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THE TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
This Chapter has now been replaced (2009)
with a revised and extended version:
TRINITY Chapter 11.
Joel deals with a tough
time. It is like the present in this, that the stabilities of righteousness are
departing, the country was asking for doom, and though God waited a long time with
some of the most tender appeals, at times leading to a
truculence which would awaken almost the dead, then with prodigious offers of
mercy: it came. Yes the end came. It came first for
Meanwhile the perfectly extraordinary plague of locusts had been a disaster in advance, a parable in insects, an enactment in entomology, enough to alert the most "canny" casuists as they led their wilful ways in hoped for oblivion from any Lord or God. Joel showed the relentless foraging of these all-devouring insects in terms of a blight deserved, a ground of reminder to seek the Lord, "Call a sacred assembly, gather the elders" - Joel 1:14.
proceeds to the spiritual end of things - a day of judgment, darkness and
gloominess. Flickering like flames here and there, from the temporal to the
spiritual, from the present to the future, from the fact that this is already a
judgment in insects to the thrust of divine judgment itself undeterrable
and coming without stopping when the time is ripe, to the coming consummation
of this terminus to mercy on the endlessly sinning souls of men who will not
respond, the prophet appeals and warns.
In 2:10-11 we thus move from the present cloud as it were over the sun to the shaking of the very heavens (Hebrews 12:25-28, Haggai 2:5-7, Joel 3:16, Psalm 102:16), when He who executes His word shall act.
"The LORD gives voice before His army,
For 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?" - cf. Malachi 3:2, 4:1-3*1.
"Rend," He says, "your heart and not
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger,
and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
Who knows if He will turn and relent..."
Call a sacred assembly,
Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Gather the children and nursing babes...
Let the priests, who minister to the LORD,
Weep between the
porch and the altar;
Let them say, "Spare your people O LORD..."
in this temporary acuteness there is help to be found... -20.
On the other hand, the final judgments are presaged, prescribed, indicated for their time with this as a trailer episode. The scope goes from the temporary to the final, from storm-clouds of devouring locusts, to energetic soldiery at the end, and indeed, to the actions of the Lord proceeding at that time, leading at length to that convulsion of the whole universe predicted in Isaiah 24, and its eventual removal dramatically, as seen in Isaiah 51:6 II Peter 3:9ff.. (See Joel 2:10-11, 3:2,11-17, cf. Habakkuk 3:3-16 and p. 164 supra.)
THIS is that day of the Lord. As Keil puts it in his Old Testament Commentary,
THE day of
the Lord is often indicated, but only once will it reach as it were, terminal
Meanwhile, there is a need. It is of faithfulness, loyalty, stability, earnestness, sincerity.
In Joel we read of the former and the latter rain being sent, and the Teacher of Righteousness who beyond all the words of Joel, will Himself produce that final warning, ultimate rescue system, total salvation which is so needed. As Keil translates this verse:
The temporary judgment is removed, the final court of appeal is preceded by the arrival of the Judge Himself, strangely however robed in teaching toga, to deliver His people before the end so strongly indicated in the preceding vastness of THE DAY OF THE LORD, in its finality. In the delivered people envisaged, room to teach will replace ways of war at last, as in the stable righteousness to come, predicted of the Messiah in Psalm 72. So the way opens.
There is of course a play on words. The term for the rain and for teacher are such that the translation can look at these as options. However, the rain for righteousness would be a strange procedure when the people had forfeited all but the ground for judgment. A rain in mercy, surely, would seem apt and even appropriate; but a rain in righteousness to come when the DESERTS were deserts, this will not do.
Hence the TEACHER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, the call, the need, the base for reform and redemption, this is the way. As Keil says, most of the rabbis and early commentators have followed the Chaldee and Vulgate, and taken 'moreh' (the word in view) in the sense of "teacher". He notes that later people often did not, but proceeds "although moreh is unquestionably used in the last clause of this verse in the sense of early rain; in every other instance this is called yoreh (Deut.xi.14; Jer.v.24)." In fact, we may add, in this very verse, 'moreh', THE TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS APPEARS with the definite article, while the use for rain, later in this same verse, lacks it. As we shall see, this omission is what is found for the rain usage.
Thus, right here, both the early rain and the latter rain, one of them the SAME word, appear according to idiom, WITHOUT the article, as normal. The earlier use, appears by CONTRAST, with it. That is precisely the sort of warning for a pun, accompanied by the usage of no article for this rain...
Keil, then, notes that it thus seems most reasonable to take it that the word moreh in the last clause was selected there, precisely to echo the previous occurrence in this sentence of moreh meaning teacher. In other words, it would be a strange rarity to introduce this term without ground for the rain; but not at all strange if its use were conditioned on an intentional play on words, just as the article similarly would be strange. TEACHER first, and THEN RAIN. This is exactly what many teachers do both to alert their (sleepy?) students and to help them remember. To the student mind, this can act rather like a pneumatic drill, and quite often this may be what is needed!
In particular, Keil stresses that the definite article "the" is placed before the term translated as "teacher" whereas this is never found for the 'rain' meaning, and as he indicates, "no reason can be discovered why moreh should be defined by the article here if it signified early rain." It is however "decisively confirmed" by the phrase 'for righteousness' which follows the term rendered 'teacher '. This, he states, is "quite inapplicable to early rain," since it cannot mean either 'in just measure' or 'at the proper time', or 'in becoming manner', as 'righteousness', in the term here chosen, is never scripturally used in the physical sense. To 'the teacher' however it is eminently applicable.
But why would a pun be used at such a point ? Surely it would be to link the teacher and the rain, just as is done in Psalm 72, where of the Messiah, the son of David to come, it is said:
bring justice to the poor of the people:
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In His days
the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more."
(Cf. Item 16, esp. pp. 92ff. above.)
The pun then would be perspicuous, granted it is indicated: it applies, is apt, follows an earlier usage concerning the Messiah in His righteousness in practical things.
Further, our verse in Joel is in a vein of exultancy (Joel -23):
"Fear not, O land:
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvellous things!...
Be glad then,
you children of
And rejoice in the Lord your God:
For He has given you the teacher of righteousness,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you,
The former rain and the latter rain ..."
It then proceeds, exactly as in Psalm 72 to specify the emblems of flourishing.
The so-called prophetic perfect is in use: the Lord "HAS DONE" marvellous things, while this is in fact to come, being seen in His mindful eye as present, and placed before the prophet thus graphically, vividly, as if here now.
The 'marvellous things' remind one of Isaiah 29:14 (cf. SMR p. 788), which Paul refers to the coming of the Gospel: it is a passage showing the work the Lord will do to open the blind eyes. It is quite parallel to the preceding passage in 28:14-16, which ends with the laying of
"a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation",
"whoever believes will not act hastily."
Indeed, in that context, Isaiah proceeds (29:17ff.) from the foundation stone, to the detailing of the specific functions in healing body and spirit, to be performed by the Messiah:
day the deaf shall hear the words of the book,
And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.
The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord,
And the poor among men shall rejoice
In the Holy One of
This then is the phase of marvellous work, and it corresponds like Psalm 72, precisely with our present passage in its similar exultancy. Just as Isaiah 28 brings in the Messiah in 28:16, the sure foundation, and declares an "awesome work" in 28:21, expanded to "a marvellous work and a wonder" so that the wise lose their knowledgeable pretensions in the face of it, in Isaiah 29:14, and hypocrisy is exposed (as in Matthew 23!), for those who draw near with their lips, their hearts yet obdurate: so here. The Messiah is first seen, in this case the teacher of righteousness, and this is MARVELLOUS just as His name is "wonderful" in Isaiah 9:6, and great things are done (as in Isaiah 29:18 cf. Ch. 35), seen in Joel 2:25-26, and the Spirit is poured out of from on high: Joel Jole 2:28 cf. Isaiah 29:19, 32:15. Thus there is perfect and indeed intimate parallelism of presentation of Isaiah and Joel, in word, phrase and substance.
Further, the intense emphasis on the wonder of things in the sequence is more than merely verbal (signal as this is): it shouts from both contexts (as in Joel 2:21,28ff.) and its vibrant echoes bore into the heart, as one reads the various throbbing and impactive attestations of the world-shattering, spirit exposing, evil rebuking freedom and power with which the Lord in astonishing fashion, is to act (as was the case in those predictive days, leading up, in due course, to the coming of the Messiah). Everything is a turning upside of established sin patterns, a subduing of specialised follies with a liberality of love and splendour of mercy, that moves from Isaiah's child who is to be called wonderful (Isaiah 9) to Joel's "wonders in the heavens and in the earth" and "marvellous things" that surround the events of such substantial ultimacy. Paul captures and expounds further, from the Lord, in I Corinthians 1.
This rendering in Joel, "teacher of righteousness", moreover prevents a four-fold reference to rain, which otherwise occurs in Joel . It likewise means that "the teacher of righteousness" with the idiom appropriate is used, followed by the generic reference to rain, and then the division of rains into former and latter.
It balances and all is thus explained, but not otherwise.
The pun, let us stress, is moreover explained; for it is a large part of the script that the bounty is mercy, the Messiah is the ground and the result is in blessing. The link is didactic, educational, inspiring, and ... needful. It is not some flick of feeling, but a well-grounded mercy which proceeds at enormous cost, that of the Messiah, as elsewhere so often shown; and here, as to emphasis, with wonderful input of real righteousness, the enduring and close relation of exuberant joy in the mercies of God.
Let us however return to Keil's own point to the effect that there was no way that this rain would be a rain of righteousness, if that rendering were given. It would not fit; indeed its non-fit would be quite as conspicuous as the fit when it is rendered teacher of righteousness. "THE RAIN FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS" ... that is what it would be.
However, the people were seeking compassion not righteousness, and to render the rain as for righteousness when drought would be the proper assessment, would invade mercy and cloud the whole doctrine of scripture. It is not in STABILITY and FAITHFULNESS despite sin that the rain comes; it is in mercy to cover sin that it is sent. Righteousness is NOT the point. It is contrary to it, and evacuates it, for rain. For the TEACHER however it is His intrinsic nature, and their absolute need. Thus negatively and positively, idiomatically and contextually, grammatically and intensively in the sentence itself, we find one thing.
We conclude on these many grounds, then, that it is a ... TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE STRONG TRADITION OF RABBIS HELD, and not doubtless without reason; and as the Chaldee and Vulgate present. A... ? No, "THE" TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The results will be proportionate!
What then do we learn from this Messianic marvel: the arrival of this teacher?
That this is part of the apparatus of mercy, and a large part. We have moved from the preliminary judgment to the final one in Joel 2, and we move similarly to the first advent of the Messiah in 2:23 to the second one in Joel 3, making yet one more parallel (3:14ff.). And this Messiah, HOW spectacularly HE teaches, yet not sensationalistically at all: Isaiah 11:2-4, 32:1-3. Indeed, it will be the sort of speech with strength and savour, unique and splendid, which though filled with mercy, holds scent of judgment to come (Isaiah 11:4, cf. John 7:46ff., Matthew 23, Luke 19:41ff.) And it holds rest, a resting place indeed, on which souls may rest from the tempest (Isaiah , 4:1-6, 32:1-4), the rest which comes from imputed righteousness (Psalm 32:1-4), which comes from the purchase of all time (Isaiah 53:4-11).
We now proceed to what
follows in the text. Now it comes with the force of relish. The Messiah having
come, there is naturally a profoundly powerful consequence, and this theme, the
vital force of the New Covenant proceeds just as it does so often in the Old
Testament (cf. Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 11, Isaiah 54-55). The Messiah first, and
then the fruits that extend like showers that water the earth. What then do we
PREVIEW OF PENTECOST AND
PREPARATION FOR JUDGMENT
"Afterward" (Joel 2:28-32), there is what came to be quoted at Pentecost, that description of dream and vision, power and wonder, calling upon the name of the Lord and the rapid approach of the final crisis and juncture with judgment itself. There is here what we realise to be the whole reign of the church age in the New Testament format following the incarnation.
The meaning is clear. After all this, first the removal of temporary judgment and then the coming and work of the Lord as Christ, the Messiah, the crucified, mourned for in due time as shown in Zechariah 12:10, there is to be an epochal wonder leading on to the end of the entire Age. In this is to be, then, the outpouring of the Spirit of which Joel speaks in terms of such scale, in . They are epochal in three dimensions: 1) the power 2) the revelation and 3) the judgment looking down at the end, coming precipately as the Age comes to its closure, without further ado. It is post-Messianic, pre-judgment. Let us look further at this Age.
The Lord does indeed send His rain on the just and on the unjust, but on the unjust, it is IN MERCY. Thus the chapter 3 goes on to it tempestuous ending, reminiscent greatly of Habakkuk 3. War is dramatically indicated (-11) in an irony not without pity, as the foolish fastheads amongst men do their utmost to be their own salvation, so slaughtering inordinately in their falsity, and flashly bungling.
The Lord, we learn , will "utter His voice from
More than locusts will come in the trepidatious onslaught, but as to the drama of the former things, leading to the ecclesiastical hyperactivity in the slaughter of the Lord - in human form as Jesus Christ, as it were by mistake.... along with the sacrifices intended to show worship! - it will be reaped in an ultimate which is worthy of its preliminaries. There have been so many preliminaries; and there will be so many consequences. The case is drastic. The means are no less, but tempered with that patience which is not indulgence, but grace. There is a set of believers (Isaiah 53:1), and there are kept.
says the Lord in Joel 2:27. Thus is the gift of the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 28:16). He who trusts in Him shall NOT be ashamed.
and we come
to the Book of Acts.
THE CHRONOLOGICAL HAPPINESS
This now produces a lively and marvellously straightforward scenario.
1) The temporary judgment on Israel comes complete with dashing locusts, set in so heightened a form as to constitute an allegory (Joel 2:1-9); and
2) this early judgment rises in a crescendo of vision to the ultimate judgment also spoken of in Isaiah 24, where the earth and heavens are indeed shaken (Joel -11) cf. Hebrews , and Haggai 2:6), and
3) This is followed by a call to repentance, followed by the exposure of the Messiah as Teacher for Righteousness - His is the role on behalf of righteousness, in righteousness and for it, "I am the Truth", as He said, and "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth ..." (Joel 2:12-23, John 8:40)
His role is emphasised in its mercy by the pun-mode impact in the Hebrew language here (Joel 2:23), of relating Him, as differently He is related in Psalm 72, to showers of mercy, of rain, heightening content, productivity and gentle.
4) This exposure of the face of grace in the Messiah is aptly followed by the exultant glorying in the splendid acts of the Lord, "For the Lord has done marvellous things" (Joel 2:26), in entire accord with the similar procedure in Isaiah, when he is revealing the similar acts of mercy an interposition, of the Messiah.He will rainHis resplendent mercies (Psalm 72:6, Hosea 6:1-4),
So do they wait for Him (Proverbs ), and find Him, for now He has shown Himself in heightened form, once for all time. THEN COME THE SHOWERS TO START AND TO BRING THE SPIRITUAL CROPS TO FRUITION (Joel ), and then indeed, God will
This poignant and deep challenge to the heart shows, following the great call to repentance and the manifestation of the Messiah (v.23), the Lord's willingness set aside sin as far as the East is from the West, so that
to use the New Covenant terminology (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Hebrews 8)... For now the "new man" is "put on", even the one who "after God is created in righteousness and true holiness", and the "old man" is "put off", for they are 'renewed in the spirit of your mind' (Ephesians -24).
5) Now those many Jews, such as the apostles - and indeed others "not of this fold" (John 10) - who are called by the Messiah, and who come, receive the summit blessing, as the vision moves through the open window of what then is actually present, to the consequences in the Messiah (cf. Colossians 1:27), whose people shall NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME (Joel 2:27).
I am the Lord your God, and there is no other,
My people shall never be put to shame" - Joel .
Thus Joel leads into the wonders of widespread revelation shown in Joel 2:28ff.. Now AFTER the Teacher of Righteousness, the Messiah of such blessing as shown in other scriptures in the figure of rain, now there is to come something also quite epochal. It is the aftermath of the Messianic mission.
Precisely as, in Isaiah 28:16, the Messiah as foundation is first revealed, with attendant blessings, in the ultimate sense, and then vast consequences accrue. So NOW the believing Jews and their brethren (cf. Isaiah 32:1-4, 33:17, 42, 49, 50-57, 60-61, 66) are involved in the most prodigious restoration to the heavenly Jerusalem, through the Gospel, and are a tide of salty water to the shores of the land, with many fish.
Now there will be the monumental revelation of the Lord.
Here, heaven's heart has already opened () and shown its love in the massacred Messiah, arisen and triumphant. Now we find the heart of believers is set to receive of that glory by understanding within, as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" makes His wonderful presence felt (Joel 2:28-32). The revelation and the foundation, with the inspiration which provided the stable Scriptures (Isaiah 59:21, 53-55, 34, II Timothy , I Cor. 2:9-13, Psalm 12,111), meet in beautiful harmony in the lives given to the Lord, Jew or Gentile in this period.
6) Thus the story sweeps on to the fuller consequences of the Messiah (Joel 2:28ff.). There is the outpouring of the Spirit, there are the prophetic extensions on His now solid base (Isaiah 28:16, 32:15-17), in that new situation, a freedom mounting surely, with the solidity and stability of the base ( cf. I Cor. -11). Now the call is to all, there is no limit:
This Gospel call proceeds on the coming of the Messiah, the teacher of righteousness who NOT ONLY offered Himself as a sacrifice, but presented Himself as THE teacher (Matthew 23:8-10), to which in His place, none could be added! It was thus that He declared in the Great Commission before His departure to His Father from whom He came,
(from Matthew 28:18-20, caps. added, to indicate the point in view). To Him, so incarnated, so come, so crucified, so raised, so ascended, and with such commands about His teaching which presents Him in the true light which came into the world, there is now this open door of ready access to all, for He has paid for the ease of the opening, and made Himself plain to all, that none need be hindered and all may be free.
7) That in turn surges on to the ultimate judgment already touched in the preliminary soaring from the pad of earlier trouble, a warning of the nature of the end to be for the whole earth. Here the meteorological and indeed astronomical happenings are exposed in more detail. So great will this convulsion be, that the (then) apt call comes to "Beat your plowshares into swords" comes! (Joel 3:10).
8) The multitudes in the
valley of decision (Joel 3:14) are not, contrary to what Billy Graham has
indicated, those involved in "making decisions for Christ" in such contrariety
to the clear teaching of the Lord in John 15:16, but those being ravaged in
devastating conflict (Joel 3:12,16) or "reaped" as in Matthew 13,
when wheat and tares in the end were to be reaped. The "wheat' is already
then gone (as in Matthew 24:30-31), and the residual reaping of weeds is
woeful. When the Lord anoints this situation with His voice
roaring, then actions happen, presumably as in Zechariah 14, and the investing
9) It ought to be noted that the large bloc, the nation indeed as such, of the Jews who did NOT receive the Lord, of whom He stated that they would not see Him again until they should say,
Where then do we find nurture from this prophecy, for the
soul, knowledge for the mind in its reflections, stimulus to the spirit?
ARROWS THAT PIERCE TO AWARENESS
What then is the barb or
balm in all this, or what the arrow?
It is this. MANY are the warnings we have all had; both personal and national, international and historic, as a race, as a people. Judgment indeed must first start at the house of God; for the churches are being corrupted in significant percentages of their totality, and many great edifices are failing and falling in this end of the Gentile Age, as they did in the end of the Jewish age, as the Old Testament waited for the New, and the due time awaited the Teacher of Righteousness who had to come (cf. Isaiah 11, Daniel 9).
Let us then rend our hearts and not our garments. It MUST be said that there is a strange seeming disinclination to do any rough stuff even with garments these days; and if harrowing hypocrisy is thereby reduced for the ostentation, the evidence of any realisation at all of the gravity of the world and its race of mankind is appalling recessive. Few will wake up.
They sleep, but not the sleep of the just, and many like the foolish virgins of Matthew 25, continue as if the form of godliness were the knowledge of God! Forms will not save; but the JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. Thus -
Rejoice in that, and being born of God, believing in Him whom you receive, rejoice in that acquittal and in the mercy that lies back of it, as in the Cross which procured it for those who believe (Romans 8:32, 5:1-11). Do not tarry, do not 'subside' into faithless instability and vagueness. The judgment is not vague, and truth is not vague, nor is your income tax. Be thankful and receive the gift (Romans 6:23), for it is fitting to thank God for His unspeakable gift ( I Cor.9:15), the gift of that speaking word, the Lord incarnate Jesus Christ, and coming to Him as a ship to harbour, live in Him, your eternal resource.
And further, consider HIS nature of whom it is said,
- II Cor. 8:9.
And those riches are these -
- Ephesians 3:8., Philippians 3:8).
There now, THAT is a teacher and THAT is righteousness, so abundant that it may be attributed vicariously to those whom it redeems.
How happy is the book of
Joel in its clarity, precision and power; moving like a jet to its target, it
leaves a vapour-trail that lingers, and lingers until
it points like an arrow at the heart of this our day, and of those within it,
who will be wise if in this their day, they repent and seek the Lord, knowing
that great is the day which comes, and great is the teacher of righteousness,
whose teaching met the fiery trials of the laboratory, and constituted that
acme of all teaching, the personal performance which not only stimulates,
inspires and leads, but in this and for Him, which opens the very doors of
For more on allied areas:
See THE FLASHING FALLS OF FREEDOM, in A Spiritual Potpourri,
and CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM in The
Here is the coming of The Messenger of the Covenant, whereby the Lord shall "suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant , in whom you delight: behold, He shall come, says the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire, and like a fuller's soap."
So Christ, author of the New Covenant and crux of the everlasting covenant, indeed, "given ... for a Covenant" (Isaiah 42:6, cf. Matthew 26:28), purged the temple suddenly (Matthew 21:9-13) in form, as later will be met with this consuming fire, the rebellious living temples in fact! (Malachi 4:1-2). The brilliance and shining cleanness appeared in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2-3). What is to be found? In salvation, beauty, in judgment, burning (Malachi 4:1-2). The grace for those of the covenant covers judgment.