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CRITICAL NOTES.] For] Explanatory of judgment predicted (ch. Joel 2:31). Those days] Viz. the outpouring of the Spirit, further described by the words “when I shall bring,” &c., redemption from distress of every kind; including gathering together of the dispersed, elevation into new and greater glory, exceeding earlier political or spiritual condition.
Joel 3:2. Valley of Jehoshaphat] where confederate foes were overthrown, say some (Psalms 83:6-8; 2 Chronicles 20:22-26); others think it is near Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 14:4), and the term given to indicate the judgments of God upon the nations there. The ultimate events are still future, and fill up the space between the restoration of the Jews and the second advent of Christ. Plead] Not merely argue against enemies, but deal with them in judgments (Isaiah 66:16; Ezekiel 38:22).
Joel 3:3. Lots] A common way of dividing captives (Nahum 3:10). The harlot was not paid in money, but with a boy; and a girl was of so little value, that they sold her for a drink of wine. This depicts the ignominious treatment of Israel by the enemy.
PUNISHMENT UPON THE PERSECUTORS OF GOD’S PEOPLE.—Joel 3:1-3
The prophecy from ch. Joel 2:28 to the end of this book constitutes one whole, embracing the Messianic period, from the day of Pentecost to the final triumph and consummation of the kingdom. The events of the past are framed to describe the revelations of the future. In the second division (ch. Joel 3:1-21) we are introduced to events which issue in the restoration of Israel, which form the crisis of the destiny of the world, and which describe the final conflict of good and evil. Israel, viewed as the representative of God’s kingdom, are persecuted by the Gentile nations who are enemies to God. But he will deliver them from oppression and destroy their persecutors.
I. The cruel treatment of God’s people. God’s people, consecrated to him by covenant, have ever been despised by the world. Ungodly men belong to a system entirely opposed to their spiritual interests, and established upon laws and institutions which resist the authority of God. The indignities done to Israel are specified in the text, and typical of many forms of persecution.
1. They were robbed of their own land. “And parted my land.” All the earth is the Lord’s, but he locates his people, and dwells with them in certain places. The land belonged to him as well as the people, and when they cannot defend it, he will assert his rights to it and regain it. The enemy acted on the ancient motto, “Conquer and divide.” They parted the land and shared it amongst them. But those that enrich themselves by robbing God’s people will be spoiled of their own treasures. Wealth and reputation taken from others will not fit well on ourselves.
Who steals my purse, steals trash;
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.—
2. They were scattered in other lands. “Whom they have scattered among the nations.” God’s people were driven by violence into heathen nations and enslaved. The disciples were persecuted and fled from city to city. The early Christians were banished to mines of other countries, and islands of the sea. “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” Christ had it, and his people cannot expect any better treatment. Scorn and ridicule, social calumny and religious degradation, cannot be avoided. The good will ever excite the ill, and “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
3. They were indignantly treated. “They have cast lots for my people,” &c. (a) They despised them. Treated them all alike, honourable and dishonourable. They were all worthless, despised, and distributed by lot, a greater indignity than captivity and slavery. To trample on the weak and the fallen is most inhuman. “How unsuitable is it for us, who live only by kindness, to be unkind,” says Edwards. “And they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.” (b) They sold them as slaves. They were disposed of to slave-dealers at most ridiculous prices. A boy was given instead of money for the hire of a harlot, and a girl was sold for a drink of wine in revelry. This was done by Assyrians, Chaldees, and Romans. Enmity to God and persecution of his people have often been connected with scenes of sensuality. But how barbarous for men to sport with their own species, and prefer a moment’s gratification to the permanent interests of men. What inhumanity to subject young, innocent children to extreme hardship and anguish from such base motives! Let us thank God that the horrors of slavery are past, that we live in a land of personal liberty and religious laws.
II. The punishment of their enemies. “I will gather all nations,” &c. God may suffer enemies to prevail for a time, but the year of recompenses will come. God will avenge his own elect.
1. The time is fixed. “In those days and in that time.” The day, the hour may be unknown to us; but they are fixed immutably in the purpose and providence of God. There is a year of the redeemed, an acceptable year for the opening of the prison to them that are bound, for the bringing again of the captivity of Zion (Jeremiah 30:3).
2. The place is fixed. The valley of Jehoshaphat may mean the valley in which God destroyed the numerous enemies of that prince (2 Chronicles 20:26-28); or, in allusion to the word (meaning “the Lord hath judged”), it may refer to any scene when God will deal out retribution and execute his enemies. In due time and in some great valley God will punish sinners and reckon with nations for their infamous conduct. God is gathering men now in mysterious ways, will soon plead with them, accuse and condemn them, and “there shall be tribulation, such as there had not been from the beginning of the world.”
3. The reason is assigned. “For my people.” God’s people are precious in his sight, whatever be their treatment and outward condition in the world. (a) They are his people. They have given themselves to him, and belong entirely to him. Others refuse allegiance and forget God, “but the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” (b) They are his heritage. He chose Israel as his heritage and peculiar treasure, his portion and treasure above other people (Deuteronomy 32:9). When weak and desponding in trial he assured them of his love and defence. The most precious things in the universe are holy people. God claims them for his own, will never permit them to be lost, but will vindicate their cause and redeem them from death. “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of my eye.” “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 3:1. I. The sad condition. “Captivity of Judah.” The Church is often oppressed and persecuted by enemies, thrown into captivity by backslidings, and bound fast by things of time and sense. The sinner is under the bondage of sin, captivated by lust, and lashed by a guilty conscience. II. The blessed change. “Bring again the captivity.” Sins are forgiven, and persecutors are overthrown. God’s power redeemed Israel from literal, and God’s grace delivers men from spiritual, slavery. III. The time of the change. “In those days and in that time.” God has his own times of deliverance. His people should have patience and hope, for they shall not sorrow a day longer than he has purposed. Divine decrees have fixed the time for blessing the Church, and neither Rome nor infidels can hinder the work. “Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come” (Psalms 102:13). IV. The author of the change. “I shall bring again.” It is God’s work and not man’s. He makes, keeps, and saves the Church. He purchased and will defend his people. He will in judgment and in grace destroy the wicked, and bless the righteous. “When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”
1. The assembly. “All nations.”
2. The place. “The valley of Jehoshaphat.”
3. The purpose. I “will plead.”
4. The reason. “For my people.” “Here the fate of whole nations is obviously bound up with that of Israel, and is to depend on the relations they have sustained to the people of God” [S. Cox].
Valley. In the days of Joel valleys were the usual fields of “battle,” mountainous and wooded country being unfavourable to the movements, tactics, and strategical combinations of ancient military art. Naturally, therefore, the Prophet would select some valley as the arena of the final conflict. But this conflict was also to be a judgment. Was it possible to select a valley whose very name should convey the idea of judgment and of Divine judgment? Yes; close outside the eastern wall of Jerusalem lay a valley, known as the “valley of Jehoshaphat.” “Jehoshaphat means, Jehovah judges. Here ready to his hand were the very symbols the Prophet required. The scene of the final conflict and the final judgment would be the valley in which Jehovah judgeth and will judge [S. Cox].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Joel 3:1-3. Persecution. Oh, if when we oppress and goad our fellow-creatures, we bestowed but one thought upon the dark evidences of human error, which, like dense and heavy clouds, are rising slowly, it is true, but not less surely, to heaven, to pour their after-vengeance on our heads—if we heard but one instant, in imagination, the deep testimony of dead men’s voices, which no power can stifle, and no pride can shut out, where would be the injury and injustice, the suffering, misery, cruelty, and wrong, that each day’s life brings with it [Dickens]?
Sold a girl for wine. A woman in Glasgow, some time since, in order to gratify her immoderate craving for ardent spirits, was said to have offered her own child for sale as a subject for dissection [Whitecross].
Joel 3:4. With me] i.e. my people, with whom God identifies himself. Recompense] “If ye injure me” (my people) “in revenge for fancied wrongs” (Ezekiel 25:15-17), “I will requite you in your own coin swiftly and speedily.”
Joel 3:5. Taken] Not only plundered the temple and its treasury, but palaces and houses of rich, which always followed conquest of towns (1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:14). Your temples] Spoils of war were often hanged up in heathen temples. They spoiled Jehovah’s temple and profaned their own.
Joel 3:6. Far] Captive Jews cut off from all hope of return.
Joel 3:7-8.] The nations repaid by the lex talionis. God’s people would regain liberty, and sell their enemies as they had been sold by them.
RIGHTEOUS RECOMPENSE.—Joel 3:4-8
Before depicting final judgment upon hostile nations of the world, Joel glances at the enmity which the neighbouring peoples displayed towards Israel, and foretells a righteous retribution for sins they had committed against God’s people.
I. The sins of which they were guilty. In their idolatries they grievously sinned; but their greatest offence was insult to God and his people.
1. They sold the people as slaves in captivity. They had scattered them among the nations, and forced them to seek for shelter where they could. (a) It was cruel captivity. They were dispersed and divided for fear of incorporation with the common inhabitants. (b) It was hopeless captivity. “Ye have sold them unto the Grecians that ye might remove them far from their border.” By selling their fighting men they would weaken the Jews, and taking them afar would render more hopeless the return to the land they loved. They displayed great malice, were delighted with the distress of the persecuted, and sought to triumph over God himself. Traffic in the souls of men, slave-dealing and men-stealing, is the worst kind of traffic, branded with infamy, and will bring down the curse of Heaven. What has become of American slave-trade, “State rights,” and secession? God has broken in pieces the oppressor; and well did Abraham Lincoln say: “This is a world of compensations, and he who would be no slave must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it.”
2. They plundered the temple and palaces of the land. “Ye have taken my silver and my gold.” The vessels of the temple and the treasures of the palace were carried away, and the land treated as conquered territory. The Prophet says my gold. All the wealth bestowed upon Israel and upon us, in the providence of God, belongs to him, and should be recognized as the gift of God (Hosea 2:8). If we are his people, what we have we hold from him, and should devote to him. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Haggai 2:8).
3. They profaned the sacred things of God. “And have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things.” They dedicated the spoils to their gods, hung up the vessels of the holy sanctuary on the walls of their temples, and attributed victory over God’s people to the power of their idols. The ark was put in the temple of Dagon, the gold and silver adorned Belshazzar’s feast, but God maintained his honour, and defended his cause. Robbery itself is most unjust, but when the spoils are consecrated to idolatry, and given to support cruelty and false religion, this will prove most destructive to the worshipper. “He entangleth his soul in the snares of death who resumeth unto a profane use that which is once consecrated unto God,” says Bishop Hall. “It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy.”
II. Divine recompense upon these sins. “Will ye render a recompense?” &c., indicate that they had no cause to retaliate upon God or his people; that if repayment is the question, God will very speedily settle that for them, and bring back their doings upon their own heads (Isaiah 5:26).
1. Retribution is declared. The life as well as the death of his saints is precious in the sight of God. Those who injure them injure him. He will not suffer them to be insulted and enslaved. He will demand an account for them. Suffering and blood cry to Heaven for justice. Martyred saints and God’s captives will not be forgotten. He will honour, spare, and avenge them. “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.”
2. Retribution in kind. “And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the land,” &c. As they had sold and scattered the Jews, so they would “be paid back in their own coin;” they in turn would be sold by the Jews. Here we have the true lex talionis. The rod which men make to smite others, shall smite themselves. “Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost.” “As he loveth cursing, so let it come to him” (Psalms 109:17). Dogs licked the blood of Ahab in the vineyard of Naboth. The evil deeds of persecutors will fall upon themselves in this world, or that which is to come. “His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing upon his own pate.”
3. Retribution with certainty. “For the Lord hath spoken it.” This was fulfilled in the time of Alexander the Great and his successors, when Jewish prisoners were set at liberty, and Phœnician territories were under Jewish sway. Sooner or later retribution will come, and there is no escape. No idols can deliver them. The inhabitants of Tyre chained their gods, that they might not forsake them when besieged by Alexander, but the word was spoken, and the city is no more.
4. Retribution with speed. “Swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense.” God threatens these piratical slave-dealers with the vengeance of their captives, whom he redeems. When they pride themselves in triumph and forgetfulness, a sudden change shall come. With ease and speed God will send the punishment and “judge his people.” God seems to delay, but at length unexpectedly does he surprise men. And when once he begins, he hastens on and makes short work in the execution of his judgments. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 3:4. What have ye to do with me?
1. The words and also show that there is something additional to the deeds of those spoken of before. Those instanced before were great oppressors, such as dispersed the former people of God, and divided their land. In addition to these, God condemns here another class, those who, without having power to destroy, harass and vex his heritage.
2. The words, what are ye to me? are like that other phrase (Joshua 22:24; Matthew 8:29), what is there to thee and me? i.e. what have we in common?
3. These words, what are ye to me? also declare that those nations had no part in God. God accounts them aliens. What are ye to me? Nothing.
4. But the words convey, besides, that they would have to do with God for harassing his people without cause. They obtruded themselves, as it were, upon God and his judgments; they challenged God; they thrust themselves in, to their destruction, where they had no great temptation to meddle, nothing but inbred malice to impel them. They stand among the most inveterate and unprovoked enemies of God and his people [Pusey].
Joel 3:7. I will raise. I. Deliverance of God’s people. Though carried far away and put under grievous bondage, God will gather them again. Neither former judgment nor present distress shall hinder. Though like men asleep, he will raise or awake them, as the word imports. Though their condition be hopeless as the dead, he can deliver them (Ezekiel 37:11-12). The might of the foe and the wonderfulness of the promise should not impede our faith. “Behold, I will raise.” II. Destruction of God’s enemies. “I will return your recompense.”
1. The agent. God himself, not chance, nor mere change of circumstances. “I will sell.”
2. The instrument. The Church, the people themselves who were persecuted. What wisdom, power, and providence!
3. The measure. God repaid in the same proportion which they gave to his people. The guilt of these nations was great, beyond ordinary persecution, hence the retribution severe, and in kind upon their own heads. History confirms the fact that men get back what they give to others, (a) in quality, good or bad; (b) in quantity, so much, whatever the measure may be. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Retributive judgment. I. Often given by men. In society men reap as they sow. Kindness begets love, and cruelty begets hatred. The suspicious are suspected, the dishonest robbed, and the tyrants in turn led into captivity. “There is an important element,” says a writer, “of the judicial action of God in the retributive instincts of men. It is one of his ways of bringing the self-conceited and the censorious to his bar. He whose hand or tongue is against every man, need not wonder that Divine providence should so balance the scales of justice, that every man’s hand or tongue will be ultimately against him. He reaps what he sows.” II. Always administered by God. “The Lord hath spoken it.” All retribution comes from him, given by men or laws of nature. In the present it is true—“With the merciful, thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man, thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure, thou wilt show thyself pure; with the froward, thou wilt show thyself froward.” But the Bible predicts a retribution, most just, adequate, and terrible. The innocent will then be cleared, and the persecutor condemned.
Oh! blind to truth and God’s whole scheme below,
Who fancy bliss to vice, to virtue woe.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Joel 3:4-8. Retribution. Society is like the echoing hills. It gives back to the speaker his words, groan for groan, song for song. Wouldest thou have thy social scenes to resound with music? then speak ever in the melodious strains of truth and love. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” [Dr Thomas].
Joel 3:9.] A call to war (Ezekiel 38:7). Prepare] Lit. sanctify, for heathen war began with religious ceremonies (Jeremiah 6:4; 1 Samuel 7:8-9). Wake up] Arouse the heroes from sleep; forge tools of peaceful agriculture into weapons, and the weakest must be a hero.
Joel 3:11. Assemble] Hasten, quickly as possible meet together.
Joel 3:12. Wakened] Not now to war with God and his people, but to be judged (Isaiah 2:4; Psalms 110:6).
THE HOLY WAR.—Joel 3:9-12
God is now about to execute the sentence, and all nations are summoned together. At God’s command, yet of their own accord, they assemble in the valley of Jehoshaphat, to receive righteous retribution.
I. The solemn preparation. “Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles.” The combatants are mighty, and the results will be decisive. Every preparation is needful for this moral warfare.
1. This warfare is moral. “Prepare, i.e. sanctify, war.” It is a holy war, a crusade between good and evil. Not like those in which the pilgrims of Europe sought to rescue the holy sepulchre from the hands of infidel Turks. God’s people and God’s enemies are in battle-array. Moral powers and evil principles are engaged in mortal contest; the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light are striving for dominion. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
2. This warfare is close. “Let all the men of war draw near.” The armies are not spectators, nor do they stand afar off, daring and defying one another, like Israel and the Philistines did (1 Samuel 17:3), and the Turks and the Christians in the reign of Baldwin II., king of Jerusalem. They “come up” into close quarters, and fight for life. The enemy is bold, comes up into the very presence of God, and insults his people. We must not hesitate nor fear. “Into the ranks of the enemy,” cried a general, on the field of battle. Stand still, and you are overcome; fight, and you conquer. “Quit yourselves like men, and fight.”
3. This warfare is urgent. “Assemble yourselves and come.” The nations must hasten and come speedily. All “round about” must gather themselves together, and draw closer and closer in the contest. Christian life is urgent and important. The gospel demands immediate and earnest decision for God. There must be no delay. Judgment delays not. “Now is the accepted time.”
4. This warfare demands sacrifice. “Beat your ploughshares into swords,” &c. The tools of peaceful agriculture must be forged into weapons of war, the reverse of the time when instruments of war will be turned into implements of agriculture (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). All was unsettled; the means of subsistence and the care of health were to give way to war. In spiritual warfare, ease and pleasure, sin and the world, must be given up. All must be equipped. The aim is not temporary; it requires a weapon and strength to use it. “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” God has provided a complete armour in which he must fight, and by which alone he can triumph. The self-willed, who fight in their own way, and with their own weapons, will never conquer. “Put on, therefore, the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand.”
II. The mighty hosts. “Come, all ye heathen.” “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision.”
1. A universal gathering. “All nations.” Not simply all the heathens, but all nations of the world are concerned in this warfare, and will stand before the throne of God at last. All the generations of men, innumerable angels will appear before the Great Judge. Our Lord directs our attention to this very thought of Joel. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels, with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations.”
2. An imposing gathering. “Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near.” Heroes, men of valour and experience, will be there, and, like Homer’s gods, engaged in the conflict. The Great God who calls it, the solemn purpose for which it is called, and the method of dealing with it, will make that assembly most awful. The Judge will be clothed in majesty and terror. Angels and millions of the human race will stand before the great tribunal. The splendour of the great white throne will eclipse the sun.
No sun had e’er dawned on
So fearful a day,
No trumpet had marshalled
So dread an array.
3. An enthusiastic gathering. The whole nations are seized with warlike enthusiasm, and rise from slumber at the summons. Even “the weak” one must “say, I am strong.” None, however apparently unfit, was to be spared, and none left behind. Inspired with ardour, and drawn by numbers, they gather “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14; Revelation 20:8).
III. The great defeat. Ostensibly the nations assemble to destroy God’s people, but are overcome themselves. God sits upon the throne to judge “the heathen round about.” The conflict is instigated by the very parties whose doom is settled for ever.
1. Their resistance was in vain. Let the mighty men “wake up” to gather their resources and strengthen their ranks, all is futile. Men may resolve, and eagerly undertake opposition to God, but they will be disappointed. “The heathen rage,” but their rage displays their folly. God is omnipotent, and can overcome the mightiest hero. “The people imagine a vain thing,” for “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”
2. Their overthrow was great. There was not mere failure, but terrible disaster. God’s mighty ones came down, the powers of nature robed themselves in opposition, the sentence was passed, and execution followed. The purpose was defeated, and those who mustered for victory were overthrown with disgrace. Popery has hastened its downfall, by trying to break the power of Protestantism. The French were crushed in their efforts to destroy the political influence of Germany. Those who fight against God, despite imperial strength, will be broken in pieces. The ruin of sinners will be eternal if God shall smite them. “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.” (Isaiah 8:9.)
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Joel 3:9-12. Here, as in other respects, the predictions and promises are but partially fulfilled in the literal Israel. Their real accomplishment, their awful completion, will be when Zion’s King comes in glory and majesty, with a rod of iron, to dash in pieces the great antichristian confederacy of kings and peoples, and to take possession of his long-promised and dearly-bought inheritance. The signs of the times seem to indicate that the coming of the Lord draws nigh.
Joel 3:13.] The judgment compared to a double figure.
Joel 3:14.] A description of the streaming of nations into the valley of judgment. Multitudes, multitudes] Heb. immense multitudes; akin to our hum, noisy crowds (2 Kings 3:16).
Joel 3:15-17.] Dreadful commotions will happen before that day. Out of Zion Jehovah will destroy his enemies, protect his people, and purify his sanctuary.
THE TERRIBLE OVERTHROW.—Joel 3:13-16
The prophet earnestly besought God to call his “mighty ones” in the final scene. God responds, brings his messengers, and bids them put in the sickle, for all things, good and evil, are ready for judgment. Three things are to be noted in the description of this judgment.
I. It is a moral result. As ripe corn is ready for harvest, and full vats and winepresses for treading out, so men prepare for judgment.
1. Sin ripens men for destruction. It unfits the soul for the enjoyment of God, creates many horrors and foretastes of hell, and renders men ready for destruction.
2. Holiness ripens men for glory. It fits the soul for the society of the blessed, makes meet for the heavenly inheritance, and will be consummated in God’s presence. Thus judgment is only a harvest for which men are ripening in the present life. The wicked are filling up the measure of their iniquity (Genesis 15:16); the righteous are reserved for degrees of holiness which will perfect their character (Ephesians 4:7-13). Both will reap as they sow. “For whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
II. It is universal. The prophet seems amazed at the great throng assembling together. “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision.” It is one living, surging mass, an innumerable army, rushing blindly on to their own destruction. Or, to take the figure of the text, vast numbers are ripe for judgment. Angels and wicked spirits, good men and bad, will be present. None will be forgotten, none can escape. “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
III. It is awful. It is attended and followed by convulsions, in which the framework of society shall be shaken, and by symbolic signs in heaven and earth. Countless multitudes assemble in the valley, the heavens above darken with the frown, and the earth beneath trembles at the thunder of God. “The wickedness” of men “is great,” and ripe for harvest. The day of judgment, the day of decision and separation, has come. The grain must be gathered into the garner, and the wine into the vats; the worthless chaff consumed, and the wheat preserved. “Thrust in thy sickle and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (Revelation 14:15).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 3:13. May be taken literally as a harvest sermon, in proving
(1) the power,
(2) the providence, and
(3) the goodness of God. We think nothing of God’s mercy, because the effects of it are common. How faithful to the promise, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest,” &c. Every harvest should remind us of the truth of God. The harvest a type of final judgment, I. The ripening process The righteous and the wicked, growing together like tares and wheat for their proper end. II. The state of maturity.
1. Wilful ignorance, sin against conviction, and total insensibility, in some.
2. Growing likeness to Christ, and sincere desire to be with him, in others. III. The reaping. Not before the corn is ripe, is the sickle put in. There are stages of growth in sin and grace. In gradual law and due season judgment comes. Every act and every day promotes maturity. “The harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels.”
Consider the text as addressed—First, to ministers of the Word. We are allowed such an application. “The harvest truly is plenteous,” &c. Means of usefulness and opportunities are intended by harvest; by labourers, those whose office it is to make use of them. When the grain is ripe, if not gathered in, it is liable to perish. The season for saving it is short and uncertain. Men therefore forego ease, and endure fatigue, to secure it. What is the safety of grain to the salvation of souls! How many destroyed for lack of knowledge! We have religious freedom, means and opportunities for doing good. There are loud calls to preachers, parents, and Christians generally. But the time for work will not continue. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,” &c. Secondly, as addressed to public judgments. The people spoken of were ripe for ruin. So with the Canaanites, when their iniquity was full, and Joshua and his army were the reapers. So with the Jews, when Nebuchadnezzar was called to punish and the Romans to destroy them. So with many nations and communities since. We have reason for apprehension if we estimate our condition by our guilt, and our guilt by our privileges. God is never at a loss for instruments. Hearts, events, elements, are all his; but threatenings are mercifully conditional. “If that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil I thought to do them.” Thirdly, as addressed to the messengers of death—accidents, diseases, whatever can bring us to the grave. This regards individuals. We know our own destiny, whatever be that of nations. It is appointed unto each once to die. But when men are ripe it is not easy to decide. It is certain that sin ripens for hell, but the most grossly and openly vicious are not always the most guilty before God. It is wise to keep from every approximation to such a dreadful state. Surely when a man is insensible under the word; incorrigible under the rebukes of providence; when conscience ceases to reprove, and he can turn Divine things into ridicule, he must be “nigh unto cursing.” Holiness ripens for glory, but when matured and meet for it we cannot ascertain. We should think favourably of one dissatisfied with himself, and who esteemed the Lord Jesus; who was anxious to resemble him and trusted to him in all things. But God knows them that are his; chooses the proper time for removing them; the wheat for the barn, and the chaff for the burning. But the end of all things is at hand. Fourthly, God thus addresses his angels at the last day. We are sure of the event if ignorant of the period. Then cometh the end; his purposes will be accomplished, his promises and threatenings verified, and all will be ripe. Time will be no longer. The earth will be cleared of all the produce, and the fields in which it grew will be destroyed. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” [Jay].
Joel 3:14. The day of the Lord.
1. Near; comes suddenly, and may find many unprepared.
2. Decisive; cannot be repeated. Every one’s doom will be fixed, and the struggle between Satan and God end. “The valley of decision.”
Joel 3:16. The different aspects of the day to men. I. A terror to God’s enemies. “The Lord shall roar.” Now he speaks in mercy, then his terrible voice will be like a roaring lion (Isaiah 42:13-14; Jeremiah 25:30; Amos 1:2). II. A hope to God’s people. The material universe may be destroyed, but God will be the refuge of his people. “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalms 146:5; Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:7).
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Joel 3:12-14. Judgment day. Spencer says that two soldiers entered the valley of Jehoshaphat, when one of them said, “In this place shall be the general judgment, and I will now take my place where I shall then sit.” He then sat down upon a stone, and looked up to heaven as if to receive his sentence; when such dismay overwhelmed him, that he fell to the earth trembling, and ever after remembered the day of judgment with horror.
Joel 3:15-16. How sublime is this description! How should we adore the God before whom the unconscious earth and sky do reverence, and act as if they knew their Maker! Though the solid world is convulsed at God’s presence, saints do not fear. God is their refuge and strength (Psalms 46:1). The enemy will be destroyed, but the Church shall be saved. “She shall not be removed; God shall help her.”
The heavens and earth shall pass away,
And be to dissolution brought,
But Zion’s strength shall ne’er decay,
For her Redeemer changeth not.
Joel 3:15-17.] Dreadful commotions will happen before that day. Out of Zion Jehovah will destroy his enemies, protect his people, and purify his sanctuary.
THE UNPROFANED CITY.—Joel 3:17
The scenes which now follow lie beyond the bounds of time. To the trembling universe and the terrors of judgment there succeeds “a kingdom which cannot be moved.” God will dwell with his people. Zion will become a holy mount, a sanctuary no more profaned by alien and unrighteous feet. As a description of heaven, the text sets forth:—
I. Its distinguished glory. “I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion.”
1. It is the residence of God. God dwelt with man in Eden; but sin drove man from God’s presence. The tabernacle and the temple were the house of God; but the symbols of the one and the glory of the other have departed. These were only figures of the true residence. Heaven is “the palace of the great King,” the pavilion of his splendour, and the place where his honour dwelleth. The Elysian fields of Paganism, and the Paradise of Mohammedanism, were cold and revolting; but “glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.”
2. It is the permanent residence of God. “God dwelling in Zion.” “Permanency adds bliss to bliss,” says the poet. Fellowship with God on earth is short, and often interrupted. In heaven he will dwell for ever with his people. It is this which makes heaven itself. What would be all its glory and company without the presence of God? Could the angels and the harps be a substitute for him? O blissful thought, to be “for ever with the Lord,” in the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”
Come, join our wing, and we will guide the flight,
To mysteries of everlasting bliss,
The tree and fount of bliss, the eternal throne,
And presence-chamber of the King of kings.
II. Its happy citizens. “So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God.”
1. They are enriched. God is their portion. In heaven there will be access to the most holy, and residence with the most dignified society. Patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, will be there, but the presence of Christ will be “unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” Your God, as much your own as if possessed by none besides, filling all with gladness, and fully possessed and enjoyed by each. “Thou art my portion, O Lord.”
2. They are intelligent. God is known to be their God. He is not simply with them, but known, seen to be with them. It is a personal, experimental, pre-eminent, and perfect knowledge. We know but little here, and that superficially. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” In heaven the mental powers will be glorified, study will be a delight, and knowledge will be acquired in direct converse with the objects of knowledge. We shall know by experience, by sight, face to face, what we only believe now. “We see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know as also I am known.”
3. They are holy. The place is God’s “holy mount,” and none can enter it but those who are holy. Only those who awake in his likeness will behold his face in righteousness. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Heaven would be hell to the alienated heart, the unrenewed sinner; but “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To see God and be like him is the earnest desire of God’s people. This desire will be gratified in his “holy mount.” And if the glad smile of a friend begets joy in the heart, how will the light of God’s countenance quicken souls in heaven to a sense of his love! As the light of the sun transcribes its joyous image upon one who contemplates it, so the holiness which beams from the presence of God will purify those upon whom it shines. “One sight of his glorious majesty,” says one, “presently subdues and works the soul to a full subjection. One sight of his purity makes it pure. One sight of his loveliness turns it into love.” The saints thus become assimilated to God, whom they perpetually love and adore. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
III. Its eternal security. “And there shall no strangers pass through her any more.” Mount Zion, literally and spiritually, was a place of beauty and stability. “And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.”
1. No foe to fear. There will be no enemy to encounter. Death and hell will be overcome. Its possessors will never be subdued and taken captive. “The wicked shall no more pass through thee” (Nahum 1:15). “In that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.”
2. Nothing to defile. Profane nations and ungodly men can never enter. There is nothing in heavenly blessedness compared to its moral and holy character. There will be nothing to defile, or capable of being defiled. Not an act, word, or look will be contaminated by evil. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
3. Nothing to corrupt nor decay. The locust and caterpillar will not destroy. The worm will not devour the heart of ripening fruit. “The sun shall not smite by day, nor the moon by night.” On earth, everything is subject to vicissitude and decay; but the joys of heaven are abiding and secure. “Where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” This inheritance will never wear and waste under the gnawing influence of time, nor be destroyed by the constant friction of disturbing forces. It is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Many take the words as a description of Zion in the millennium. The metropolis of a converted world.
1. Its grandeur. God will dwell there.
2. Its sanctity. “Then shall Jerusalem be holy.”
3. Its security.
4. Its perpetuity. It will be the scene of delightful privileges and blessings. It will be invested with absolute and inviolable safety. It will possess renown and empire throughout the whole world.
This heavenly city, where Christ’s throne is, is called Zion, because there all the expectations which the O. T. saints connected with the earthly Zion will be fulfilled, and because, also, there everything which the Jews associated with the shadowy picture of the earthly Zion is for ever perfected in a glorious actualization. From thence God’s gracious kingdom, in all directions, is supplied, preserved, sanctified, and built up by blessings and gifts. For this reason that place is called, in the Epistle to the Galatians, Jerusalem, which is above and free, the mother of all his believing children, the true and eternal metropolis of Christendom [Harbaugh].
The words prove—
1. That interest in God is the ground of encouragement to the Church. 2. That interest in God is sweetened by God’s gracious presence with his people.
3. That interest in God is confirmed by experimental knowledge. “They shall know” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
4. That interest in God is evidenced by holy life. Sanctification is the fruit and end of God’s presence (Psalms 93:5).
Joel 3:18.] After judgment upon all nations, the land of Jehovah shall overflow with Divine blessings; but the seat of the world will become barren waste. Drop] Poetic for great fertility, happy times and plenty. Valley of Shittim] Even the arid desert shall be fertilized with blessings from Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:2).
Joel 3:19. Egypt and Edom] Both remarkable for enmity to Jews and emblems of enemies to God’s people. They have been desolate for centuries (Isaiah 19:1; Jeremiah 49:17; Obadiah 1:10).
Joel 3:20. Dwell] Abide; the true Church shall never be destroyed, but all false, persecuting people will be annihilated (Amos 9:15).
Joel 3:21. Cleanse] Wipe away blood-guiltiness, the climax of her sin, and for long not purged away, but visited with judgment. Amid extraordinary manifestations of wrath in the destruction of the wicked, Israel will be saved, and learn anew that Jehovah is their holy God and King.
THE NEW WORLD.—Joel 3:18-21
In these verses, says Lowth, “either the times of the Messiah are described, or we have a description of Jerusalem after its final restoration, when a golden age shall commence among its inhabitants, and when the knowledge of God and his Christ shall a second time be widely diffused from it.”
I. The scene of manifold blessings. These blessings are predicted under significant figures. “The mountains drop down new wine and the hills flow with milk” in rich abundance. Divine influences will attend the preaching of the word, converts shall rapidly increase in number and fruitfulness, the ordinances of religion shall water the land and make it exceedingly productive. “All the rivers of Judah” shall make glad this world of beauty, and streams of pure water shall quench the thirst and quicken the virtues of its people.
II. The abode of perfect happiness.
1. Freedom from foes. Inveterate enemies, as Egypt and Edom, will be destroyed. All opposition, violence, and cruelty to God’s people will be at an end. They shall be free from injury and perpetuated to the end of time.
2. Freedom from barrenness. “A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord” to fertilize the most unproductive regions. Temporal blessings shall be accompanied with spiritual blessings without stint or measure. The vivifying and refreshing waters of life shall flow from Christ to bless the capital and the world. “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be” (Zechariah 14:8).
III. The residence of righteous people. The inhabitants will be purged and cleansed from sin. Pollution in general shall be wiped away. Special sins, such as shedding innocent blood, shall be forgiven. Knowledge shall spread, and every one shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest. There will be new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. No strangers will defile nor disturb the peace and prosperity of these happy regions. God will dwell and make his Church a fit residence for his presence and praise. In his presence will be fulness of joy, and at his right hand pleasures for evermore. Seek to be numbered with the saints in glory. While on earth prepare for this glorious era. Help it on by daily effort and incessant prayer.
Teach us in watchfulness and prayer
To wait for the appointed hour;
And fit us by thy grace to share
The triumphs of thy conquering power.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Joel 3:18. The glorious fountain. I. Its source. “The house of the Lord.” All springs of grace, comfort, and glory are in God. These blessings take their rise in the sanctuary, like the waters of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:1), or those from under the threshold of the temple. The ordinances of God’s house are like fountains of joy and refreshment to thirsty souls. II. Its abundance. It is a fountain, not a mere spring. An abundance to fill all the rivers, lit. channels of Judah. Rivers of living water flow from the Spirit (John 7:38). There is no scarcity of gospel blessings to sinners and saints. III. Its fertility. It creates fertility in the king’s gardens (2 Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 39:4). The waters in Christ vivify and refresh the barren spots in the Church. Valleys of Shittim, arid deserts, shall be fruitful. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High” (Psalms 46:4).
Or if Zion’s hill
Delight thee more, or Siloa’s fount that flowed
Hard by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thine aid to my adventurous song.
1. The desolation. In contrast to the fruitfulness of the Church, the curse falls upon open enemies and treacherous friends. The low condition of Egypt and Edom for centuries proves the truth of this prediction (Isaiah 19:1; Jeremiah 49:17). So at the second coming of Christ all foes of Israel typified by these nations shall be destroyed.
2. The cause of the desolation. (a) Violence to God’s people (Ezekiel 25:12-13). (b) Shedding innocent blood. How highly does God esteem the death of his people, the blood of the faithful. The warning is repeated time after time to deter nations from the danger. In every place where his cause and crown have been disregarded ruin has followed. Sin blights nations, destroys their palaces, and desolates their land. “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.” “The three words of Joel, Egypt shall become desolation, are more comprehensive than any prophecy, except those by Ezekiel. They foretell that abiding condition, not only by force of the words, but by the contrast with an abiding condition of bliss. The words say, not only ‘it shall be desolated,’ as by a passing scourge sweeping over it, but it shall ‘itself pass over into that state;’ it shall become what it had not been; and this in contrast with the abiding condition of God’s people. The contrast is like that of the Psalmist (Psalms 107:33-35). Judah should overflow with blessing, and the streams of God’s grace should pass beyond its bounds, and carry fruitfulness to what now was dry and barren. But what should reject his grace should be itself rejected” [Pusey].
Joel 3:20. The perpetuity of the Church. Egypt and Edom, all enemies of God, will come to an end. But the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. No enemy can destroy, no ages consume her. She knows no injury, nor decay. The Church of God shall abide in him and by him on earth, and shall dwell with him for ever.
Joel 3:21. This verse has been interpreted in various ways. God would cleanse, or pronounce the blood which had been shed by the enemies to be innocent. This cleansing or sentence would be accomplished by punishing those who shed it. “I will exact full atonement of their enemies for all their oppressions and violence.” Or the meaning may be, “I will blot out their own transgressions, so far as these have not already been purged away.” In one case, the principle is that guilt cannot be cleansed without complete satisfaction. In the other, that security with God can only be enjoyed by removal of all transgression. Hence peace and security with God by atonement for guilt.
1. To the sinner. Guilt must be removed, justice satisfied, and everything taken away which renders him unfit for God’s presence. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.
2. To the Church. The security and happiness of the Church depend upon God’s presence. God will not dwell with a worldly people. “Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.” God will not dwell with evil, nor will he tolerate it in the believer, or in his house. Only when cleansed from blood are we fit for the dwelling of the Holy God and King.
The crown and seal. For the Lord dwelleth in Zion.
1. To sanctify.
2. To be praised.
3. To defend. “And the nam of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35)
The Church has all her foes defied,
And laughed to scorn their rage;
E’en thus for aye, she shall abide
Secure from age to age.
THE FINAL SCENE.—Joel 3:1-21
The whole of this chapter may be summed up into two parts, of unequal length and graphic description.
I. God’s judgment upon the nations. Joel 3:1-16.
1. The verdict pronounced in time and place with its nature and ground (Joel 3:1-8).
2. The sentence executed (Joel 3:9-16). The call to hear it (Joel 3:9-11); the throne from which it is given (Joel 3:11-12); and the dreadful overthrow which it specifies (Joel 3:13-16).
II. The final glory of God’s kingdom. Joel 3:17-21.
1. The presence of God in it (Joel 3:17).
2. Its abundant blessings (Joel 3:18).
3. Its perpetual blessedness (Joel 3:19-21). This is contrasted with the destruction of its enemies, and all that oppress its subjects. “In fine,” says a writer, “the closing chapter of Joel’s prophecy is a brief apocalypse, cast in the forms of Hebrew thought and story indeed, and only dimly bodied out, yet setting forth, in language which even the Jews could not and do not mistake, the terrors of the last judgment, the issue of the time long struggle of good with evil, and the golden age of peace and fruitful service, which is to succeed to the conflicts and storms of time.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Joel 3:19. A French traveller thus describes this desolation—“Instead of those ancient cultivated and fertile plains, one only finds, here and there, canals filled up, or cut in two, whose numerous ramifications, crossing each other in every direction, exhibit only some scarcely distinguishable traces of a system of irrigation: instead of those villages and populous cities, one sees only masses of bare and arid ruins, remnants of ancient habitations reduced to ashes; lastly, one finds only lagoons, miry and pestilential, or sterile sands, which extend themselves, and unceasingly invade a land, which the industry of man had gained from the desert and the sea.”
Joel 3:20-21. The human mind has ever conceived a reward for the righteous and punishment for the wicked in a future state. Heaven is all the more resplendent by contrast with the dark back-ground of another state.
If there’s a Power above us
(And that there is, all Nature cries aloud,
Through all her works), He must delight in virtue,
And they, whom he delights in, must be happy.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joel 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany