Having spoken of the awful plague and its terrible devastation, and having called the people into the place of humiliation; the prophet now rose to a higher level, and interpreted the plague as a foretaste of a deeper and more terrible judgment which threatened them. In doing this, he made use of the figure of the blowing of a trumpet. The first blast (verse 1) sounded a note of alarm as it announced the approach of “the day of Jehovah.” With the figure of the locusts still in mind, Joel described the swift, irresistible, and all-consuming character of the enemy-armies which were about to come as the scourge of God upon the people – being careful to make it clear that this whole movement would be under the command of Jehovah (verses 3-11).
It was the responsibility of the priests – the spiritual leaders – to alarm the people with the near approach of these Divine judgments. God has appointed faithful ministers to warn us of the fatal consequences of sin, and to reveal the wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. And if the alarm of temporal judgments is given to offending nations, how much more should individual sinners be warned to seek deliverance from the wrath to come! Our business upon earth, therefore, must particularly be to secure an interest in our Lord Jesus; and we should seek to be weaned from objects which will soon be torn from all who now make idols of them. Under the humbling experience of the Lord’s chastisements, it is very proper to exhibit outward expressions of sorrow and shame, fasting, weeping, and mourning; for tears for trouble ought to be turned into tears for the sin that caused it (verses 12-13). But the tearing of one’s garments is in vain unless the heart is also broken by self-abhorrence and sorrow for sin. There is no question that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive them; but whether or not He will remove the affliction is not promised, and yet the possibility of it should encourage us to repent (verse 14).
Let us go back and read verse 2 with an eye to the Gospel of Christ. How graciously does it describe the first dawnings of the day of grace upon every poor sinner’s soul! Has the Dayspring from on high visited us? Then surely we do not need to describe the darkness and gloominess which our soul found itself in, when thick darkness and gloominess covered our spiritual vision. But Jesus Himself is described as the light of the morning when the sun rises, and as a morning without clouds! (2 Sam. 23:4) That is what He truly is to every precious blood-bought son and daughter of His – when His Almighty arm brings their soul out of the darkness and shadow of death, and away from the terrors of an alarmed conscience, by beholding the fullness and suitability of Jesus for salvation!
The second blast of the trumpet (verses 15-27) called for an assembly of the people in the attitude of repentance. The character of the assembly was to be that of a fast; and all the people were to be gathered together, from the oldest to the youngest – the elders, the children, and even the little babies! Let us observe the most beautiful and finished representation that is here given of a praying assembly; and let us see the blessings that may be expected to follow, where the Lord gives grace to His people to seek His favor! Being assembled, the people were to cry for mercy – with the ultimate reason being so that the heathen nations would not mock the name of the Lord and say, “Where is their God?” To such an attitude, Jehovah would respond in grace and deal mercifully with His people. This is always the case; it has been observed repeatedly throughout church history. When the Lord is preparing to come forth and bless His people, He first sets them a-praying. And let us never forget that the cause of our God’s showing favor and mercy to His people is all because of His love to them in Christ! It is through Him alone that the salvation of Zion is brought about.
Verse 28 begins the second main portion of the Book of Joel. Having spoken of the imminent judgment, and having called the people to repentance, and having declared the merciful attitude of Jehovah towards such repentance; the prophet had come to the end of his message, as far as it had to do with things that were then present. Now he moved on to a higher plane, and there was granted to him a vision of the final Day of the Lord – of which, the terrible judgments that were happening in his own day were only a foreshadow and forecast. But as Joel looked towards this future Day of Jehovah, he saw an intervening period of an entirely different character! The prophet declared that its initiation would result from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. This time period began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), shortly after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension; and it is continuing in the Church of Christ, even now. From the terrors of the Great Day of Judgment, all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus during this Gospel-age shall be delivered!
It is impossible to err in the explanation of these verses, or to make a mistake in the application of them. The Holy Spirit would not leave this passage open to any human commentary; and therefore, He commissioned the Apostle Peter to take it up and make it the text of his sermon, in the midst of Jerusalem’s Temple, on the day of Pentecost. In that sermon, he directly refers to what Joel said here concerning that glorious event. And the extensiveness of the blessing is “upon all flesh” – that is, it is no longer confined to the Jews alone; but now it also extends to people everywhere, all over the face of the earth.
Thank You, Lord, that Your love brings us to repentance; and that when we repent and turn from our sins, we find a loving welcome in Your heart and home! Amen.
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