Survey of the Book of JoelAuthor: The book of Joel was written by the prophet Joel (Joel 1:1).
Date of Writing: Approximately between 835 and 800 BC.
Purpose: There are a couple of key purposes within Joel: 1. Describe destruction that leads to repentance, and 2. Foreshadow the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the first part of the book, Judah is destroyed by a locust invasion. The locusts destroy all of the crops and plants, from grain fields and vineyards to trees and gardens. Joel describes the locusts symbolically as an army representing divine judgment on the nation for its many sins. There is a call to fasting and repentance. Part 2 foreshadows the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the initial fulfillment of which happened on the Day of Pentecost. Peter refers back to the book of Joel at Pentecost in Acts 2.
Joel 1:4: "What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten."
Joel 2:25: "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you."
Joel 2:28–29: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit."
Brief Summary: The invasion of locusts has led to a severe famine throughout the entire nation. Joel uses this situation to give the people of Judah a strong prophetic warning. Unless they wholeheartedly and immediately repent, enemy armies will come destroy their land just as the locusts did. Joel exhorts the priests and people to fast, be humble, and seek forgiveness from God. If they do this, spiritual blessings will come to the nation. However, the judgment day of the Lord is coming. The day of the Lord is a day of supreme wrath and judgment from God on His enemies and all the nations. This event is a central theme of the book of Joel.
Various versions of the day of the Lord occur during Joel. The plague of locusts is referenced historically in the first chapter. Chapter 2 (vv. 1–17) begins with using the locust plague as a metaphor to motivate the nation of Judah to repentance. The second half of chapter 2 (vv. 18–27) and chapter 3 uses eschatological terms to talk about the day of the Lord, and it contains prophecies of physical, spiritual, and national restoration in response to obediently answering the call to repent.
Foreshadowing: The Old Testament, particularly the prophets of the Old Testament, contains many references to judgment for sin. The traditional warnings tell Israel to repent, and that repentance includes keeping the Law and doing required works, such as making animal sacrifices in the temple. However, these sacrifices and rituals were all foreshadows of the one perfect sacrifice that was coming to provide redemption that would last for all time—Jesus Christ (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:10).
The final judgment day of the Lord is described by Joel as "great and very awesome; who can endure it?" (Joel 2:11). On our own, there is no way we could endure, but in Christ, we have been made righteous and have nothing to fear when our faith is in Him.
Application: The primary takeaway from the book of Joel is that repentance is crucial. If we do not repent of our sins, we are guaranteed to be subject to God's severe judgment. We can't trust in our own goodness or possessions for salvation; we can only trust in God. His merciful plan for our salvation was the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, who was crucified for our sins and rose back to life victorious over sin and death, proving His payment was sufficient and that He is who He claims to be. All who put their faith in Him are declared righteous in God's sight (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are saved by God's grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1–10). The Bible says "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2; cf. 2 Peter 3:10), so there is no time to waste in getting right with God: "Now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6–7).
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