Thus far, Joel has been using imagery drawn from a recent locust devastation to grab his audience’s ears and to draw their minds to something far greater. By harkening their thoughts back to the Exodus story (the 8th plague being of locusts), he is taking them on a journey to what the Day of the Lord will be, presumably at some point in the future. However, it should be noted that there have been other “days of the Lord” in the scripture and these often serve as an archetype, or a chief example, that biblical authors will utilize when wanting to draw the reader’s mind back to a seminal event in order to make their point in the time they were writing. The Exodus story is one of the most alluded to accounts in the Bible and is used in archetypal fashion. Many of Israel’s feasts likewise were to serve as reminders of their Exodus from Egypt.
Exodus 13:3 And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.
If you do a search for the words “brought”, “out” and “Egypt”, you’ll find over 85 references in the KJV. If you think of other things that are about the Exodus and search, you’ll find hundreds of examples where the Exodus is being used as an archetype. Perhaps to illustrate this more fully, recall Paul’s words to Timothy,
1Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Paul refers to himself as an archetype – if you need a seminal example of a chief sinner receiving mercy, then look no further than Paul who obtained this mercy as a pattern to all. Paul is not saying that something happened to him initially or “first, in time”, but the word first is the same word “chief”. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom (those sinners), Paul saw himself as the archetype of sinners (as chief), yet at the same time, Paul was also the archetype of the salvation of Christ, being the chief example. Anytime you need to draw attention to the pattern of salvation, Paul simply says to look to his experience. Turning back to the Exodus account, we see that it serves as a chief example of God’s judgment against wickedness and deliverance (salvation) to those who are in bondage to that wickedness. This is what the true essence of the Day of the Lord is all about – when God shows up to confront the perpetrators of evil and to rescue those who were victims to them. However, this isn’t just some off-in-the-future event, for we have various days of the Lord throughout the Bible. This doesn’t negate a day in time future where God will once again (and for all) show up to confront collective evil and bring deliverance to those who are in bondage to it, but it is to say that there is more to this phrase, day of the Lord, that we need to recognize. Our study isn’t designed to examine charts and timelines or a branch of theology called, dispensationalism (and its various forms), however, recognizing some of these things about the day of the Lord may cause you to reconsider some things you believe. This is ok – if our ultimate goal is to be as scriptural as possible, we should welcome any opportunity for the Bible to cross-examine us.
As it relates to the Day of the Lord, we don’t get more than 11 chapters into the Bible and we already have an account of a day of the Lord. Man kind had collectively become corrupt and began to build a tower that would elevate them as gods unto themselves. God told humanity to spread out and fill the earth, but humanity determined a different course. This tower they built becomes known as Babel, which means, confusion as this is where God confounds their language. It should be noted that the word Babel is found everywhere else in the Bible as Babylon. Babylon becomes an icon in the Bible of self-exaltation and corruption. Babylon existed long before the Exile. God confronts the collective evil of mankind and brings a deliverance from this. The Day of the Lord is a two-sided coin, one side dealing with corruption and the other side bringing deliverance. Immediately after God confronts the evil of Babylon (Babel), He calls out Abram from Babylon and promised to bless the world through His (Abram’s) family.
Genesis 11:9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Genesis 11:31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
This is the idea of the Day of the Lord. As mentioned above, the story of the Exodus is another example of God confronting collective evil and bringing deliverance as a result. In the book of Joel, Joel has been using a recent swarm of locusts and the devastation it has caused to bring Israel to a time of reflection and action. Just as the Day of the Lord is a two-sided coin, what Joel is doing in his prophecy is two-sided: use a recent disaster to get Israel’s attention and then bring Israel to a decision point (repentance) based on that information. We saw in Chapter 1 how Joel wants Israel to remember the Day of the Lord in Exodus (also with locusts) and to bring to mind how God’s judgment against Egypt brought deliverance to Israel. Yet, now, Israel, through their wickedness, has become the subject of God’s judgment. God is going to bring judgment against Israel for their sinful failure and in a twist of grace, also provide deliverance to them (as Hosea and the other prophets tell of). This is what chapter 2 discusses.
Joel 2:1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; 2:2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. 2:3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. 2:4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. 2:5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. 2:6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. 2:7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: 2:8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 2:9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 2:10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: 2:11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
Trumpets were used in Israel for specific purposes. In the days when email didn’t exist or text messages, there was still a need to be able to communicate to the population at large. Trumpets were used as a means of warning (think of our modern Severe Weather Sirens or Air Raid Sirens from WWII), or they were used to call the men of war to prepare for battle. They were also used to direct camp movements and locations. Alarms were differentiated in how the trumpet was blown. (See Numbers 10:1-10). This Day of the Lord is signified through a means that Israel would have been accustomed to. The alarm being blown is a warning of this invading army (the locusts). It is to be sounded in Zion and Zion is the holy mountain of God. Zion is the city of Jerusalem which sits on a mountain/plateau. In the Bible, you’ll often find pagan gods being worshiped on “high places” which were tops of mountains where trees were that would create a sanctuary of sorts for their gods. In that day, these areas is where heaven and earth met, thus a gateway to the gods. This is why throughout the divided kingdom period of Israel you always see God calling out the high places that went along with their pagan apostasy. However, in 2Samuel 5, we see that when David takes the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, Jerusalem is used synonymously with Zion.
2Samuel 5:6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither. 5:7 Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
God is making a statement about where the true location of heaven and earth meeting is and it is on the mountain of Zion, Jerusalem. The Lord will roar out of Zion as He deals with the collective evil and brings deliverance. It is a day of darkness and gloominess. It will happen as fast as the first morning light breaks the night’s darkness. To make a comparison, Joel says that before the Day of the Lord, it is as if the land is like the Garden of Eden yet after is left a wake of destruction, devastation and desolation. This army (still thinking about the locusts from chapter 1) are likened unto horses now in Joel’s mind. This may seem an odd transition, but Joel is using an aspect of what the animals do to portray what is happening. When discussing devastation, locusts provide a great animal to use. When wanting to discuss the thunderous advance of the army, horses provide much better imagery than locusts. Interestingly enough, this is the same association that John sees in Revelation. When John sees the bottomless pit opened, locusts come out and he writes,
Revelation 9:7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
Job also makes an interesting association between locusts/grasshoppers and horses,
Job 39:19 Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? 39:20 Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.
This army that is coming will swarm like locusts and charge like horses. They will deluge the people. They will climb walls like men of war and will do so in order. Proverbs 30:27 says that the locusts have no king, yet they nonetheless go about in bands (ranks). In other words, without a central leader, they still work as one cohesive unit. And, as the locust did in Egypt, these will climb the walls and break into houses. The number of this army is so vast, that it is likened unto the locust swarm blocking out the light of the sun, moon and stars–exactly like in Egypt.
Exodus 10:15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.
The Lord’s Day is very terrible and notice that this army of locusts is called by Joel, The Lord’s Army. This army is invading Israel yet the Lord calls it His Army. It is true that there are times in scripture there God uses His enemies to bring Israel to a decision point. In this, these enemies become the servants of God (they just may not realize the ultimate purpose God is allowing/causing this to happen). In Isaiah 44 and 45, we see that Cyrus is called the Lord’s Shepherd. Cyrus wasn’t even born yet (about 150 yrs out) but is called by name by the prophet Isaiah that he would be the shepherd of God that would ultimately let Israel (Judah) go back from captivity.
Isaiah 44:28 That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
Isaiah 45:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 45:2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 45:3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. 45:4 For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
Jeremiah reminds Israel that their exile/captivity wouldn’t last forever (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10) and Ezra records this coming to pass, not only in his book (Ezra 1:1-6), but also in Chronicles (whom I believe wrote Chronicles),
2Chronicles 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 36:23 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.
In Jeremiah, we see another example where the enemy of God is used as the servant of God,
Jeremiah 27:6 And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. (Also Jeremiah 25:9; 43:10)
For Joel’s purposes, this army is not Israel or Judah but an invasion that is designed to confront the collective evil but this evil is found within Israel/Judah. The Day of the Lord is going to be great and terrible and will ultimately serve judgment against Israel/Judah. But, as we’ve seen, the Day of the Lord doesn’t just rain judgment and then leave, it also offers deliverance and Israel/Judah has the opportunity to heed the warning. Joel’s message is very much the alarm sounding in Jerusalem. As Joel 2:11 asks, who can abide this terrible day of the Lord? It is decision time for Israel/Judah – what are they going to do with this information?
Our story continues…