In the book of Hosea, God is portrayed as our husband.
In Joel, He is the ultimate husbandman.
A husbandman is a tiller of the soil who works the land to sow, cultivate, prune, and tend his fields and gardens to produce food for his family and his community, as well as the animals he cares for.
His efforts mean life for all.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:1-2,5
Joel begins with a stark declaration for the Israelites that their land was about to be or had already been ravaged by an adversary stronger than they’d ever known.
This “northern army”—the Assyrians here, but also a future end times army referenced in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation—brought destruction to the land and devastation of everything joyful to the people of Israel. After generations of falsehood and idolatry, God allowed this adversary to run rampant as punishment for their unfaithfulness.
Welcome to Hearts Unto Wisdom
A Bible Study of the Minor Prophets
I thank you for joining me as I share biblical insight into the twelve books commonly referred to as the ‘Minor Prophets’. These Old Testament books, starting with Hosea and ending with Malachi, are minor only in regards to their length, and not because they lack significance.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12
[Underlines, brackets, and words in bold are added for emphasis to scripture verses throughout this study.]
The world in ancient Israel’s time was an agricultural society that relied upon the land for everything. We, as modern people, are no longer strictly agricultural, but even now if the land suffers, everything and everyone suffers along with it because our sustenance is dependent upon what the earth provides.
The three main crops grown in ancient Israel were grains (mostly wheat and barley), grapevines, and olive trees. Other produce of the land mentioned in Joel were fruit trees like the fig, pomegranate, (date) palm, and apple.
The analogy Joel uses of an invasion of predatory insects, one after the other, that successively strips the land bare would strike terror in the people fearful of starvation, as well as the priests who needed the grain, oil, and wine produced by the land for the daily ‘meat’ offering (bread made from flour, oil, and frankincense) and drink offering (made from wine) crucial for proper worship of God.
These daily sacrifices were part of the Hebrew culture and a necessary part of the sacred service of the priests. The offerings were an expression of gratitude to God for His blessings and their standing with Him.
Because of Israel’s conduct as a nation, the cessation of the produce they needed by the razing of this army was a direct result of God’s displeasure and withholding of blessing (Joel 1:13). God allows affliction as a wake-up call. Nothing stirs a soul more than to take away their daily food.
Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? Joel 1:16
When we repeat ourselves in conversation (think mothers talking to their children), we are emphasizing the importance of our words. Repetition is a means of getting someone’s attention and hoping they hear us. God’s word uses the same method.
There are four phrases that are repeated in Joel that the children of God needed to heed.
- Lament and gird yourselves with sackcloth (1:8,13) That is, humble yourselves—grieve your faithless actions and cry unto God for mercy.
- Sanctify a fast (1:14; 2:15) That is, stop entertaining yourselves with food, drink, or anything else—proclaim a time for God alone.
- Call a solemn assembly (1:14; 2:15) That is, bring everyone together— your recklessness affects old and young alike.
- Blow ye the trumpet (2:1,15) That is, stop what you’re doing right now—a trumpet would alert everyone at once to an approaching enemy or other calamity.
When Christians voluntarily give up their daily food (or anything else they hold dear) for a time, it disciplines their physical bodies and sharpens their spiritual minds toward greater clarity and worship of God.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6
Fasting’s main focus is to help us be aware that God is our source of sustenance and strength. As we deprive ourselves of the pleasure of food in a spirit of humility, our spiritual man grows stronger and our hearing of God more acute. Important decisions, overcoming of sins, and closeness to God, are better achieved through fasting and prayer.
And this is what God demanded the people of Joel’s time to do while they still could.
The prophecies of Joel
In all the books of the major and most of the minor prophets, there are:
- literal events declared by that prophet for the people living at that time
- future events foreseen by the prophet, for that generation’s future or for future generations (i.e., modern times)
- literal and figurative language used to describe the final end-time days of the wrath of God and Christ’s second coming
Joel is no different.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28
God’s Spirit was not always accessible. Only a select few in biblical times were breathed upon with godly understanding.
But ever since Christ’s sacrifice—the “afterward” in the above verse—, the veil of separation was torn asunder and direct access to the Father was granted to us.
What a glorious thing to be filled with the Spirit of God!
He has lovingly given us this power to overcome our sins, build our faith, bless others with comfort and encouragement, and live victoriously in this world no matter our circumstances.
The book of Joel mentioned in Acts
Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 almost word for word in Acts 2:17-21. Why is this?
Because the book of Joel was part of the holy Scriptures Peter read in his day and now he saw the fulfillment of it firsthand when God poured out His Holy Spirit like a mighty wind in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection.
Peter was also a witness to Christ’s words concerning the end times recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and remembered what he read in Joel when he spoke to the men in Acts 2:19-20 of what was yet to come.
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. Acts 2:19-20
In Revelation 9, there is an account of an “army of horseman” closely resembling the army in Joel 2. The apostle John’s vision describes this army ascending through thick smoke from the bottomless pit as locusts likened to horses prepared unto battle, “and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle” (Rev. 9:9).
Joel describes these same events as “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness” when this end-time army more powerful than “there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it” having the appearance of horses shall run and “like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap” (Joel 2:2-5).
In Joel another parallel: 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 (Joel 2:2-5,10 & Joel 3:15).
In Revelation: And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind (Revelation 6:12-13).
And in Matthew the author speaks of the end-times like this: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
These three instances in Joel, Matthew, and Revelation, all have the same elements: the sun and the moon go dark, stars fall, the heavens are shaken, then Christ returns with a shout to judge the nations after gathering His saints.
And then shall appear the sign of the of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:30-31
All the tribes mourn and wail (Rev. 1:8) because they have refused to believe and now their judgment is at hand.
Here is the simplified sequence of events of the end times:
- The world embraces an anti-God, one-world government or New World Order called the “beast power” for seven years (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 13:1-6).
- Three and a half years into this seven-year period begins the great tribulation when the beast will make war with the saints (Rev. 12:17), denying them the power to buy and sell (Rev. 13:17), killing those who refuse to worship the image of the beast, (Rev. 13:15) and will eventually overcome them (Rev. 13:7; Dan. 7:21).
- Christ, the Almighty (Rev. 1:8), returns at the seventh trumpet, at the end of the tribulation (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 11:15) and the dead in Christ rise first (1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:51-52), then all who are alive in Christ and remain shall meet Christ in the air and forever be with Him (1 Thess. 4:17).
- Meanwhile, the heathen (those who refuse Christ) are subject to the seven last plagues of the wrath of God. They refuse to repent and instead band together at a place called Armageddon and the valley of decision to fight with the Almighty and His angels and are soundly defeated (Joel 3:11-14; Rev. 19:19-20; Rev. 15:14).
Jehoshaphat and the valley of decision
In 2 Chronicles 20, we read an account of the Israelites up against a fierce adversary.
Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was greatly outnumbered by this approaching army but the prophet Jahaziel, filled with the Spirit of God, told him and all the people, “Be not afraid, nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
While all the people sang praises to the Lord, the Lord fought their enemy and not one of them escaped. This was the valley of Jehoshaphat, the valley of decision (or incision, threshing) that was spoken of in Joel chapter three about the days to come.
These future people who will not repent God instructs them to, “beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears . . . Let the heathen be awakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.”
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:2,12,14).
In contrast, those people who do listen to God in the last days immediately after the great tribulation, God says, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).
The day of the Lord
Whenever we read the phrase “the day of the Lord”, this signifies the end-times judgment of the unbelievers and second coming of Christ. “The day of the Lord” is repeated four times in Joel.
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? Joel 2:11
Directly after this verse, we are told how to survive or abide this desperate time.
Turn to God with all our hearts.
With fasting and weeping and mourning, realize our great need for God.
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Joel 2:13
When we surrender our lives to Him, we become His. When we put our faith in Christ daily, we no longer have to fear the wrath of God to come. But we must stay vigilant.
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke 21:36
God promises to be merciful to us in His “great and terrible day” but God is not fooled by the outward look of a Christian. That’s why He says, “rend your heart, and not your garments”. He wants genuine inner change and true repentance.
God promises to be merciful to us in His “great and terrible day” but God is not fooled by the outward look of a Christian. That’s why He says, “rend your heart, and not your garments” in Joel 2:13.
As it is spoken in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is nigh [near] unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
In Romans 10:13, Paul quotes Joel when he wrote, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance. Joel 2:32
Christ is our mount Zion, He is our Jerusalem where hope is found. Whether we live or die during the end times, our spiritual deliverance is assured.
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Rev. 22:1
After Christ’s triumphant return, Joel 3:18 reveals a fountain of pure living water gushing forth from the house of God. (Ezekiel 47:1, Zechariah 14:8, and Revelations 22:1 agree.)
Christ is that Living water.
Christ returns with a shout!
The Lord shall utter his voice before his army (Joel 2:11).
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem (Joel 3:16).
Both of these accounts in Joel are recorded immediately after the sun and the moon shall be darkened. This helps us better understand the timeline of events when Christ returns.
The book of Joel provides us with much to ponder and prepare for, dear Christian.
But we can be confident as God’s people that when He returns He “will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, . . and ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. Joel 2:25-26
We all have lost something. Our lives now are imperfect and wanting. But God promises to provide a hundredfold of all that we lose now for His sake.
So let us,
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. James 5:7
Abiding in the Vine,
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