College & Career Class Lesson Summary, July 21, 2019
We finished chapter 1 by discussing the overall tone of what Joel is attempting to convey. As we’ve noted, Joel is using the recent events of a locust devastation to the land as a means of drawing the people’s attention to their need to turn back to God. It is interesting that even if Joel wasn’t inspired to record this information that the principle remains the same: what can a believer’s circumstance teach them? This isn’t to say that the nature of the circumstance is what affirms or negates the nature of God, however, it means that the believer can allow the circumstance to refocus the believer’s mind and heart. As this locust swarm not only served as an immediate issue for the people, but it also worked to connect some dots for the citizens of Judah. They knew how locusts were used by God to humble Pharaoh as the 8th Plague of Egypt. They knew that they had just been in exile in Babylon (I’m taking the position that Joel is writing after the exile). They experienced devastation in Babylon as their national identity was swallowed up not only by the Babylonian empire’s geopolitical influence, but also of their pagan religious influence. The Babylonian Empire falls as the Medo-Persians take power and it is under the Persian King, Cyrus, that Judah is allowed to return to their land. The first wave returns under the leadership of Zerubbabel, and then under Ezra-Nehemiah. Even though they are poised to rebuild the wall and the temple, Joel recognizes that it isn’t a standing wall or a standing temple that gives his people what they need. This isn’t to say that the wall and temple are largely immaterial, yet it is to say that there is perspective that needs to be understood. Without this perspective, the wall and temple structure won’t amount to anything. Joel discusses this in both chapter 1 and chapter 2, but as a consistent principle in scripture demonstrates, the outward appearance is inferior to the inward motivations of the heart. Judah has left Babylon, broken and devastated and before God can build them again as a nation, He needs to bring them out of their meager state but that won’t happen if Judah doesn’t repent. They were in exile for a reason. Daniel, as a type of the Jew who lives through exile, prays a prayer of repentance in Daniel 4 and this prayer needs to be the prayer of the people, collectively. This is where Joel is tracking–allow the devastation to prove to you, Judah, that you are depleted and can only be revived by God Himself. Therefore, turn back to Him. God isn’t interested in humbling Judah’s enemies (as He did with Pharaoh), but at this point, in humbling Judah.
In verses 10-12, Joel continues to describe the state of the devastation.
Joel 1:10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. 1:11 Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. 1:12 The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.
In verses 13-14, we see that the priests, having the devastation’s impact fully impacting their ability to minister the things of God, that they are to designate (sanctify) a fast.
Joel 1:13 Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God. 1:14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord,
This might seem an odd thing to do as the land has nothing to offer anyway, yet, instead of attempting to overcome the devastation by their own means, Joel tells the priests to designate a fast. In the Bible, fasting is something that is done with the primary purpose of producing humility for the individual. This is why it is odd when folks brag about fasting and indeed isn’t of any value to them, spiritually, when they do so. In Psalm 35:13, we see that the psalmist’s soul was humbled through fasting. In Psalm 69:10, the psalmist describes fasting as chastening his soul. Judah needs to understand just how depleted they are – even in their priests. The priests are to be brought to humility so that they can in turn minister repentance to the people. God is going to look to rebuild this nation through Him and His priests. Without their repentance, they have nothing to hope for.
In verse 15, we see this defined as the “Day of the Lord.”
Joel 1:15 Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
We’ll look more at this phrase when we get to chapter 2, but it is interesting to note this phrase exists 26 times throughout the Bible and for the most part, it concerns a deliverance of the afflicted and a judgment of the afflictor.
In verses 16-18 we see further devastation described and by verse 19, we now have Joel making his cry of repentance, signaling to the priests to follow suit and subsequently the people. Verse 20 shows that the beasts of the field are even impacted by Judah’s need to repent.
Joel 1:16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? 1:17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered. 1:18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
Joel 1:19 O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
Joel 1:20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
We’ll see more about this repentance in chapter 2, however, it is interesting to note that God delivered Judah out of exile BEFORE they repented. God provided grace to a people that needed to recognize that grace and its source and turn back to Him. They needed to recognize the deliverance from exile as the display of the goodness of God and allow that goodness to change their mind’s direction about who they were and where God sit on the throne of their lives.
Our story continues…