Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- V. Christ in the Prophets
9. Joel --
- Joel was the first to prophesy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. His prophecy seems to have been delivered all at one time-- not like that of Hosea, spread over a period of many years-- and its scope extends from his own day to the end of time.
He was probably the earliest of the prophetic writers, but he tells us nothing about himself beyond the few words necessary to authenticate his book and give it its Divine authority. ''The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel'' (1:1).
- [Joel] was prophet to Judah, and, using God's present judgment of a plague of locusts, with urgency he calls his people to repentance in order to avert the still [more severe] judgment upon their sins by means of hostile armies, of which the army of locusts was a type.
In graphic language, he describes the plague, calling first on the old men to confirm its unparalleled severity. The drunkards feel the effects of it, for the vines have perished. The priests have no meat [ie., meal] offering of corn, nor drink offering of wine to offer. The husbandmen and vine-dressers are ashamed. The cry of the cattle and sheep goes up to God. Joel urges the people to call a fast, and then, in the beginning of the second chapter, he continues his description of the plague.
Before the army of locusts, the land is as the Garden of Eden-- behind them, it is a desolate wilderness (2:3). An army of locusts is incredible to those who have not watched it. They fill the air, and darken the sun like an eclipse (2:2), and spread for miles over the land. The advance columns will attack all that is green and succulent; in half an hour, every leaf and blade is destroyed (1:11,12). Others, coming on in succession, will strip the bark from the trees (1:6,7). A land so devastated takes years to recover (1:17-20). The noise of their wings can be heard for miles, and the noise of their browsing is like a fire (2:5), and the land over which they have passed has the appearance of being fire-swept (2:3). Having stripped the country, they scale the walls of the cities, in serried ranks like mailed [ie., armored] horsemen and chariots, and marching into the houses consume everything which can be consumed in their resistless onslaught (2:4,7-9).
- ''The Day of the Lord.''
- ''Blow the trumpet in Zion. . . for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; gather the people'' (2:1,15-17). Joel urges all classes of the people to repent, from the priests-- the ministers of the Lord-- and the elders, to the bride and bridegroom, and the children, even the little ones. ''The day of the Lord'' always signifies judgment; the expression occurs five times in this short book, and is its Key-note. It refers, doubtless, to a series of judgments-- the present locusts, the coming armies of invasion which were about to come as a scourge of God upon the land, and the final Day of the Lord described in the third chapter.
Joel calls on the Lord to spare His people, and, like Moses, urges the plea that the heathen would question ''Where is their God?'' (2:17) [cp. Num 14:13-16]. His call to repentance is enforced by promises. The pity of the Lord, His readiness to bless if the conditions are fulfilled, the removal of the scourge, the plentiful rain and abundant crops, and the outpouring of the Spirit.
- Promise of the Spirit. [Joel 2:28-32]
- This brings us to the great central promise of the book. Other prophets have foretold details of our Lord's life on earth and of His future reign; to Joel was committed the privilege of telling that He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, alike on Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female; for all should be one in Christ Jesus. He tells us that the blessing shall flow forth from Jerusalem (2:32; 3:18). This prophecy, we are distinctly told, was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; for Peter said, ''This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.'' And again: ''This Jesus hath God raised up, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear'' (Acts 2:16,32,33). It, no doubt, has a further fulfilment yet to come after the great Day of the Lord, which is described in the third chapter, when unquestionably the prophet looks forward to a final day when the Lord shall come in judgment. Christ speaks of this day in the same figure of a great harvest (Joel 3:13; Mat 13:36-43), and we find the figure of the wine-press again in the Book of Revelation (Joel 3:13; Rev 14:18-20).
- A Lesson for Today.
- The whole book contains a beautiful spiritual lesson for today. First, the desolated condition of the Church of Christ. It is laid waste by many spiritual foes, well described in chapter 1:4. There is famine and drought on all sides. The call goes forth afresh today to the Church of God to come down into the very dust before the Lord in true repentance of heart. This repentance should begin with the leaders, the ministers, the elders, the vine-dressers. But it may be the work will begin with the little ones, as it has been so often in times of revival. If only there is this turning of heart to the Lord, we may count on the fulfilment of His promise of the abundant outpouring of His Spirit, and that He will restore the years that the canker-worm hath eaten.
Although the third chapter is one of judgment, we may take it also in a spiritual sense, and see the Church prepared by the fulness of the Spirit, ready to fight the battle of the Lord against the hosts of darkness, ready for a great ingathering of souls, and multitudes, multitudes shall be brought into the valley of decision.
[Editor's note: During the present Age of Grace, the harvest of souls to salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church. But the day of salvation is rapidly drawing to a close. Soon the harvest will be past (Jer 8:20; 2Cor 6:2). The harvest foreseen in Joel 3:9-16 is that of Rev 14:14-20, a harvest to judgment. The divisions of this judgment are based on decisions set prior to the swing of the sickle.]
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For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in OT Reflections of Christ, by Paul Van Gorder.
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