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The Promise Of The Outpouring Of The Spirit
As we turn to this second chapter we are ushered at once into the solemn and soul-stirring events of the coming day of the! Lord; a day which will only come when, the Church having been caught up to heaven, God takes up Israel again as a nation, fulfilling “all that the prophets have spoken.”
In so writing, I do not forget that it was the last part of this chapter which the apostle Peter quoted in explaining the wondrous manifestations of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as foretold in Scripture. But we shall see, when taking up the passage in question, that it applies primarily to a far wider outpouring yet to come. That of Pentecost was like it in nature, and a measure of its fulfilment; therefore Peter could say, “This is that” But the prophecy was by no means exhausted then, as a careful reading of the whole book of Joel will make plain.
The figure of the trumpet, twice used in the chapter (vers. 1 and 15), connects intimately with Numbers, ch. 10. There we find the “two trumpets of silver” were used for a double purpose- to blow an alarm, and to summon the whole congregation to the presence of the Lord. The first was to arouse; the second, to instruct. We find the same thing here. In vers. 1 to 14 the trumpet of alarm is blown, and the people are warned of the dreadful events about to take place in the day of the Lord, which is declared to be nigh at hand, events so grave that the visitation of the locusts under which they had been suffering was but a feeble picture of what is yet in store for the land and the people of Judah. Then, in ver. 15 to the end of the book, at the sounding of the trumpet to call a solemn assembly, instruction is given in detail regarding the results in blessing which will follow the judgments already depicted. In the first part, the day of the Lord is described as “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains.” As the darkest hour precedes the dawn, so, before the break of the millennial morn, the world in general, and Judah in particular, will pass through the darkest period of tribulation that has ever been known.
For Judah, the chief agency in this is “a great people and a strong,” who are likened to the devouring locusts. It is the Assyrian of the last days, the dread northern power, who will overrun the land of Palestine just prior to the glorious appearing of the Sun of Righteousness. Like a devouring fire, they will sweep over the land, ravaging without mercy what was as the garden of delight before them, but which will be left as a desolate wilderness (vers. 2, 3). Like mighty-horses running to battle, and as chariots on the tops of the mountains, they shall seem to leap as from mount to mount, and from peak to peak, in their irresistible onslaught, as the devouring flames lick up all that is left in their path. Fleeing before them in terror and anguish, “all faces shall gather blackness” in the mad effort to escape the avenging hordes (vers. 4 to 6). Their orderly progress, as a disciplined army, knowing only the behests of their commanders, is strikingly depicted in vers. 7 to 9. Nothing avails to turn them aside. They enter wherever their prey may hide, and overcome all obstacles as they press on in the fury of their power.
The language of ver. 10 is undoubtedly apocalyptic. So tremendous will be the upheavals and overturnings in that day of Jehovah’s wrath, that it will be as the quaking of the earth and the trembling of the heavens. The sun will be darkened, and the moon likewise, while the stars will seem to be blotted out in the midnight sky. As in the convulsions of the sixth seal in Revelation 6:0, all that men have esteemed sure and stable will be overturned. It is the destruction, not of the material universe, but of the moral, spiritual and political economies.
An appeal to the conscience of Judah is based upon this. Jehovah calls upon them to turn to Him with all their hearts, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. He wants reality instead of outward forms: so He says, “Rend your heart, and not your garments;” assuring them of His tender compassion, and His grace that cannot fail, if they thus turn to Him with purpose of heart. Even though the first droppings of the coming storm had already fallen, who could tell if He would not turn from His wrath, and leave a blessing behind Him? Though the hour was late, His loving-kindness might be yet toward them, in preserving them from further sorrow, and maintaining still His house and its services in their midst (vers. 12-14).
The second call is in verse 15. In place of the alarm-trumpet, the command is given to “blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.” God would gather the people before Him that He might instruct them as to His ways, and direct their feet in a plain path, if they have but a heart to do His will. All classes are summoned, and the priests, the ministers of the Lord, are directed to weep between the porch and the altar, crying to Him before whose house they stand to spare His people, and not give His heritage to reproach.
The position of the priests-between the porch of the temple and the brazen altar outside-is significant: it speaks of approach to God on the ground of that of which the altar speaks-the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only in His name, and because of His finished work, has the failing saint title to draw near. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” Thus the priests are directed to take their stand on the temple-side of the altar, as representing a people who, although in failure, are yet the redeemed of the Lord (vers. 16, 17).
Had there been a responsive heart to God’s call to contrition and self-judgment, the avenger would have been turned aside; Jehovah would have arisen in His might as their Deliverer, turning back the judgments, and bringing in blessing and gladness. In the last days, the remnant who are to be preserved for the kingdom will take the place here commanded. Then all that is promised upon their repentance will be gloriously fulfilled. The northern army will be destroyed, and his boasted power annihilated, when the Lord shall drive him into a land barren and desolate. Every enemy shall be overthrown, and the arm of Jehovah made bare (vers. 18-20).
It is manifestly in view of such an epoch of national repentance that the consolatory promises that follow (to the end of the chapter) are given. The land is called upon to rejoice because of the great things the Lord is to accomplish. Even the lower orders of creation shall share in the blessings of the earth’s rejuvenation. It will be the bringing-in of the liberty of the glory of the children of God for which the whole creation, groaning and travailing in pain, now waits (Romans 8:19-45.8.23). In the present liberty of grace creation does not share. But the liberty of the glory will be all-embracing. Then “they shall not hurt nor destroy” in all the holy mountain; but the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together, “and a little child shall lead” the strongest and once-fiercest of beasts. From the vegetable kingdom as a whole the curse shall be lifted; the pastures of the wilderness shall spring into beauty and verdure; and the vine and the fig will yield abundantly-types of all food-producing plants (ver. 22).
In order that the fertility of the land of Canaan may be restored, and even marvelously surpass its ancient fecundity, the former and latter rains will be given in abundance. It is a well-known fact that already the God of Israel has given more than a hint of the literal fulfilment of this prophecy. For long centuries the latter rains had been withheld from Palestine, and the land that was once the garden of the East had become largely barren and desolate, scarcely able to sustain its scattered and meagre population. But, in our own times, the latter rains have returned in such measure that agriculture is once more in a flourishing condition, and vineyards, olive-yards and fig orchards abound. It is as though God were graciously giving to the world in general, and His ancient people in particular (even now returning to the home of their fathers in some measure), an evidence that His eye is ever on the land He chose for Himself, which He covenanted to Abraham’s seed forever; where His only begotten Son dwelt in His humiliation-yea, where He was crucified, and which once contained His tomb, but which shall soon be touched by His glorious feet, when He descends to take His great power and reign. Throughout the Millennium of Christ’s reign (Revelation 20:6) that country will again become the chief garden-spot of the whole world, blessed with the rain in its season, and so fertile that “the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (vers. 23, 24).
Then shall all the past ages of oppression and desolation be forgotten; for He has said, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, My great army which I sent among you” (ver. 25). How striking the language, “My great army which I sent!” In the visitation referred to in chapter 1, they were in danger of beholding only the plague of locusts, and forgetting the One who sent it. He owns it as His army, which He had directed against the land for the discipline of His people. But in the coming day of the Lord, He will abundantly make up for all the loss of the past. Then they shall eat in plenty, knowing no want of any kind; while He who had been their Redeemer from of old will be the object of their praise and adoring gratitude. Dwelling in His love, they shall nevermore be put to shame, for He will dwell in their midst, receiving the homage of their hearts, never again to be displaced by the idols of the past (vers. 26, 27).
Then He says: “And it shall come to pass afterward” (that is, after the people of Judah have been restored to their land, and the nation as a whole brought into blessing) “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: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. 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, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (vers. 28-32). I have quoted this interesting and important passage in full, in order that the least-instructed reader may have it all before him, noting carefully its connection. It is no isolated fragment interjected without connection with the balance of the book: on the contrary, the order is divinely perfect, and it occurs in its exact and proper place, in line with the events of the day of the Lord which the prophet has been unfolding. Manifestly all this can never be fulfilled till the people of Israel are restored to their land. Then God will cause His blessing to go far beyond them, pouring out His Spirit upon “all flesh;” thus bringing the spared nations into the glorious privileges of the millennial kingdom! Old and young shall be anointed with the Spirit’s unction, and shall be enlightened that they may dream dreams, see visions, and prophesy. Nor shall the males alone share in this, but the handmaidens likewise. But observe, the wonders of vers. 30 and 31 will all take place ere this day of the Lord is ushered in. Then salvation shall be extended to all the Gentiles who had never heard the gospel in this dispensation of grace: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” But why? The answer is, “For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance;” that is, restored Israel will be a centre of blessing for the whole earth. This is not the same thing as the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God today. Mount Zion and Jerusalem are not now the depositaries of blessing for the Gentiles. The very contrary is true. But when the Church, the Body of Christ, has been caught away to be forever with the Lord (in accordance with 1 Thessalonians 4:14-52.4.18), and God has once more taken up the Jews to make them a means of salvation to the heathen nations, Joel’s prophecy will be fulfilled to the letter.
I think it must be evident to every careful reader that this is the only unforced and natural explanation of the passage. But this at once raises the question as to the apostle Peter’s use of it on the day of Pentecost. Are we to entertain the wretched thought that he misapplied it? Or, on the other hand, can it be that readers generally have misapprehended his use of it? The latter alternative is, I am persuaded, the correct one.
Be it noted, Peter does not say that “this is the fulfilment” of the prophecy. He simply finds, the explanation of the remarkable events of that day of wonder in these words of Joel; and he declares, “This is that!” In other words, he did not identify the events. He did identify the power. That which had taken place on Pentecost was the very same thing that Joel said would take place when the day of the Lord had come. That the day spoken of had not come, Peter very well knew, and elsewhere has plainly declared it (2 Peter 3:10). But the very same power of the Holy Spirit was operating in that day which shall operate when the kingdom is introduced by and by. There is here no contradiction therefore, and certainly no misapplication. Pentecost was a sample of what Joel foretold; and the apostle uses the passage illustratively, not as declaring its complete fulfilment at Pentecost. His own declaration in 2 Peter 1:20 should keep any from supposing Peter meant to take the last verses of Joel 2:0 from their connection and apply them specifically to the ushering in of the Christian dispensation.
Taken in its full connection, it will be seen the passage in Joel primarily refers to the bringing in of the kingdom-not the Church. But the same power that will operate in the coming day was manifested at Pentecost when Peter preached his memorable sermon.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Joel 2". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent