A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith  

From Facts to Acts, From Scene to Scenario

with Joel




First consider in Ch. 1, imagery based on locust fact

a) of divinely directed devastation, including the agents aggregated ... locusts.

b) eloquence in the application to the heart (v. 12b) ... not only crops, but joy has withered.

c) the surrounding of the issue with spiritual significance (1:14 - elders are gathered).

d) the day of the Lord is coming - v. 15; but He may delay it or hide some in it or from it (cf. Zephaniah 2:13, Ezekiel 20:14,22, Joel 2:14)... "who knows if He will turn and relent and leave a blessing ?" ).

e) the locusts are so innumerable and avaricious that for all the resutls, their equipment is effectually like that of lions (Joel 1:6). You even see a series of different functions or types amid locusts, for a total sequential devastation to the point of ruin. What the one type misses, occupies the next. In Joel 2:4, like swift steeds, they run.

Then, in passing ponder


Amid Joel's vast horror and overwhelming envisaged plague, let us see from one of his words used, a matter relating to the MOST overwhelming thing ever done by God: self-institution on earth as a man, leading to eternal life for many, and all who received Him!

Thus, before proceeding, let us note in Joel 1:8, the "virgin" lamenting for her "husband". It is this usage of the term often used for "virgin" that is featured by Professor E. J. Young in his "Studies in Isaiah." Since as in Joel 1, this term also CAN be used of a married woman, for this possibility to be removed in the highly significant virgin prophecy in Isaiah 7, the different term actually used MEANS a young girl, as in English is the term 'damsel' - without overtones, like a young plant. Any evil significance has to be ADDED by the imagination or the context, if you want that sort of thing, and it is not ruled out, as in the Isaiah 7 case. Translated "virgin",  in clear Greek citation from Isaiah 7, in Matthew 1, for this term not only is there no contextual slide towards some evil additive (like arsenic in the salt shaker), but there is a height of wonder, to be expressed through this damsel, the human vehicle for for the very presencing of the God of glory, God with us. Neither is she to be adorned nor defamed.

Moreover, so far from being the offspring of a slut, the Messiah is from the one chosen by God for the manifestation of what man should be, even to the point of using His OWN NATURE translated by His eternal word, into flesh format. No wonder then that the event pronounced in Isaiah 7 is in the realm of what is past all normal human expectation. It is the Messiah Himself who is thus, coming as man indeed without worldly help of any kind (Hebrew 2). Indeed, this coming is an answer to King Ahaz, artful and specious, since he did not dare to ask God what was even divinely offered (rather like those who reject the Gospel, without actually openly severing from the Church). What was the offer first made to King Ahaz ? It was ANYTHING (to meet his national predicament), ask it above into the heights, or low into the depths, but ASK! This was the divine challenge.

Here then is something from the heights above natural procedure, and correlative to the depths of need. Ahaz having failed for his own generation to take the offer, it now became the generic, the absolute, the sine qua non, the ultimate, the everlasting solution: and it is "God with us", via a virgin, thus a human installation as in Genesis 3:15, the Lord of glory, only sure defeat of evil.



Returning to the predicament shown in Joel's inspired word, we find a coming clash. Called the day of the Lord, it holds a coming clash of immense magnitude (2:2).

a) The description deals with the omnivorous, unbreachable, unreachable mass invasion of the insect pests; but Joel 2:11 suggests this is an entomological pest to characterise the military might of man, ravaging recklessly, but ordered in ranks and to their purpose! We see the scene move to the total confrontation with man, to the astronomical, to the Lord giving the word to His army (as in Isaiah 66, Deuteronomy 32), to His agents, with His own fury, declaring this: "His camp is very great, for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible. Who can endure it!" So we move from the Lord to those directly in line of His wrath, amid the writhing heavens.

Priests come into it: "Spare your people!" they are to say. It is like Revelation as in Ch. 6, for example, where you can find a foothill of judgment suddenly left behind, as you come in a moment, to the finale, the mountain of judgment itself to end all preparation! It is indeed entirely possible that the locusts in their all but impersonal and all but invulnerable rush forward, are intended to convey some concept of the miniaturised man-made plagues, the insurgent engineering devices to come to our world,  that the pests simply symbolise. In no way, does this remove the entomological fact of the plague on Israel; but it brings to the point, its purpose as we continue review of this book of prophecy. Here Joel was used to deploy this natural disaster to point to far greater dangers, which shared with this, the horror of the insuperable, innumerable blastings, as eruptive as sin, and as consuming, but faster.

There is from the contemporary situation of Joel, the air of ultimate events, "the day of the Lord" tending to suggest this - as in Isaiah 11:10-11, 12:1 in context, Amos 9:11, 518-20, Joel 1:14-2:2). So there is a sense of ultimacy at last, with the words to come to pass, at first as at last, from Alpha and Omega: words that work deeds, which so far from being separable from the Maker, in fact mould events, whether for pressure (as in Jeremiah 37:10), or words of repentance (Joel 2:12ff.) for mercy (as in Jonah 4).

Words from the Lord are to launch the day of the Lord, and words from men are asked for so that there be deliverance from it - for some. Words and deeds mix intimately.



But is there any sign of the mercy amid these desolatory dénouements ? Gloriously hidden, like tiny drawers in former Chinese puzzle boxes, set away, but able to be found, is the word to begin this line to the end. It is to be found in 2:23. As Keil points pit in the Old Testament Commentary of Keil and Delitzsch, the word here translated 'former rain' is one which has two possible meanings, one this, and the other, teacher.

In the Bible, never, we learn, is this term used with the meaning of 'early rain', with the article 'the' as translated into English, conjoined. It has it here! With this article, the meaning 'teacher' is available. Moreover, it seems that the only reason discernible why the reference to early rain, when the same Hebrew word is again used (th time without the article), and not the normal term for it, is that it is a pun on the term, to alert to the fact that the Messiah is LIKE the drought-breaking, or soil-blessing rain (cf. Psalm 73). In the second use, when the two types of rain are simply contrasted, there is no article.

Further, this is used in a series where repentance and seeking to find the ultimate presence of the merciful God is in view: hence it is "the teacher for or in accord with righteousness" that is noted. Here is the criterion faithfully promised and now faithfully given; and here is the righteousness as it SHOULD be understood from the teacher for it! (as in Matthew 23:8-10) for there IS something to teach to correct mischievous misconceptions such as those for which the Pharisees became so infamous (cf. Romans 10, Luke 18:10ff.). THIS is the crux of the message of restoration.

It is to the glory of God to hide a thing; but the work of kings to find it out (Proverbs 25:2). It is not so very hard if like Keil, you have the shades of Hebrew at your finger tips, and praise God that such great scholars can bring us these little things, which hide great things.

The teacher ? It is He who is given. It is in "righteousness"; He is the teacher for righteousness. He is surrounded by it. He comes faithfully as promised, and He comes to teach righteousness in a form which it was His mission to show, more than a lecture with his testimony from science: the Saviour with His testimony of vicarious sin-cancellation through bearing justice Himself. HERE is the teacher for righteousness, and no other on earth is THAT teacher, the criterion, like former rain. The idea of rain being faithfully sent does not connect since it is not rain but teacher who is sent, always the criterion, when a basis for blessing is in view; and that would vitiate the testimony of the actual text. So it is the Messiah who is to come, the Teacher for Righteousness as IN faithfulness coming: it is He who will adorn with grace, GIVING righteousness, not conspiring with the fatal concept of manufacturing one's own to satisfy God (as Paul discloses the matter in Romans 10:1ff.). His teaching will be epochal in grace, since it is He who not only mouths it, but through His own murder, enables its simple and free reception (Romans 5:15-17, 3:23-27).

He is to be followed by the latter rains. Of what in terms of the Messiah, centre of the imagery, do these consist ? That comes next in Joel 2:28, in that famous passage cited by Peter in Acts. Here, then,  we come to what FOLLOWS the advent of the Messiah (as in Joel 2:23 in the midst of declarations of divine mercy for the nation), namely the outpouring of the Spirit, just as in Isaiah 32:1-4 and 15ff.. The word comes and the work follows, the virgin born Son, and the celestially sent Spirit! (as in John 14:15-17, 16:7). It is this which follows the Messiah, the Teacher who will show that for righteousness you come to Him and receive HIS grant of it, alone capable of satisfying the Lord, for whom nothing without the crucial mercy can stand (Micah 7:18ff., Psalm 32), so that all the symbolic sacrifices as in Leviticus were multiplied! It is to the Lord that they must return (Joel 12). As in Nahum 1:1-3,15, with Isaiah 52:7ff., it is of Him that the feet are made beautiful by conveying the tidings about Him. As ub Nahum, He is never far from proceedings at the central command post for history, ever since Genesis 3:15. Testimony of the Messiah can thus come into the Bible like the sudden issuance of a mountain stream from behind a craggy hilltop.

As to the next step, the outpouring of the Spirit, which follows in Joel 2, there is an explicit word from Jesus Christ. It is expedient for you that I go, Christ Jesus declared, for if I do not go, the Spirit will not come. Thus His location in heaven til His personal return (John 14:1ff, Acts 1:7, 3:19ff.) was made manifest and effulgent till His return, and but His work was continued in the Spirit according to His word (John 17),  in any anywhere who were redeemed in faith in Him alone, sin-bearer, bodily raised and to come, Saviour without help from flesh, graciously giving all, even eternal life (Romans 6:23, John 5:24).. As in the Joel sequence, so was it in history, a criterion of prophecy, as also seen in Isaiah 32:1-17.

Praise God that He came, went and is to return; and let us meanwhile nestle in His abiding presence, as birds in a nest, mariners on a rock, fearless because He only is to be feared, jubilant now in Joel, the further expressions of whose wonder of miniaturisation from the Lord, is reserved till next Sunday. Then more from his little book of prophecy invites the mind, stirs the heart and blesses the spirit of the Christian, will be expected, and you are invited to hear the word of God..