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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter still urges repentance, directs for a meeting of the people, and assures that God will have compassion.
Joel 2:1. Blow] Priests must sound an alarm, as if foreign invasion nigh.
Joel 2:2. Darkness] Four terms used to indicate the intense calamity (Exodus 10:22; Isaiah 8:22). Swarms of locusts literally obscure the sun. People] numerous and most formidable. Like] Expressive of extraordinary judgments (cf. 2 Kings 18:5; 2 Kings 23:5).
Joel 2:3. Fire] They consume. Eden] Fruitfulness. Nothing] No herb, plant, nor tree, shall escape. “The word used elsewhere of persons who escape, suggests that we should not linger by the type of locusts only, but think of enemies more terrible, who destroy not harvests only, but men, bodies and souls.”
Joel 2:4. Appearance] like horses prepared for battle (Job 39:20; Revelation 9:7); swiftness and sound like chariots on rough mountain-tops.
Joel 2:6. Pained] with terror. “More terrible than the locusts,” says an Arab proverb. Blackness] from anxiety and fear (Lamentations 4:8). Heb. flames (Isaiah 13:8), to glow with heat: some to lose colour, to grow pale (Jeremiah 30:6). 7–9] depict their military order and discipline; it is vain to resist (Exodus 10:6). A picture perfectly true to nature, says Jerome and others.
Joel 2:10.] Heaven and earth feel their presence like a tempest-cloud of Divine wrath, covering all in darkness (Matthew 24:29),
Joel 2:11.] “Lord of the locusts,” say Mohammedans, commands and makes the meanest the instruments of vengeance (Revelation 18:8).
THE ALARM IN ZION.—Joel 2:1
In the dreadful calamities described what must be done? Jehovah shows that the danger can only be averted by repentance, humiliation, and reformation of conduct. In this verse the prophet interprets present chastisements, and lays a foundation for intimations which follow. Alarm must be given, the people roused, and called to solemn assembly.
I. The place of alarm. “In Zion.” Zion was once the seat of Divine government and consecrated by God’s presence. The Church of Christ is now the holy mount, the city of the living God, and the school of instruction to the universe. It is the spiritual palace of the Great King, who rules his people by his Spirit, and governs the world by his providence. Here he displays tokens of love and judgment. Great everywhere, his judgments are specially great here. It is a solemn thing when judgment begins in the house of God. But he will not permit sin in his own residence. The Church must be conspicuous in its elevation, adorned with holiness, and loyal in obedience. “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of God from Jerusalem.”
II. The means of the alarm. In times of old it was the duty of the priests to warn the people and blow the trumpet (Numbers 10:8). Ministers now must sound the alarm and declare the wrath of God against the unrighteousness of men. The watchmen of Zion must be awake, sound and “take the alarm they give.” They must be “sons of thunder.” They must not hesitate nor seek to hide the truth. The blast must wax louder and louder to startle thoughtless men. Ministers must never grow cold, careless of their own, and pitiless of the danger of others. When Perkins of Cambridge uttered the word damned, a solemn awe struck his hearers and the echo of it lasted many days. Whitfield brought tears in the eyes of old people, when he cried in the spirit of his Master, “O Glasgow, Glasgow!” “Blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.”
III. The reasons for alarm. “For the day of the Lord cometh.”
1. The danger is near. “The day cometh.” Many ridicule and call earnest men enthusiasts. Others cry, “Be calm, there is no need for that ado;” but the prophet of God sees the danger and urges swift escape. The day “is nigh at hand,” and not afar off; seen in present judgments and will come in sudden terror. Men are warned now of judgment to come and of enemies gathering together for fearful destruction. “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord; the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.”
2. The people are careless. “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble.” Though danger is nigh yet men neglect or despise it. They should tremble, start up from apathy and sullen indifference, and haste to the refuge. How stupid for persons in face of impending ruin to sit in ease! They provide in summer for winter, in youth and health for age and sickness, but strive not to escape spiritual death. They seek to ward off temporal evils, but eternal destruction is not foreseen and prepared for. Few hear the distant thunder which betokens the coming storm. In their fancied security they laugh at those who prepare for the evil day, laugh on the brink of that day which, unless sovereign grace intervene, will make them wise too late. “Lord, when thy hand is lifted up they will not see, but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.”
THE DARK DAY.—Joel 2:2; Joel 2:11
With four terms the day of Jehovah is described as a day of judgment. “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” Darkness fell upon Egypt (Exodus 10:22), and enveloped Sinai at the giving of the law (Deuteronomy 4:11). This typical of the mysteries of God and the miseries of men.
I. The profound mystery of the day. As clouds of locusts darken the sky, so obscurity hangs over all Divine proceedings. We know that all calamities are judgments of some sort; that we are tried and judged now, “already made manifest to God,” and that a day is nigh when all must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. But when and how the day will come no man knoweth. God veils his purpose and splendour. “Clouds and darkness are round about him.” Wisdom prepares for events, folly rushes on and falls into the confusion. Walk by faith, do present duty, and cease to speculate. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
II. The great misery of the day. As clouds indicate obscurity, so darkness denotes misery. The darkness of the locusts would be unparalleled. “There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it.” Present punishments are only the beginning, the foretastes of eternal. If justice and judgment distress men now, what will they be at the day of final accounts? The destruction of the temple, and the rejection of the Jews, signal visitations upon churches and nations, are faint symbols of the terror of that day. “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
III. The overwhelming destruction of the day. So great and terrible is the day, that the words are wrung from the prophet, “Who can abide it?” The displays of power will be omnipotent. “Who knoweth the power of thine anger?” It consumes like a fire and none escape or resist it. God has not diminished in majesty and might. As he discomfited Egyptians, so will he overcome his enemies at last. “He ruleth by his power for ever.” “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?” There is only one way of escape. Repent and believe in Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.
Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through Christ I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
THE ARMY OF THE LORD.—Joel 2:4-11
The locusts are led by Jehovah, under his command, and sent to execute his will. “Lord of the Locusts” is one of the names of God in Mohammedan writings.
I. Numerous and strong. “A great people and strong” (Joel 2:2). “What more countless or mightier than the locusts?” asks Jerome. Each small and contemptible in itself, is made powerful by the strength of God. All agencies, human and Divine, are pliable to his hand, when he wants instruments of displeasure.
II. Courageous and swift. “As the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.” Their heads are exceedingly like that of a horse. In flying they make a noise like rushing wind, and loud “as dashing waters,” says a traveller. Like war-chariots rattling on rough mountain-tops, they speed to do their work. “The shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle” (Revelation 9:7). “And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses running to battle” (Joel 2:9).
III. Universal and ill-omened. As “a morning spread upon the mountains,” like dawn ushering in a day of darkness and gloom. Or with yellow lustre on their wings, produced by the rays of the sun, they sweep down the mountains and announce the advent of terrible calamity. Travellers have noticed this feature. “The day before the arrival of the locusts,” says one, “we could infer that they were coming, from a yellow reflection in the sky, proceeding from their yellow wings. As soon as this light appeared no one had the slightest doubt that an enormous swarm of locusts was approaching.”
IV. Orderly and well-equipped. “Neither shall one thrust another.” All keep their rank, march in ease and battle-array. “They charge like heroes,” mount the walls and assail fortified cities with dauntless might. Like David’s army, “they know how to keep rank,” and diverge not to the left or right. They close up as comrades fall, and keep unbroken in military array (Joel 2:7-8). Having surmounted the walls, they storm and sack, “and rush through the city” in fearful speed. “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.”
V. Terrible and destructive.
1. The land is desolated. Like a devouring fire, they consume every green thing on the earth. “Yea, and nothing shall escape them.” “Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned; for they laid the pleasant land desolate.”
2. The inhabitants are alarmed. They inspire terror, as universal and abject as that caused by an invading army. “Before their face the people shall be much pained, all faces shall gather blackness.” In the agony of despair Eastern nations wait their approach to-day. “They shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.”
3. Portentous signs in heaven and earth appear. “The earth shall quake and the heavens shall tremble” (Joel 2:10). Take this in connection with the next, and we see the terrible day, the dissolution of the social fabric, symbolized by signs. Sun and moon grow dark and stars withdraw their light, because Jehovah comes to judge (Isaiah 13:13; Jeremiah 10:10; Nahum 1:5-6). Nature is clothed in mourning, the universe trembles from predictions of judgment to come. Three sentences give the reason, for God does this—(a) Because his army “is very great.” (b) Because this powerful army “executeth his word.” (c) Because the day of judgment is so great and terrible that no one can stand before the wrath of the Judge.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 2:7. They are on God’s message and they linger not, but rejoice to run their course (Psalms 19:6). Men can mount a wall few at a time, the locusts scale much more steadily, more compactly, more determinately and irresistibly. The picture unites the countless multitude, condensed march, and entire security of the locusts with the might of warriors [Pusey].
On his ways. So each Divine judgment is directed, not by chance; adapted and weighed by infinite skill; and reaches in time and method just that person for whom it is intended. Nothing is lost, nothing escapes.
The judgments of God. I. The nature of the judgments. A day of darkness and gloom, none like them before or since. Most awful and extraordinary. II. The executors of the judgments. Not lions and beasts of savage name, but small and insignificant creatures, united, ranked, and commanded by the Divine leader; swift, furious, and irresistible in attack. III. The effects of the judgments. The execution most terrible—
1. In the country. The garden of Eden was turned into a desolate wilderness. In front and rear the army was like a devouring fire. No green thing escaped.
2. In the city. They climbed the wall, and, as a thief, entered the windows and ransacked the place. No fortifications nor force can resist the commissions of God (Jeremiah 9:21). If the weakest creatures cannot be turned aside, and the smallest judgments cannot be resisted, what of the greatest? what of the last of all?
They shall not break their ranks. Joel 2:7. Unity is strength. The weakest efforts and agencies combined are powerful for good or evil. Rank and order are necessary to accomplish any victory. Confusion and disorder weaken; but when each goes on his way, patiently and perseveringly does his duty, success will be gained. Small armies, well disciplined and marshalled for battle, have vanquished and scattered hosts of disorderly foes.
The least confusion but in one, not all
That system only, but the whole must fall.
1. The resources of God to punish are abundant.
2. The power of God to punish is—(a) omnipotent, and (b) irresistible.
3. The times of God to punish are ominous.
Joel 2:11. The camp of God.
1. Birds and beasts of prey. The meanest and mightiest creature. The lion in the forest and the moth in the sun.
2. The elements of nature. Winds and tempests, thunder and lightning, obey his will. Sun, moon, and stars cease to shine, and darkness covers the earth.
3. The hosts of heaven. Angels, armed with vengeance, destroy the first-born of Egypt and the army of Sennacherib. The resources of the universe are under his command to bless or to destroy.
What is creation less
Than a capacious reservoir of means,
Formed for his use, and ready at his will?
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Joel 2:1-3. Alarm. We might reasonably expect that the world would gather round the feet of the teacher. There is need for alarm, for men are indifferent. There is a way of escape, but men know or heed it not. Multitudes pass on and perish in the evil day. Noah regarded the signs of the times, and “moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house.” “He that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life. [Young.]
Joel 2:4-11. Locusts. The head is exceedingly like that of a horse [Theodoret]. Their noise is like the rushing of a wind [Forbes]. When they alight and feed, the plains are all covered. They make a murmuring noise as they eat, and they devour herbs, trees, and forage without restraint. “They overshadow the sun,” says Pliny, “the nations looking up with anxiety, lest they should cover their lands.” “The height of walls cannot hinder the charge of the mighty; they enter not by the gates, but over the walls. They fly, by the disposal of God ordaining, in such order, as to hold each his place, like the minute pieces of mosaic, fixed in the pavement by the artist’s hands, so as not to incline to one another a hair’s breadth” [Jerome]. Nothing in their habits is more striking than the pertinacity with which they all pursue the same line of march, like a disciplined army [Thompson]. They teach us the necessity of unity, steadfastness, and order. Many prefer an individual course instead of going by bands. They belong to no cohort, and are under no discipline. The strength of the Church lies in united, concentrated action. Every soldier well-disciplined and in his ranks; every officer at his post, and ready for the contest; each under rule, helpful to each other and to the common cause.
Joel 2:11. Voice. Lest God should be forgotten, he is represented as commanding a mighty army in the midst of judgments. Their presence indicates his presence and power. “The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle” (Isaiah 13:4). He called the Medes and Persians to execute judgments upon Babylon. “He sent forth his armies and destroyed” Jerusalem, “and burnt up their city” (Matthew 22:7). Hence the threefold ground of terror.
1. His camp is very great.
2. He has strength to accomplish his purpose by the weakest instruments.
3. When this purpose is accomplished, it will be a terrible day to the enemies.
Joel 2:12. Therefore] repent with heart undivided, and with fasting, for heinous sins demand extraordinary penitence. Mourning] Lit. beating on the breast, like the publican (Luke 18:13; Luke 23:48).
Joel 2:13. Not garments] as customary in great sorrow (Genesis 37:29; Job 1:20). External repentance will avail nothing (Psalms 51:19; Ezekiel 36:26).
Joel 2:14. Knoweth] if the least chance, secure it. God may restore blessings sufficient to maintain his worship and supply our wants (Jonah 3:9).
SPACE FOR PERSONAL REPENTANCE.—Joel 2:12-14
The design of chastisement is not destruction, but salvation. Mercy rejoiceth against judgment. The attainment of salvation is only by repentance and return to God. Hence the prophet in God’s name urges personal and national amendment. Personal repentance is described in these words.
I. Its nature. “Turn ye even to me.”
1. It is return to God. Return quite up to God, not half-way (Hosea 14:2). Half conversion, and half amendment will not avail. The whole distance must be overcome and God must be gained. Many are near to Christ, but not in him. All are alienated from God; and true reformation is not forsaking one habit to form another; changing one church or creed for another; but turning round in thought and feeling and coming to God.
2. It is a sincere return. It is real, not affected. “With all your heart.” The mind and affections have been stolen from God, now all are centred upon him. Outward expressions are worthless, mere trappings of sorrow. “Rend your heart and not your garments.” Partial feeling and feigned sorrow God will not accept. He requires truth in the inward parts. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
3. It is a sorrowful return. “With fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” There may not always be striking outward signs. But deep sorrow and contrition of spirit are accompanied with humiliation, self-denial, and prayer. The penitent weeps, mourns, and strikes his breast like the publican. Signs of grief often stir up the heart to more grief, and indicate to others the sincerity of conversion. Penitence must not be slight and superficial, but deep and real. “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.”
II. Its motive. “For he is gracious and merciful,” &c. Hope of acceptance is held out. This hope is grounded on the gracious character of God, revealed on Sinai (Exodus 34:6-7), and reproduced here to encourage repentance.
1. God is gracious and merciful. Though mercy has been despised and grace abused, he delights not in the death of sinners, but wishes all to turn and live. If he were not merciful we could not hope for pardon; and if he were only merciful and not gracious we could not expect to receive anything from him.
2. God is slow to anger and of great kindness. He can be angry and deal out punishment, but he pauses, lingers long, and gives opportunity to escape. His kindness is beyond human pity. He is longsuffering under the greatest provocations (Psalms 103:15).
3. God repents of the evil. If he repents of the punishments inflicted, will they not be accepted when they repent and return? Evils are against his will, his strange work, therefore on the first tokens of sorrow he will take them away. “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto them that call upon thee.”
4. God is a covenant God. “Turn unto the Lord your God.” They had turned away from God, but they were still his people. He is interested in their welfare, and unchangeable in his love and purpose. God must be approached as a covenant God. His Divine nature and mercy, his covenant relations and promises, are all brought forth to urge men to return unto him. His goodness and mercy never fail. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
III. Its necessity. “Therefore also now.” Now, though it be late it is not too late. Now, though the day is near and locusts are at hand. “Now is the day of grace, the visitation from God.” “Now or never.” Sinners should not delay. Time is precious, opportunities may not be given again. Repentance is a spiritual, a personal, an immediate duty. “Now is the accepted time, to-day is the day of salvation.” “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repentance.”
IV. Its possibility. “Who knoweth if he will return and repent,” &c. Judgments may be taken away, the meat-offering restored, and a blessing left behind. Space is given men for repentance. We are not to be too confident lest we be careless. But there is no doubt in the prophet’s mind. God will return. He never changes nor lies (1 Samuel 12:22). His favour is not like the shifting clouds, nor the winter’s sun casting occasional light, but withholding heat and joy. If we return to God he will return to us. “Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 2:12. Although all sorrow for sin hath not the same expression, nor the same degree of pungency and sensitive trouble, yet it is not a godly sorrow unless it really produces these effects, i.e.
(1) that it makes us really to hate and
(2) actually to decline sin; and
(3) produces in us a fear of God’s anger, a sense of the guilt of his displeasure;
(4) and then such consequent trouble as can consist with such apprehension of the Divine displeasure [Jeremy Taylor].
1. A change of mind, a turning of the soul to God.
2. A real turning, not resting in shadows, not renting the mantle only, but the offering of the heart to God.
3. This is a personal duty. It cannot be done by representation or in the mass; but by each alone, the children alone, the parents alone, and the priests alone.
4. God will be satisfied with this, but with nothing less.
Joel 2:13. God’s character in its relation to our character and condition. Grace to the unworthy, mercy to the miserable, long-suffering to provocation, truth to the promise, and change towards the penitent. “Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion and gracious, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalms 86:15).
Joel 2:14. Prospects opened up by repentance.
1. Remission of temporal calamities.
2. Restoration of fruit and subsistence.
3. Spiritual blessings left behind dreadful curses. The storm will pass away and the sun will shine again; flowers and fruit shall come, birds shall sing, and joy and peace crown the land. “Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Joel 2:12-14. Fasting and penitence. Men accused in times past were wont humbly to abase themselves before the judge, with long beards, uncombed hair, and black array, that they might secure his mercy. So when pestilence, famine, or war begin to rage, or any calamity hangs over us, it becomes us to present ourselves in piteous array, with fasting and prayer, before the Judge of all the earth, that his anger may be turned away from us [Cawdray]. But no amount of fasting will do without true penitence. Lifeless repentance is fruitless. No outward propriety and offerings will wash away the stain of sin. We must not only confess but forsake our sins and turn unto God. God will have mercy upon the penitent.
The fruitless showers of worldly woe
Fall dark to earth and never rise;
While tears that from repentance flow,
In bright exhalement reach the skies.
Joel 2:15. Blow] Convene the people.
Joel 2:16-17.] No age and condition exempted, for all deserve punishment; the joy of the bride and bridegroom even must give place to penitential mourning.
Joel 2:17.] The priests must take their position, and pray to God on behalf of his covenant people.
A CALL TO PUBLIC REPENTANCE.—Joel 2:15-17
Once more a day must be set apart for public fasting and humiliation. Personal repentance when genuine will lead to public confession. A sense of sin in the hearts of individuals will produce fruit and find expression in the actions of the community. Hence all the nation are summoned to solemn assembly. “Blow the trumpet in Zion.”
I. Great national danger urged them to public assembly. The nation is endangered by sin, sorrow has fallen upon all ranks, and sympathy unites them into one. Assemblies are called for scientific and political purposes; but no assembly so solemn as that called by natural calamity. Affliction cements the hearts and binds the hopes of nations. It is in vain to sound an alarm for war, to blow the trumpet and muster our armies, without the favour of God. The most effectual call is that of a Church or a nation to repentance. The most powerful defence is universal penitence and prayer to God. By this alone can we overcome our enemies and avert the judgment of God. “Let tyrants fear,” cried Queen Elizabeth when threatened with the Spanish invasion; “I put my trust in God, and in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects.” “For the Lord is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.”
II. None of the nation were exempt from the call to public assembly. “Gather the people.”
1. The aged must assemble. “Assemble the elders.” Men of understanding and ripe in years must be active and eminent examples in times of fasting and humiliation. Wisdom and experience belong to them, advice and help are expected from them.
2. Children must not be exempt. “Gather the children and those that suck the breasts.” The youngest and most helpless were involved in parental danger, and must touch parental hearts. The sight would be very affecting, and if God spared Nineveh for the sake of the children, he might spare Israel. The prayers of the aged and the cries of the young may not avail with men, but they are power with God. “All Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives and their children” (2 Chronicles 20:13).
3. The newly married must obey the call. “Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber and the bride out of her closet.” Marriage joy must give place to national fasts, and feasting must be turned into mourning. There is a time for all things, and private interests must give place to public duties. The raptures of love must be forgotten in the guilt of the nation. It is mockery to spend time in making merry which ought to be consecrated to God in sorrow. All unfit for battle and all exempt from war (Deuteronomy 24:5); all classes of the community, the aged and the young, the mirthful and the mournful, the priests and the people, were required to attend. “In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth” (Isaiah 22:12)
III. National confession was the object of public assembly. It was not an assembly for social entertainment and mirth. Not mere attendance and cessation from toil were required. It was “a solemn assembly,” a meeting for deep humiliation before God.
1. Confession was made through their public representatives. The priests, “the ministers of the Lord” in dignity and office, must set the example, lead the assembly in weeping and prayer. In front of the Holy Place, in which Jehovah was enshrined, they must bend and plead for the people. Ministers should ever be intercessors for the nation, feel the condition of men, and urge them by precept and example to devote themselves to God.
2. Confession was made on national grounds. Prayer is based on grounds which should never be forgotten by God’s people in like circumstances. It is a special liturgy for the solemn occasion. And God who reads the heart in the words will surely hear the words which he himself breathes in the heart. Mercy is the common cry. Punishment is deserved, but all were earnest in praying for deliverance from famine and reproach. “Spare thy people, O Lord.” (l) God’s covenant relation is pleaded. Spare us, not because we weep and fast, not because we deserve mercy, but because we are thine heritage, though unworthy of the name. Thou hast chosen us for thyself, remember and keep thy word with us and our fathers. The covenant of God is not to be renounced and forgotten by the penitent, but pleaded to secure a perpetual interest in God.
(2) God’s honour among the heathen is concerned. “Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” If God does not fulfil his word and protect us, if we are utterly ruined by judgments, and insulted by idolaters, the enemies would rejoice and blasphemously inquire what God could do for his people? The penitent is humbled for his own sin; but when God is reproached, and his love called in question because he appears severe, this is an addition to his sorrow, a sword in his bones (Psalms 42:10). He therefore pleads that God would defend his own glory, and not permit men to be confirmed in their error and folly (Ezekiel 20:5; Ezekiel 36:21; Ezekiel 36:23). “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? Let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed” (Psalms 79:10).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 2:15. Sanctify a fast. Care should be taken both by ministers and people in their stations, that every duty be not profanely gone about, nor external performances rested in; but that it may be done in a spiritual and sanctified manner, that there should be due preparation for it, and that the congregation come purified (as the word signifieth), according to the law, and fast in a sanctified manner [Hutcheson].
Joel 2:16. Gather the people.
1. In times of calamity fasting may be appropriate.
2. In times of national calamity the nation, all the people, should join.
3. Men of superior rank should use their influence and stimulate others to attend God’s house and regard God’s word. By penitence and prayer an entire community may be saved from distress.
Gather the children. Anniversary Sermon. I. Many gatherings for children. Exeter Hall meetings; the Great Exhibition; children in Peel Park; Manchester; annual sermons and festivities. II. Many purposes for which children are gathered.
1. School education.
2. Social enjoyment.
3. Christian worship.
4. Solemn fasting and humiliation, in the text. III. Many advantages result from gatherings of children.
1. It is the fulfilment of Scripture.
2. Necessary for children themselves.
3. Beneficial in many ways to parents.
Joel 2:17. Weeping priests and guilty people. The sins of the people and the sufferings consequent upon them should weigh upon the hearts of ministers. If God frowns upon a people, if error and evils abound in a community, are not the shepherds to blame? Of all members of a stricken Church, ministers have the greatest cause to mourn.
Reproach of Israel.
1. Departure from God.
2. Exposure to Divine judgment.
3. Enslaved by the heathen. Christians should maintain their credit and character, and especially deprecate reproach cast on the character and conduct of God.
Where is their God?—
1. The spirit of the question. A question often put—
1. In ignorance.
2. In atheism.
3. In ridicule. Carnal men ignorant of the character of God, the mysteries of his providence, and regardless of his people. II. The substance of the question.
1. This question reflects upon God. God’s presence, God’s providence, and God’s word.
2. This question reflects upon God’s people. They are considered worthless, forsaken, and despised. It is the most bitter of all taunts.
Spare thy people. I. The prayer. Spare, deliver from trouble, pardon sin and help in future. II. The plea.
1. Thy people, words of interest, submission and affection.
2. Thy people in danger, “that the heathen should not rule over them.” God alone has the sole right to the homage and service of his people. We may always plead the interest which God takes in our spiritual welfare, as the reason for averting judgments from the Church and the nation which our sins have merited.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Joel 2:15-17. In this assembly kings and priests lead the way; nobles and common people promptly join. The whole multitude bow like one man, and fall prostrate at the footstool of mercy. All acknowledge their guilt and are sensible of their danger. All repent and pray that God would spare his people. Though repentance is now put in the inward dispositions of the soul, yet on occasion of national humiliation, and peculiar religious solemnity, it may be suitable to testify by our deportment and dress, the seriousness and sadness of our minds. Splendour and gaiety of apparel, if ever becoming Christians, should be laid aside at such seasons. It is well when the government of a nation, in its spiritual and political authorities, takes the lead in the promotion of piety and regard to the doctrines and duties of religion. It is most touching and instructive to see all classes of the community lift up their hearts in prayer for mercy and deliverance.
Joel 2:18. Then] No longer threatenings, but promises. Jealous] of dishonour to them, love and pity for their welfare.
Joel 2:19-20.] Renewed fertility and removal of the cause of desolation; answer to prayer and bestowment of great things (Psalms 126:2-3); expressive of a universal truth.
RESTORATION OF LOST BLESSINGS.—Joel 2:18-20
These verses form a transition from one part of the prophecy to the other When God’s people returned to him in penitence, “then” he would be jealous for that land in which the temple stood, and for that people whom he still loved. He would hear their prayer, remove the curse, and restore the blessings, material and spiritual. There is no contingency, no uncertainty in the promises. The predictions are absolute, the condition of repentance on which they rest being complied with. Israel was thus encouraged by Divine, not human, security for the fulfilment of God’s word. Chastisement leads to repentance, and restoration of lost blessings the result.
I. This restoration depends upon the sincere repentance of men. “Then will the Lord be jealous.” God’s promises indicate conditions, and are adapted to certain states of mind.
1. Blessings are restored through penitence. They pre-suppose repentance, the efforts and the faithfulness of men. The removal of judgments and restoration of blessings were the result of the penitence and return of Israel. God waits to be gracious, and when sinners humble themselves and seek Divine favours they will be given. “For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left.”
2. Blessings are restored in prayer. “The Lord will answer and say.” Infidels object to prayer for daily food and propitious weather. Why should we pray for rain or sunshine, say they, when both depend upon laws of meteorology? The laws of nature are not incapable of modification. Every time we throw a stone or build a house, when we graft a tree, or restore a limb, laws are suspended and varied. If we can direct the hidden forces of creation, and make them subservient to useful purposes, shall the God of nature be powerless! But prayer itself is one of the most natural and prevalent laws of nature. We have proof in Scripture and in our own experience that in the history of men and the events of providence God has changed his proceedings in answer to fervent prayer. “The earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel.”
II. Restoration springs from Divine pity to men. The Lord will display his love, “and pity his people.” Before, God was set upon their destruction. He was at the head of a great army, giving the word and combining the strength of the enemy. Now he is full of tender compassion, which resents injury done to them as if done to himself. God spares a people whom he may justly destroy. Humble penitents are permitted and encouraged to plead an interest in him. Natural affection prompts parents to help their children in distress; so God gives his people room in his pity, and blessings in their trouble. Compassionate kindness to the suffering is a dictate of humanity and one of the first principles of religion (James 1:27; Matthew 9:13). “To him that is afflicted, pity should be showed” (Job 6:14). That pity which we should display towards our neighbour God will show to us. He is ready to turn away his anger and have mercy on us. “Ye have seen that the Lord is very pitiful”
He hath a tear for pity, and a hand
Open as day for melting charity.
III. Restoration is in rich variety. Calamities were not simply removed, but abundance of temporal and spiritual favours were bestowed.
1. Material blessings were restored. “I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith.” The material condition of a nation and the outward prosperity of a people depend upon God. He can send famine, pestilence, and war. He alone can take them away. All human efforts are perfectly impotent without Divine co-operation. The husbandman may plough and sow, but God “causes the sun to rise and set” Parliament may legislate and the nation employ its resources, but God alone can remove oppression and restore fertility in the land. It is good for a people to hearken to God in distress, to recognize their dependence upon him in the seasons and operations of nature, and call upon him as the Giver of every good and perfect gift. “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me! He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.”
2. National reproach was removed. “I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen.” Reproach is a sad thing for the people of God. But in due time he will take away all visible signs of judgment. His people shall not suffer in reputation and on account of apparent unfaithfulness to them. They shall be free from insult and tyranny, and shall enjoy the credit and comforts of their religion. The best of men may have the bitterest foes, and be subject to the most cruel taunts. But the brutality of the enemy will move the pity of God. He will not long endure to see his children ill-entreated. His love will rouse his anger, and then it will be worse for the scorner and reviler.
3. The mighty enemy was destroyed. “I will remove far off from you the northern army.” Whether “the Northerner” (Heb.) means the pest of locusts or the Assyrian army, God promises deliverance from them. As locusts were driven with the wind, to perish in the Arabian Desert, in the Dead Sea, and in the Mediterranean, to breed pestilence by the stench from their putrifying bodies, so the enemy shall be driven every way but the one from which he came. The destroyer shall do no further mischief. (a) The destruction is entire. They shall perish for lack of sustenance. Nothing shall remain but their ill savour. (b) The destruction is deserved. “Because he hath done great things,” magnified himself against God. Pride and violence against God’s people have ever been the features and forerunners of destruction. (c) The destruction is fearful. The countless hosts, full of life and activity, were scattered by the word of God on the waves of the sea, and thrown upon the shore a putrifying mass. Human malice and pride shall be destroyed. God takes away their breath and they become a carcase. Sennacherib’s army in the evening inspired terror, “and before the morning he is not” (Isaiah 17:14). “And when they rose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (Isaiah 37:36).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
God’s favours towards penitent sinners.
1. Zeal against them turned into pity for them.
2. Their prayers answered in abundant blessings. Material and spiritual good.
3. Their condition reversed. (a) Freedom for oppression. (b) Honour for reproach. (c) Feasting for fasting. (d) The removal of everything sad, and the bestowment of everything joyful.
The excellent condition of restored sinners.
1. Enemies subdued.
2. Abundance enjoyed.
3. Blessings perpetuated.
1. Their source—God’s pity.
2. Their subjects—God’s people.
3. Their result—“Ye shall be satisfied.”
Joel 2:19. I will send you corn. God averts the failure of crops and the scarcity of food. These evils neither come nor cease by accident. God gives us our daily bread. He opens his hand and we are satisfied with food [Lange].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Joel 2:20. The south and east winds drive the clouds of locusts with violence into the Mediterranean, and drown them in such quantities that when their dead are cast on to the shore, they infect the air to a great distance [Volney]. Wonderful image of the instantaneousness, ease, completeness, of the destruction of God’s enemies; a mass of active life exchanged, in a moment, into a mass of death [Pusey].
Joel 2:21. Fear not] as in ch. 1, on account of judgments, but rejoice in the destruction of the hosts.
Joel 2:22.] Verdant pastures and trees laden with fruit shall be given. Beasts of the field shall no longer want.
Joel 2:23. Rain] The former moderately, lit. according to right, i.e. in due measure, not in extremes to injure (Deuteronomy 11:14; Proverbs 16:15). The rain] Generically, showers. The latter rain] to mature the crops; rain in season, rain in opposition to drought, and rain a type of all blessings.
Joel 2:24-27.] Effects of the rain—abundance of all kinds of food; reparation of damage by locusts; redemption of Israel from the heathen; vindication of God and gratitude for his grace.
THE GREAT THINGS OF GOD.—Joel 2:21-27
The locusts seemed to exult in the ruin they caused; but Jehovah doomed them to destruction, recovered the land from barrenness, and crowned it with beauty. The enemy had done great things against them; now God would do great things for them. No longer wasted fields and withered harvests. Joy is to succeed sorrow. The blessings are to be wide as the judgments, and man and beasts are to rejoice in the restoration of fruitful seasons and spiritual privileges.
I. Great temporal blessings. The seed shall be prosperous, and the vine give her fruit; the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens their dew again (Zechariah 8:12).
1. Copious rain. The plague of locusts and of drought had caused the land to mourn. “The garden of Eden” had become “a desolate wilderness.” The only hope of recovery was in abundant and copious rain. Rain is promised by words multiplied in wonderful emphasis. First, showers in general, then in due season, early and latter rain for autumn and spring. Rain in mercy and moderation. God sends or withholds the rain in sovereign wisdom. It comes not by chance, but Divine commission. It is given in due measure, and sent in special direction. “He causes it to rain upon one city, and not upon another.”
2. Fruitful seasons. “The pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength.” Grass will spring, tender herbs bud, and fruit-trees yield their fruit. Living pastures shall satisfy groaning beasts, and universal fear shall give place to universal joy. God never left us without witness of his goodness and mercy, “in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
3. Replenished granaries. “And the floors shall be full of wheat,” &c. Barns shall no longer fall into decay, but wine, grain, and oil shall be given in abundance. Every trace of ruin shall disappear. “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” The devastation of former years shall be undone. Threefold blessings shall benefit the three departments of nature. The parched ground shall robe itself in living verdure, flowers adorn the field, and trees rustle with foliage. The herds of oxen and flocks of sheep shall no longer roam in agony and distress. Husbandmen, vine-dressers, and ministers of the altar must cease to weep, rejoice in God, and eat their bread in gratitude. “Your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (Leviticus 26:5).
II. Great spiritual blessings. “And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,” &c.
1. Restoration of national praise. Through the sins of the people and the consequent judgments of God, sacrifices had ceased to be offered and joy had been cut off from the temple (ch. Joel 1:16). The loss of religious privileges is a most grievous calamity. There is no place like the house of God to Christians. They prefer Jerusalem above their chief joy. Loss of bread is nothing to loss of the worship of God. It is a loss of social help and natural influence. Worship is man’s greatest dignity and supreme good. When a nation gives praise to God they reap the highest enjoyments. “They shall praise the Lord that seek him; your heart shall live for ever.”
2. Manifestation of Divine presence. “Ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel.” Men do not always know, nations do not often recognize God. In prosperity and plenty they forget him. Harvests are expected as a matter of course. Human ingenuity and natural laws produce results. Creation is a mere machine without maker and controller. Thus the blessings of God are received in a forgetful, selfish spirit. But God interrupts the sequence of events, judgments are sent, to bring nations to regard Him. He withdraws his presence and permits plagues to bring them to repentance. “Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” The heathen taunts, “Where is their God?” But God is sought in distress and found, and loving fellowship is restored. God is in the midst of the nation; she shall not be moved; “God shall help her, and that right early.”
3. Revival of national joy. “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God.” Israel were not only to rejoice in God, but in God as the Lord their God. The world may be unable to rejoice, but God shall have their share of gladness. God promises and puts joy into their hearts; a joy greater than that created by corn and wine. Abundant crops and splendid seasons give uncertain gladness; but the manifestation of God’s presence is a source of pure and permanent joy. “In thy presence is fulness of joy.” Better empty barns than forsaken temples. Joy unspeakable and full of glory is the heritage and honour of that nation with whom God delights to dwell. “For, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.”
A Deity believed is joy begun;
A Deity adored is joy advanced;
A Deity beloved is joy matured;
Each branch of piety delight inspires.
4. Deliverance from national shame. “And my people shall never be ashamed.” Pitied, delivered, and honoured, the people would be free from reproach. God’s honour is linked with our honour, though we suffer reproach for a time; if we be ashamed of our sins against God, we shall never be ashamed to glory in him. He will never render his grace and purpose void. By the performance of his word and the destruction of his foe he will wipe away all dishonour. In Christ especially are these words realized. He suffers when we suffer, and relieves in poverty and tribulation. In him God returns to men, and turns again the captivity of Zion. Then we sing and cease to fear; we “obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 2:23. Rain a symbol of spiritual blessings. I. Their source. “He hath given you,” “he will cause to come down.” The laws of nature and heathen gods do not bestow rain. It comes from heaven (Acts 14:17; Isaiah 55:10). II. Their method of bestowment.
1. In due season. The influence of the Spirit, like early rain in seed-time, waters instruction given, and like latter rain matures the soul in growth, and ripens it for heaven.
2. In rich abundance. Like copious showers, blessings shall descend and flow down to men. III. Their blessed results.
1. Barren land rejoices. Pastures revive and trees bring forth fruit. The little hills shout and sing for joy (Psalms 65:12-13). Gospel blessings refresh thirsty souls and quicken desolate churches.
2. God’s people are glad. “Be glad then, ye children of Zion.” Joy springs from their hearts and harvests are reaped from their labours.
By heaven’s influence, corn and plants do spring;
God’s showers of grace do make his valleys sing.
Joel 2:26. Spiritual feasting.
1. The guests. “Ye shall eat.” God’s people shall never want, though sometimes poor and persecuted.
2. The provision. Not mere temporal blessings (Joel 2:24); but joy in God’s presence, all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Plenty of it; not the least scarcity.
3. The result. (a) Satisfaction. “Be satisfied.” Nothing but this will satisfy. “The meek shall eat and be satisfied” (Psalms 22:26). (b) Praise. “And praise the name of the Lord.” Thanksgiving shall come after the fast. They shall never die of grief. Immortal joys shall be their portion. “Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”
I. The wondrous dealing of God. Israel in the wilderness and Israel delivered from the plague a type of God’s dealings with us. He smites by wonders and he recovers by wonders. “God hath dealt wondrously with you.”
1. In the bounties of nature. How wonderful to quicken the earth and send the beauties of spring, to give sunshine and shower, bread and sustenance, manna from heaven and waters from the rock.
2. In the blessings of providence. (a) Common mercies. Health and habitations. Thousands worse off than you. Many in poverty, prison, and disgrace. You have a goodly heritage among men. (b) Special mercies. Removal of family reproach and personal shame, deliverance from sickness and judgment. You are a wonder to many (Psalms 71:7).
3. In the gifts of grace. (a) In the gift of Christ. Wondrous love, &c. (b) In the gift of the Holy Spirit to enlighten and teach. (c) In continued grace to renew and strengthen. “Thy love to me was wonderful.” II. The consequent gratitude of man. “Praise the name of the Lord your God.”
1. By acknowledging your obligations. “Your God.”
2. By remembering his works. Israel forgat God even at the Red Sea, the most signal spot of their pilgrimage. “Talk ye of all his wondrous works.”
3. By obeying his word. Show your gratitude in practical conduct. Let lips and life praise the Lord. “The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Joel 2:22-25. It is too clear for either argument or illustration, that if you change the moral character of any country from ignorance to intelligence, from indolence to industry, from intemperance to self-discipline, from sensualness to spirituality, from enmity to love, that the whole material region in which they live may abound with plentifulness and beauty. Such a change throughout the whole human population to-day will give to all a new heaven and earth [Dr Thomas].
Joel 2:26-27. In the midst. It was to induce this devout and thankful recognition of the Divine presence that the judgment had been sent. Dulled by routine, blinded by use and wont, the Jews had come to regard the succession of the seasons and the bounty of the year in a hard mechanical way, as though Nature were a mere engine or machine. It was to convince them of his presence in Nature, to make them pure, strong, and happy, that God interrupted the usual sequence of events, first by disasters over which they had no control; by plagues (literally “blows”), which they understood as judgments; and then by acts of grace and good will, which they understood as signs of his returning favour. Terrified by disasters, and attracted by blessings which seemed to them answers to repentance and prayer, as they “ate and were satisfied,” the people “praised the name of Jehovah their God,” who had dealt wondrously with them; they felt, they acknowledged that he was “in the midst of” them, in their fields and in their vineyards as well as in the temple, and that Jehovah was their God and none else, since only he could send them rain and fruitful seasons, and fill their hearts with gladness [Samuel Cox].
Joel 2:28-32. Afterward] These outward things are only a type of spiritual gifts, a prospect of richer blessings; and a grander dispensation is held out, a dispensation remarkable for the Holy Spirit, as its sign and substance. This gift shall be poured out in copious and refreshing showers upon all flesh, Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:44; Acts 11:17), upon servants and handmaids, the most degraded and despised (Acts 2:18). As the result, sons and daughters shall prophesy; dreams to the old and visions to the young; all shall know Divine things clearly.
Joel 2:30-31.] These manifestations, full of joy to believers, will be menacing to unbelievers. This day of the Lord will be attended by convulsions on earth, prognostications in heaven; to God’s children, to all who call upon him, it will be a day of redemption; but these will be a remnant only. Seek to belong to it (Acts 2:40).
THE NEW DISPENSATION.—Joel 2:28-32
By a natural transition the prophet rises from the temporal to the spiritual, from showers of rain to the outpouring of the Spirit. One blessing “first” (Joel 2:23), then “afterward” (Joel 2:28) a second and greater blessing. The words have special reference to the new dispensation, the dispensation of the Spirit. There are three distinct features connected together: the outpouring of the Spirit, the judgment upon the ungodly world, and the salvation of a faithful few.
I. The outpouring of the Spirit. “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” The outward blessings were typical of extraordinary spiritual blessings. Joel felt the need of spiritual influence, and believed that it would bring true enlightenment. We have not only a supernatural prediction, but a gleam of his own pure spiritual life.
1. The extent of the communications. “Upon all flesh.” It was not to be confined within the narrow bounds of Judea, not limited to one, but extended to all races. It was to be given to the pious and to those deemed incapable of spiritual life.
(1) Without distinction of sex. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Not only parents, but children would receive this gift. Four sisters in one family were prophetesses (Acts 21:9) The young are capable of Divine teaching, and God has promised to continue his presence and propagate his word from one generation to another. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
(2) Without distinction of age. “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” God adapts his grace to the condition of men. The inexperienced and the infirm; extremes in life may possess it.
(3) Without distinction of rank. “And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids.” This was something unexpected and had never been seen before. “Even the slaves,” bondsmen and bondswomen, are to share in the gift. The lowest are exalted, and the gospel breaks the fetters of slavery. “Prophecy,” said the Jews, “doth not reside except on the wise, and mighty, and rich;” but the poor have the gospel preached unto them. In Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one.”
2. The form of the communications. “Shall prophesy, dream dreams, and see visions.” These were the three modes by which God revealed his will to men in the O. T. days (Numbers 12:6). They are physical rather than spiritual; do not necessarily involve renovation of moral nature, but are made the symbols of fuller manifestation of miraculous gifts to some, and the outpouring of the Spirit to all. Yet taking into account the effects of this outpouring, we have reason to find a spiritual meaning. The Spirit would burst through every barrier and quicken the energies of life in all classes. Men would have the power to see and apply the truth of God to the facts of human life, past, present, and future. Spiritual light would not be confined to a select few. Dreams and visions should be given to others, and the mysteries of salvation be proclaimed to all nations. By these gifts the Church is founded, the ministry taught, and the Scriptures expounded in all ages. “Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.”
II. The dreadful judgment. Judgment is connected with the outpouring of the Spirit. When God comes in the majesty of his power heaven and earth quakes. “Each revelation of God prepares the way for another,” says an author, “until that last revelation of his love and of his wrath in the great day.” “I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth.”
1. In the earth. “Blood and fire, and pillars of smoke.” Blood and fire were manifest in the plagues of Egypt, and smoke ascended like the smoke of a smelting-furnace in the descent of Jehovah on Sinai (Exodus 19:18). Pillars of cloud roll up from burning towns in times of war (Isaiah 9:17).
2. In the heavens. “The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood.” The darkening and extinction of the lights of heaven are often mentioned as harbingers of approaching judgment (Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 4:23; Ezekiel 32:1-8; Matthew 24:29). The language may be figurative to a certain extent; but strange phenomena in the physical creation have been observed to precede great catastrophes of the moral world. In the judgment on Jerusalem, Josephus tells of physical prodigies, massacres and conflagrations. Humboldt cites cases of remarkable obscuration of the sun, in very eventful years. But whether we understand the words naturally or symbolically, they teach that the judgment day does not come without warning.
1. Foreseen by God’s people. These signs have no terror for them. They call upon God, and find in Him that refuge of which Mount Zion was only a type.
2. Heeded by the penitent. For among those who do not pray to God, some shall be called from their sins to find peace and security in him. “The remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
3. Neglected by the ungodly. Understood and improved by right-minded persons; unheeded and often despised by enemies of God. Thus there is a gradual process of separation among men, a ripening for “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” “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).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 2:29. Pour out my Spirit. Pour out like a rain-fall, or water-fall. The Spirit was not entirely wanting in the nation before this; but the prediction indicates—
1. A greater measure. Not merely drop by drop, but pour out in greater abundance.
2. A wider extent. Not confined to members of the covenant nation, but upon “all flesh.” This a great contrast to Genesis 6:3. “This word ‘flesh’ (bâsâr), as contrasted with ‘the spirit,’ denotes human nature so sunk in bondage to its lower elements as to be incapable of spiritual life. But according to Joel, even this impenetrable ‘flesh’ is to be penetrated by the Divine Spirit; even the ‘natural man’ is to be transformed into ‘a spiritual man;’ even the incorrigible are to be recovered to obedience” [Cox].
In those days. This special truth connected with one special time, concerning which he knows little. The prophets sought diligently to know this time (1 Peter 1:10). Apostles evidently studied the prophet Joel; but how reluctant was Peter to learn, and how astonished beyond degree that God would pour out his Spirit upon the Gentiles. “It needed,” says one, “an express revelation and direct command before he could be persuaded that all flesh meant more than Jewish flesh. So, often all our lives through, we have words in our mouths, and read and hear them, and yet their true, full meaning never strikes us. The truth is familiar to us, it is daily confessed and repeated by rote, but has never reached our hearts; then perhaps at length something wakens us up, and henceforward the truth is a living reality, influencing and moulding our lives” (Joel 2:30-31). Physical phenomena serve—
1. To awaken men’s minds from lethargy. They quicken attention and put them into attitudes of fear and expectation. Thus they urge repentance, and provide space for it to those who are induced to profit by them.
2. To prepare God’s people for approaching trouble. They stimulate prayer, hope, and effort. In deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 6:22); in the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:29); and before the final judgment, God displays signs and wonders to the joy of his people and the terror of his enemies.
Joel 2:31. The terrible day.
1. Great in its nature. The last day. The end of time and the beginning of eternity.
2. Great in its design. To give to all their due. Great things will be done. Men judged, angels ranked, and all accounts settled.
3. Great in its bearings. Great to believers, terrible to unbelievers. Men separated and sent to their own place.
Call upon the name of the Lord. “Implies right faith to call upon him as he is; right trust in him, leaning upon him; right devotion, calling upon him as he has appointed; right life, ourselves who call upon him being, or becoming, by his grace what he wills” [Pusey].
Joel 2:28-31. The gospel dispensation is characterized—
1. By spirituality.
2. By liberty.
3. By power.
4. By expansiveness [Pulpit Analyst].
Shall be saved.
1. The danger. The word delivered means safety by escape. “Those who should be saved,” i.e. those who were escaping from perils imminent and terrible (Acts 2:47). The condition of the Church is often desperate; but that of the sinner is more desperate.
2. The Saviour. “The Lord.” None other than Jesus. “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; Acts 2:36).
3. The encouragement.
(1) Whosoever, Jew or Gentile. “Thank God for that whosoever,” said an aged person, “for it includes me.”
(2) As the Lord hath said. God has promised to save all that call upon him (Romans 10:13).
4. The result. Those who are delivered are only a “remnant,” a part of the whole. History and Scripture confirm these words. In the flood and destruction of the cities of the plain; in the entrance into Canaan and the return from captivity; in the first preaching of the gospel and the destruction of Jerusalem, a remnant only was saved. One is tempted to ask with the disciples, “Are there few to be saved?” but the answer is, that has nothing to do with you. “Strive ye.”
The remnant saved. I. The blessing given. Salvation. Not merely promised, but actually given and cheerfully enjoyed, not in word, but in deed. Human beings redeemed and human nature renewed. II. The source from whence it comes. “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem,” i.e. from God himself who dwelt and was worshipped in these places. The Church is the place of safety, and where God may be most easily found. III. The method by which it is secured.
1. God calls men to him.
2. Men call upon God in prayer. One description is a counterpart of the other; both go together, one is the human, and the other the Divine side of salvation. Deliverance depends not upon the worshippers alone, but upon God also. Those only are saved whom God calls to himself, and who call upon or choose him to be their God. It is all of grace. God must first call by his grace; then we obey his call, and call upon him; and he has said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me.” God accounts our salvation his own glory. “The promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Joel 2:28-32. So large a promise naturally awakens inquiry. We ask, “When was it or will it be fulfilled?” Joel expected and saw a fulfilment of it in his day. The people saw God in the ordinances of the sanctuary, but not in the fields and laws of Nature. The beneficent order of Nature was interrupted. This was taken as a judgment, and led to repentance and recognition of God. Were not the same conditions repeated in St Peter’s time with the like results? The Jews came up to the temple to worship, but failed to see “God manifest in the flesh.” Judgment came upon them. They awoke to a consciousness of their sin, repented, and turned unto the Lord. The Spirit came down upon them, and this new accession of life was a judgment to the men of that generation, trying what manner of spirit they were of, revealing the evil spirit by which they were animated, who opposed themselves to the power and grace of God. None the less may we say, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,” in every new crisis of the religious life, in a man, in the race, or in the world. In all ages the same sequence recurs—sin, judgment, repentance, a new spirit, and in this new spirit a new test and criterion to which men are brought, and by which they are either approved or condemned [Samuel Cox].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joel 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany