Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Joel 2

Verse 12

THE DISCIPLINE OF LENT

(For Ash Wednesday)

‘Turn ye unto Me [saith the Lord] with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.’

Joel 2:12 (R.V.)

For whom is Lent ordained? Not merely for the warning of open sinners. Lenten Services have little attraction for them. But Lent is ordained as part of the regular orderly course of each year’s life of a Christian man. Why do it every year as it comes round, and call upon them to mourn and weep, and fast and lament?—to afflict at once the body and the soul, and all this as a part of their Christian lives? There are several steps in our answer.

I. It is not merely that none of us is perfect.—The reason is that in each one of us is planted a domestic enemy. It is not merely that we commit sins. It is that in us there is Sin. We bear about us a tainted nature.

Thus, for every one who is trying to lead a Christian life, there is a perpetual need of keeping under the old nature. Youth has one sort of temptation, manhood another, age another. Never, while life lasts, does Lent come amiss; never is it unnecessary to the Christian who is striving after that holiness without which he can never see His Lord in the eternal Easter.

Why, then, in that case does not Lent last all the year round? The answer is not difficult, and it brings us to the second step in our consideration. For—

II. Secondly, Lent properly observed, will stamp upon our hearts and consciences, for a good while, the solemn sense of the strife between the Flesh and the Spirit, so that it will not die out if we are conscientious and careful.—Like the soldier’s drill, a certain quantity of it is enough for a while. But, then, after a while he must repeat it, or the effect dies out. We want our annual Lents to stamp again and again on our Consciences the sense that there is this deadly enemy—the Flesh—within us, which wants ever keeping down. This is why Lent lasts so long. And it is the longest season of the Christian year, because this matter of subduing the Flesh to the Spirit is the greatest difficulty of all in the Christian life. We all want the Christian soldier’s drill in the practice of self-subdual, and Lent is the time when we are called to our annual self-recollection, and the practice of subjugating our wayward moods and roving tempers to the firm hand of the renewed and spiritual being.

III. Thirdly, it is only natural and right that such a season should be one of some self-denials.—Some self-denial is not only right, but it is the natural instinct of the devout soul. It is the natural and spontaneous instinct of true Christianity. For true Christianity lies in love and sympathy with Christ our Lord.

The incoming of the Spirit will be signalised by some subdual of the Flesh, some marked taming of the natural desires, either those of the indulgent flesh, or of the ambitious mind, or of the merry heart. It was so with our Lord after His Baptism, when the Spirit drove him apart from men to the long Lent in the Wilderness. It will be so with us after every marked working of the Spirit upon our souls.

Illustration

‘The most striking part of the book is that in which the locust invasion is described. What are we to understand by these locusts? The answer to this question differs as widely as to that concerning the date of the prophecy. Some hold (and this is becoming more and more the general opinion) that the locusts are real, and that the prophet describes an actual locust invasion. Others, believing that the nations summoned for judgment in chapter Joel 3:2 (A.V. ch. Joel 3:2) are represented by the locusts in the previous chapters, explain the references to the locusts allegorically. The creatures are not real, but figurative. What is before the prophet’s mind is the world-powers opposed to the Church, which are allowed to oppress and desolate the Church for a time, but in the end (as in the last chapter of the book) are taken in hand by Jehovah and disposed of. A third opinion is that the locusts are neither real nor figurative, but apocalyptic—a sort of supernatural creatures, which may fitly find a place in a vision of the last things, corresponding to the locusts in the New Testament Apocalypse (cf. Revelation 9:2-11). Now, it should be noted that, if the locusts are not real, the prophecy has no direct application to the prophet’s contemporaries, or to the condition of the Church in his day. It is quite true that the prophecy contains a call to repentance of a serious character. It is also plain that the locust invasion supplies the only reason for this appeal suggested by the narrative. But if the allegorical or apocalyptical explanation of the locusts is accepted, there is, of course, no actual invasion by locusts, and the appeal to repentance vanishes into thin air.’

Verse 25

THE LOCUST-EATEN YEARS RESTORED

‘And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.’

Joel 2:25

I. The coming of the locusts was a day of the Lord; a day of darkness and gloominess; a day of clouds and of thick darkness; a day of bustle and heartrending calamity, of which fathers would tell their children, and children to the generations yet unborn.—And as all things are double, one against another,—as the types of the physical have their antitypes in the spiritual world,—so is there not something of which the locusts are an emblem, and which is yet more terrible than they,—a mysterious something, at which in our healthy state we shudder, as though an evil spirit passed us by in the darkness? The fall of the first accursed locust on the smiling plain is not one-tenth part so awful as the first little cloud of evil that flung its shadow over the innocence of a still youthful life.

II. Thickly as the locust-swarms may be over our past years, utterly as they may have wasted a vain and misguided boyhood, or a passionate foolish youth, yet the very worst of us need not despair. For what cause is it that God gives us the gift of time, if it be not that we may repent therein? Once more sow the seed, and plant the vineyard in the furrows of the contaminated soil. Poor may be the aftermath, scant the gleaning of grapes upon life’s topmost branches, that may be left for thee, yet do thou thy best to redeem these from the locust-swarm. The Holy One Who inhabiteth eternity reaches to us out of His eternity the fingers of a man’s hand, and touches into green life again the years that the locust hath eaten. Even the memory of guilt He will alleviate. Sometimes, as we float down the river of life, memory flashes up from the hidden depths, and the dark wave is peopled with the innumerable faces of once-forgotten sins which menace us from the waters and prophesy of death. But God can enable us to gaze unshudderingly on these faces, and say with thankful emotion, ‘These sins are not mine; they were mine, but they are forgiven.’

Dean Farrar.

Illustration

‘Bishop Moule has said, “If your ‘years’ have lately proved bare and fruitless for the Lord, what does conscience denote as the cause? If this past year, perhaps, has been such, a year which you cannot help contrasting with the green and prosperous landscape of some previous years of your converted life, how has it come about? Seldom, if we seriously take the question up, shall we fail of an answer. I remember a time in my own life when a year of rich and well-remembered blessing, deep and solid, was followed by a very ‘lean’ year, sadly cold and barren. And I am perfectly conscious that the immediate cause was an undue, self-chosen, self-indulgent devotion of time to a certain mental interest, perfectly pure and good in itself, but out of keeping with God’s work for me just at that season. It so possessed the mind and interests that not only did prayer and Bible study suffer, but the common duties of life received a less thorough attention than was right. And so conscious love to Christ waned, and with it, inevitably, love to the souls of others. And many a secret advantage did the tempter take when he found that ‘the Prince Emmanuel’ was not in full residence in the ‘castle of Mansoul.’ It was a year that the locusts settled upon; the locusts of sin, and then of chastening trouble.” ’

Verse 26

GOD’S PEOPLE UNASHAMED

‘And My people shall never he ashamed.’

Joel 2:26

There are three respects in which the promise of our text may be regarded as applying to those who answer to the description of the people of God. The believer has no cause to be ashamed: (1) When he searches into himself; (2) when he stands before the world; (3) when he stands before God.

I. It is proved by daily experience that, when his own heart is laid open to a man, he shrinks from the scene of foulness and deformity, and could not endure, for any consideration, that others should see him in the light in which he now sees himself. He cannot look into a single recess of his heart without finding fresh cause for confusion of face; inasmuch as the more he knows himself, the more he sees of his moral uncleanness, the more he ascertains that he is everything at which he should blush, and has nothing in which he should trust. The conscience of the believer may charge him with many offences, and bring him in guilty of much that is at variance with the law of God, but if he have respect unto all God’s commandments, conscience may produce the catalogue, and yet not put him to shame. Conscience can have nothing with which to rebuke him, and therefore he can have nothing to be ashamed of at the tribunal of conscience, if he have not sinned in contempt of its remonstrances, and if he has shown a heartfelt repentance for sins committed.

II. Nothing but a clear conscience will enable us to look the world calmly and fearlessly in the face.—The people of God must carry religion with them into every business of life, and see that all scenes are pervaded by its influence. They must have respect unto all the commandments; to make exceptions is to make a breach by which shame comes in. And if it be their endeavour to keep all the commandments, we know not why Christians should not bear themselves with that lofty dignity which no calumny can disturb.

III. The people of God need not be ashamed when brought into the presence of God.—They have respect unto all God’s commandments, and amongst these, from the first, have been reckoned the commandments which relate to faith. Here we have the groundwork of confidence before God, notwithstanding our own insufficiency. If there be respect to that commandment which enjoins that we take Christ as our surety, and depend on His merits, what cause remains for shame,—even though it be the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity in Whose presence we stand? ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?’

—Canon Melvill.

Illustration

‘How does God heal the evil past? He cannot destroy every trace of it. He cannot obliterate it. How, then, does He restore it? For one thing, He pardons me. When I have wronged a friend, it lies with him to forgive; and not until he has forgiven can I be rid of the dread that he may exact some reprisals. The God Whom I have grieved, as I have grieved no earthly friend, forgives me. He does it in a Godlike way—fully, unconditionally, for ever and ever. He does it because His Son endures for me the uttermost sentence of His law, and makes my justification absolutely sure. This is not all. He remoulds me. He gives me a second nature, a clean heart, a purged and quickened life. He comes Himself, in the person of His Holy Spirit, and dwells within me: and thus I am turned by a supernatural strength from my old unprofitableness. Rooting out the evil, He plants the good in its room; He enables me to reach forth towards that which is before. The hill is hard to climb, but God is for me, and the sun-crowned peak can be attained. There is still something else. He will glorify me by and by. There remaineth a rest for His people. Even there my sin will not pass from my memory, But, because of the memory, my praises will be louder, and my thankfulness will be deeper, and my labours will be more abundant.’

Verse 28

YOUTHFUL SEERS

‘Your young men shall see visions.’

Joel 2:28

I long and pray for the young men who see visions. Never were they more needed than just now.

I. There is the vision for the personal life.—It is the dream of a character in which manliness and brotherliness and godliness join hands.

II. There is the vision for the Church life.—It is the vision of a Church absolutely surrendered in love and devotion to her Lord. Let me pray, and pray, that soon the children of God may be roused from their dullness and lethargy, to grapple with great problems, to achieve great deeds.

III. There is the vision for the national life.—It is Savonarola’s vision for Florence, Oliver Cromwell’s for England, Andrew Melville’s for Scotland, William Bradford’s and William Brewster’s for America. If I cherish it, it will mean that I am fighting against all that is vicious in our modern civilisation. God gird me for the battle!

IV. There is the vision for the world-wide life.—It is the vision of a world every part of which has heard the Gospel of God’s grace. I cannot harbour the glorious dream without myself being the missionary of Jesus either at home or abroad.

Only let the Spirit be poured out, and to-day as of old our young men shall see visions.

Illustration

‘The Mystics said that there were three stages on the road to sainthood—Purification, Illumination, Union. Up to each of these stages it is the task and the joy of the Holy Ghost to conduct me.

He purifies. He disciplines me, He ennobles me, until I am changed into the image and the stainlessness of my Lord.

And He illumines. Especially does He make the Bible shine as with the light of a transfiguration. He who was the Book’s Author is its Expositor.

And He unites. It is the crowning mystery and the consummate gladness. He infuses into me a life which is nothing lower and nothing less than the life of Jesus Christ. I think my Master’s thoughts. I throb with my Master’s purposes. I bring my Master back in miniature to the world.’

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Joel 2". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/joel-2.html. 1876.