Study Notes

Joel 2:12-19


Our first two studies in this book have shown us a terrible locust plague which came upon the land of Israel, followed by the prophet Joel using the current catastrophe to prophesy regarding "the day of the Lord," when another army of locust-like attackers would invade the land.

When judgment is coming, there's only one thing to do: and it's not gathering guns, gold, and groceries. It's getting right with God. The eight verses we'll be covering tonight are all about that.

2:12-14 Rend Your Heart

The Hebrew culture has always included the rending of garments to show repentance, regret, anger, grief, or sorrow.

When Jacob was mourning the reported death of his son Joseph, he...

Gen. 37:34 ...tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

When Abner was killed, David commanded...

2Sam. 3:31 ..."Tear your clothes and gird on sackcloth and lament before Abner..."

In the book of Judges, Jephthah made a vow that he would offer up as a sacrifice the first thing that came running up to him when he returned from the battle with the Ammonites. Unfortunately, the first thing to come running up to him was his daughter!

Judg. 11:35 And it came about when he saw her, that he tore his clothes and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take {it} back."

The tearing of one's clothes was such a common expression that the Law of God included a commandment that the high priest was never to rend his garments because they were consecrated. (The high priest in Jesus' day violated this command in Mark 14 when he accused Jesus of blasphemy.)

But God is telling the people through the prophet Joel to rend their heart, not their garments. "Enough of the outward displays. They mean nothing. I want to see you repent internally. I want to see that you're feeling this, and not just going through the motions."

Each Sunday, in churches all across America, the altars are packed with those who come forward to weep because of their sin. But how many exhibit a changed and repentant heart the following Monday? How many are rending their hearts as well as their garments?

The Lord Is Gracious

If they truly grieve over their sin and return to the Lord, He will show Himself as...

Joel 2:13 ...gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil.

Saints, this is something that we need to be reminded of over and over again. The simple fact is that we frequently drift away from the Lord. One step of disobedience, one morning of skipped devotions, and we're further than we were. But then matters are made made worse because the condemnation in our hearts causes us to forget everything we've learned about the Lord's heart of mercy and forgiveness and be afraid to come back to Him.

Never forget that the Lord passed before Moses, describing Himself as,

Exod. 34:6-7 ..."The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin..."

I credit one Scripture with saving my spiritual life more times than I can count. It is 1John 1:9.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Relenting Of Evil

Joel says that God is a God who relents of evil, asking, "Who knows whether He will turn and relent?" This brings up an issue that Bible critics love to point out and cry, "Contradiction!" Because while Joel says that the Lord relents of evil, Moses said,

Num. 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?"

Samuel also said that God...

1Sam. 15:29 "...will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind."

Joel, Moses, and Samuel all used the same Hebrew word in these statements, the word "Naw-KHAM." However, "Naw-KHAM" has many definitions and uses, which is where these misunderstandings arise. The word can mean, "to be sorry," "to console oneself," "to repent," "to regret," "to be moved to pity," "to have compassion," "to comfort or be comforted," or, "to ease oneself."

This word applies easily to the Lord in the context of having compassion, pity, or giving comfort. But in the context of repenting for sin, it would never apply to Him.

The Bible is clear that God will frequently stop or postpone judgment (Exodus 32:12-14; 2Sam. 24:16; Ps. 106:45, etc.). God is never ashamed, embarrassed, or hesitant to declare that. But it is the unfortunate use of the term "repenteth" in the King James version of the Bible that has caused people to stumble in their understanding. Even the New American Standard's usage of "changed His mind" is bad, because clearly people change their minds when either they change or new information comes to light. Neither is ever true in God's case, for He never changes. Also, being all-knowing and outside of time, He never receives any new information. But certainly, He has pity and compassion. When someone repents or intercedes, He is more than willing to relent from a declared judgment in order to show mercy.

Leave A Blessing Behind Him

When the Lord relents from the judgment, there is even the possibility of Him leaving a blessing behind Him. This is the demonstration of mercy and grace. Mercy, which is when God doesn't give us what we deserve. Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.

Mercy is God turning away from judgment. Grace is God leaving a blessing behind as well.

But one thing we might miss is that very often the reason for the blessing is that so we will turn around and offer it back to Him.

Why does God give us money? So that we...

Eph. 4:28 ...have {something} to share with him who has need.

Why does God give us musical talent? To worship Him.

God gave Hannah the blessing of a child - the baby Samuel. She, in turn, gave Samuel back to the Lord.

Even in Jesus' teaching about the parable of the minas (or talents), the noblemen gave minas to his slaves, and received them back.

Why would God leave a blessing behind? So that they could have a grain offering and a libation to offer to the Lord. What has God blessed you with? Are you holding onto it? Or are you freely giving it back to Him?

2:15-16 Blow A Trumpet

You might remember that the command was given at the beginning of this chapter,

Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!...

That was a trumpet of alarm. Now, the same command is given, but for a different purpose. They are to blow the trumpet to proclaim a solemn assembly.

A Solemn Assembly

Who was to attend? Everyone. The people, the congregation, the elders, children, and even nursing infants. Even newlyweds on their honeymoon would be expected to attend.

Why must everyone be on board for repentance?

2Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

If we're all going to be judged, we'd better all be repentant!

2:17 The Priests Interceding

The priests, the Lord's ministers, were called to pray on behalf of the people. They were interceding, standing in the gap between God and men. This is the duty of the Lord's ministers, to pray for others, to intercede. Certainly, Jesus, our high priest, always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).

Simon Peter told us that we are a royal priesthood (1Pet. 2:9). Are we living up to the job description of being intercessors?

Between The Porch And The Altar

Notice that they were called to weep between the porch and the altar. A small detail that most would overlook . But if you are a Bible student, picturing this as it would take place, you see something there: The bronze laver.

The bronze laver where the priests would wash themselves in the water. This was symbolic of the washing of water with the Word of God, the Scriptures.

It is a necessary reminder that the priests of every generation are to be near to the Word of God in the house of God as they appeal to the heart of God for the people of God.

Where Is Their God?

Notice that the priests are commanded to say,

Joel 2:17 ..."Spare Thy people, O LORD, And do not make Thine inheritance a reproach, A byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, Where is their God?'"

When we make appeals to the Lord, we need to remember that it should never be on the basis of our righteousness, because in and of ourselves, we don't have a leg to stand on. Instead, we appeal to the character of God. This kind of appeal for the Lord's reputation and honor was first used by Moses in Exodus 32. The people of Israel had created the golden calf and worshiped it as the god who brought them up out of Egypt. God's fury had been kindled.

Exod. 32:9-14 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation." Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil {intent} He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about {doing} harm to Thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit {it} forever.'" So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

This happened again in Numbers 13, when the twelve spies came back from their mission into the land of Canaan. Joshua and Caleb said, "The obstacles are big, but our Lord is bigger!" But the other ten said, "There's giants in the land! There's no way we can be victorious!" The whole congregation said, "Let's appoint ourselves a new leader who will take us back to Egypt!"

Num. 14:11-16 And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they." But Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Thy strength Thou didst bring up this people from their midst, and they will tell {it} to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of this people, for Thou, O LORD, art seen eye to eye, while Thy cloud stands over them; and Thou dost go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if Thou dost slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Thy fame will say, ‘Because the LORD could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.'"

God pardoned the people again, because the appeal was not to the innocence of the people, but the reputation of the Lord.

2:18-19 The Lord Will Have Pity

The Lord's answer to their cries? He will be zealous for His land, and will have pity on His people.

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