What does it say?

We know nothing about the prophet Joel except his name and that of his father. The date in which he lived and recorded this book of prophecy is also uncertain. The inclusion of Joel at this point in our chronological reading is the interpretation of those who make the reading schedule. Some see him as writing before the exile and others afterward. Whatever is true of Joel’s background and date, we do know that he is very familiar with the theme of the “day of the Lord” that also appears in Isaiah, Amos and Ezekiel.

His message is timeless. Joel writes of a coming day in which God will judge his people. The opening chapter likens this to a devastating plague of locust and calls the nation to prayer.

Joel 2 makes it clear that the locust invasion is merely a foreshadowing of an invading enemy that will be God’s instrument of judgment on the nation if there is no repentance. As terrible as the impending judgment may be, the second chapter calls for both personal and public fasting, prayer and repentance. Forgiveness and restoration are possible. Chapter 3 looks to that day when God will bring judgment not only on his people Israel but on the surrounding nations as well.  

What does it mean?

There are timeless elements of this book such as the fact that we are always held accountable for sin and that even then God compassionately extends the hope of forgiveness and restoration. Parts of this prophecy can be pegged to historical events, but much of it clearly awaits fulfillment in a time yet future.

Another feature is Joel’s prediction that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit upon all, not just upon prophets and priests 2:28-32). This section of Joel is cited by Peter in his message on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 in the attempt to explain what the people saw and experienced that day.

Seeing that God repeatedly speaks through his prophets to announce coming judgment on sin, we should rejoice in the finished work of Jesus Christ that took our judgment himself in substitution for us. Just the prophets announced judgment for sin to come, our mission is to announce that the penalty for sin has been paid once-for-all by Jesus Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.

How will I respond?

Am I faithful to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ? Who in my circle of friends, family and acquaintances faces judgment because they have not embraced the message of Christ? With whom can I share this message today or this week?