Study Notes

Joel 2:20-27


Since we took a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to spend a little more time in review than I normally would, to get us back into the book of Joel.

Although there is some debate about the historical placement of the book of Joel, the internal evidence seems to point to the time after the events of Nehemiah. Joel himself was a prophet, verified by the Apostle Peter in Acts chapter two.

In Joel's day, huge swarms of locusts had devastated the land of Israel. Wave after wave came in, devouring all of the vegetation. As a result, there would be no wine made and no grain offerings sacrificed.

The Word of the Lord came to Joel in the midst of this devastation. Joel communicated to the people that God was calling for repentance. He was waiting to hear His people cry out to Him in the midst of their distress. He also used the opportunity to communicate through Joel that this was not the last locust swarm to devastate the land. In fact, He warned that the Day of the Lord is coming. A day when God's judgment would be brought against the people.

The abyss is going to one day be opened and a demonic horde of locust-like creatures are going to bring terrible affliction to the world. They will swarm the land, bringing people terrible anguish, bursting through any defense mankind attempts to erect. When they attack people, they will bring upon each person a horrible torment that lasts five months, making people want to die, although death will elude them.

The only people who will escape this torment will be those who have the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev. 9:4) These people received the seal by serving the Lord (Rev. 7:3), being His bond-servants.

And so here in Joel, the Lord calls out to His people:

Joel 2:12-14 "'Yet even now,' declares the LORD, 'Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will {not} turn and relent..."

Repentance is what the Lord is looking for. Being sorry for our sin and turning to Him. He will show Himself to be gracious and compassionate. He will spare us from judgment.

Not only that, but He also promises a blessing. He won't just turn from judgment, but will also leave behind a blessing (Joel 2:14).

We left off with the statement,

Joel 2:18-19 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and will have pity on His people. And the LORD will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied {in full} with them; And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations."

Now, He continues...

2:20 The Northern Army

The Lord promises that if they return to Him, He will remove "the northern" or "the northern one" from them. The word army has been inserted for clarification. Although the word "army" is not in the text, it is insinuated based on the details following: whatever this northern thing is, it has a vanguard, a rear guard, and has done great things.

What is this army or invader? I believe it to be Gog. If you're not familiar with Gog, I can hardly blame you. The name is mentioned only a few times in the Scripture - and only once in the New Testament (Rev. 20:8). Who is Gog? Gog is the leader of the land of Magog. These people descended from Japheth (Gen. 10:2), and became the ancient Scythians an unmentionably brutal race, who are the ancestors of modern-day Russians, and many of the nations of the former USSR, the Soviet Union.

The Lord promised Gog of the land of Magog (Eze. 38:1) that in the last days (Eze. 38:8), He was going to forcibly draw them and all of their armies from the north (Eze. 38:4-6) against Israel.

Ezek. 38:15-17 "And you will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It will come about in the last days that I shall bring you against My land, in order that the nations may know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog." Thus says the Lord GOD, "Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for {many} years that I would bring you against them?

Notice that verse 17 points to the other prophets have spoken of this very thing happening. He continues, saying...

Ezek. 39:5-6 "You will fall on the open field; for it is I who have spoken," declares the Lord GOD. "And I shall send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the LORD."

This, I believe is the army from the north who will be removed from Israel. They will be driven into the desert to rot, and their guard and vanguard into the sea through the coastlands.

Its Stench Will Arise

Attention is given to the stench of the dead, and in Ezekiel, the prophecy continues, saying,

Ezek. 39:12 "For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land."

Now, I don't want to spend a lot of time imagining the smell, but I do want to point something out to you: After a swarm of locusts die off, the stench of millions of their rotting little corpses is putrid. I have no doubt that the people in Joel's day were smelling that smell after these insect invaders had died and begun to decompose.

But the interesting thing to me is that such a foul thing can be such a blessing. The fact that the stink was in the air signalled that the locusts were dead, the invasion was over. Although the land will have a putrid smell after Russia and her northern allies attempt to invade Israel and are wiped out by the Lord, it will not be as horrible as you might think. Because that smell will be a testimony to the Lord's faithfulness to protect His people.

Is there something stinky in your life that you're having to endure? Something that is unbearable? Stop and think about it - It might very well be a reason to give thanks. Maybe your teenager is causing problems at home, and you've just about had it. Is it possible that you've forgotten what an answer to prayer that child's birth was? Maybe you're having problems with your plumbing at home. You've had enough. Wait a minute - isn't that the house that you were praising the Lord for a few years back? Maybe you're having difficulty keeping up at work and are ready to quit. Can it be that you've forgotten that the same job was an answer to prayer?

Today in the church office parking lot, I was greeted with multiple harsh tones of heavy equipment backing up. My first instinctive thought was, "Man, this is going to be annoying hearing this all day." But I immediately though, "Wait a minute. That should be music to my ears. It is a reminder that dirt is being moved, and our building's foundation is being laid. You can beep at me all day long, it'll make me happy!"

Paul the apostle suffered from a painful thorn in the flesh, but he used it as a reminder of God's grace and sufficiency (2Cor. 12:7-10). I pray that the stinkiness you're smelling will be a reminder that God has proven Himself faithful too many times to count.

2:21-24 Do Not Fear But Rejoice

The Lord has spoken of some terrifying and fearful things which will happen in the future. However, Israel is told not to fear, but rather to rejoice and be glad. Why?

Verse 21 says, "Because the Lord has done great things." Rejoice and be glad because of God's power.

Verses 22-23 say, "Because the rain is falling and things are growing again. "Rejoice and be glad because of God's provision.

Verse 24 says, "Because of the future blessings of which He has assured us." Rejoice and be glad because of God's promises.

This world in which we live is expecting the same terrible future about which Israel was told. The difference is that we're a couple thousand years closer to that future than they were! But as we watch the sins of mankind send us hurtling towards Judgment Day, we are not to fear. We are to rejoice and be glad - for the same reasons: God's power, provision, and promises.

Are you fearful of what is in store? God's power assures us...

Isa. 54:17 "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper..."

He is completely in control.

God's provision means that we should remember,

Matt. 6:31-33 "Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."

God will provide for us if we rely on Him.

And thirdly, God's promises are set in stone. We are called to be like Abraham, who...

Rom. 4:20-21 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.

God is powerful, able to provide, and always keeps His promises. There is certainly no reason to fear. Rejoice and be glad!

2:25-27 I Will Make Up To You

The locust swarms had come because of judgment. They were sent because the people had drifted far from God. But when they turned back to Him, God blessed abundantly. He not only removed the curse, but left a blessing. And not only did the judgment end, but now He promises to restore to them the years that the locusts had eaten!

This has been a promise that I have held on to. Because throughout my life, my flesh has kept me from enjoying the abundant life of Christ. For many years, my sin has ripped me off, devouring fruit and denying me blessing.

Certainly, I have reason to regret a huge amount of wasted time. But you know what? God has promised to restore those years if I turn to Him. And so,

Phil. 3:13-14 ...forgetting what {lies} behind and reaching forward to what {lies} ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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