
Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 2:15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 2:18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 2:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The book of Joel was applicable for Peter to withstand the comments about the apostles being drunk. He quickly dismisses their accusations by stating that this is what Joel was speaking about. So, question: if Joel speaks of things to come/of things apocalyptic, why is Peter saying that it was coming to fruition during his time in Acts 2? This is the twist I mentioned above. There is a common thought that any and every thing in the prophets (especially that which is deemed apocalyptic) to be at some point in the future, yet, we see Peter calling attention to the fact that some of what Joel wrote was unfolding before their eyes. As we get into Chapters 2 and 3 of Joel, we’ll see more of what is going on in Acts 2. It is also interesting to note that Joel states that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, but he says that this will “come to pass.” There is something in these signs and wonders he writes of that will signifying that salvation is available to whosoever. This shouldn’t be construed to mean that salvation was only for a select few prior to this, but that this is nothing more than Joel saying that these signs and wonders, when they happen, will be an evident sign that salvation is freely open to whosoever will. Paul quotes this same verse in Romans 10:13, when speaking of Israel’s rejection of the Name of God (Jesus Christ), but knowing the Gentiles are responding to the Name of God in droves. As mentioned, we’ll circle back to this when we get to Chapters 2 and 3. For now, let’s roll into Chapter 1.
Joel 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
This is pretty much what we know of Joel. He isn’t discussed elsewhere in the Old Testament, and is only quoted by Peter and Paul (and John in Revelation). There is no other biographical information about him. His name means “Yahweh is God” and his father’s name means “Visions of God.” Joel, while being a prophet, is also what the Bible calls a seer. A prophet foretold of future events and affirmed the will of God for judgment, restoration and redemption. A seer was able to translate the invisible things through visions, etc. These terms are used interchangeably in scripture, but often simply refer to the same thing. The author of 1Samuel attests to this as well:
1Samuel 9:9 (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)
Joel is going to draw on a recent, local event, where locust swarms devistated their land. He is going to use this to draw his reader’s minds back to something their fathers would have experienced (as in the Exodus from Egypt). He is writing about a Day of the Lord that has already passed, when God rained judgment upon Egypt, but salvation upon Israel. This is the formula for the day of the Lord – some sort of cleansing or judgment, then restoration and salvation. Joel is making the most out of this recent event to connect the Day of the Lord in Egypt to the Day of the Lord that is yet future.
Joel 1:2 Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? 1:3 Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. 1:4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.
This practice of rehearsing history was common place in Jewish society as long before written records were a thing, oral traditions were relied upon to tell history, family lineage, etc. Their minds were much more greatly attuned to detail than ours are today, simply because of the vast amounts of information they had to retain. You can look throughout the Old Testament and see these admonitions to recall and retell.
Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 6:9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Joel is calling his people to come and remember what the Lord has done and to see the great lesson to be learned through the recent locust devastation they just experienced. There is another lesson in this that we will get to at the end of Chapter 1, but for now, let’s keep reading as Joel is going to describe the level of grief that exists in the land because of the swarm.
Joel 1:5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. 1:6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. 1:7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. 1:8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
Joel is using the recent locusts as a metaphor for a people group, a nation. I presume this nation to be Babylon and the devastation they caused to be what Israel faced in exile. It isn’t uncommon for animals to be used in the Bible to represent people. (i.e. Proverbs 30:25 and following) It is with this imagery that we find where John references it in the book of Revelation.
In Revelation 6; 8-9, we find the vision of the 7 Seals and the 7 Trumpets. These appear to be speaking of roughly the same things, just told from different aspects. Within the 7 Trumpets, we find that locust from the bottomless ascend and they’re described just as Joel does,
Revelation 9:3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Revelation 9:8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
This goes back to my comments earlier about how there is information in Joel that seems to have fulfilled in Peter’s day, but yet, John sees something in the future and quotes Joel for it. Nonetheless, Joel is using this language in Chapter 1 to keep his audience focused on what the locust have done, locally, but as a grand picture of God’s handy work in Egypt and what will happen in the future.
The grief that Judah faces are like drunkards who wail because that which makes their wine is no more. Their supply is gone! The grief is also liked unto a betrothed virgin who grieves when her would-be husband breaks off the engagement. This is how heavy the grief is of Judah from the exile. They have their freedom from Babylon, yet the impacts of their exile still course through their very existence.
Joel 1:9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’S ministers, mourn.
The devastation of the land not only impacts the everyday people, but even the priests suffer as there is no raw material available to use in the priests ministrations. The meat offering was not an offering of flesh, but was a cake of bread, essentially. If the grain is gone (because of the locusts), then there is nothing to make the bread with. Likewise, if the vineyards are gone (because of the locusts), there is nothing to make a drink offering with. The drink offering was made of wine. Note these verses from Leviticus,
Leviticus 2:1 And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: 2:2 And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD: 2:3 And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire.
Leviticus 23:13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
Joel is going to continue on about this grief as we finish Chapter 1. He wants the readers to understand the pain of exile so that by the end of the book, he can lift you up, all the way to Mt. Zion!
Our story continues…