All of us have had moments when we regretted things we did or said. Many of us think that our past sins or regrets have robbed us of many good years. Many of us wish that we could be like kids on a playground who have a concept of a “do-over.” When they’re playing kickball and the ball gets stuck in a tree, or when they’re playing basketball and the ball sticks between the backboard and the rim, a chorus of “do-over” spontaneously erupts. It’s an unspoken rule that every kid knows.
In Joel 2:23-32 God tells the Israelites that they can have a “do-over” if they repent. Joel foresaw a time of plenty, when the people would acknowledge the goodness and sovereignty of God. God promises to “repay” His people “for the years the locusts have eaten.” The locusts came as the result of sin, but in God’s grace He wanted to bring restoration. Joel prophesied that God would pour out his spirit on all humanity. We do not have to live in the past and live in defeat.
Joel takes an environmental catastrophe and interprets it as an act of God. He said that the locust plague was an act of divine judgment that called the people to repentance, renewal, and redemption. The plague devastated the land, the economy, and the people. Bark was stripped from trees, food vanished, seeds shriveled, granaries stood empty, cattle moaned from hunger and thirst, and streams dried up. Joel remembered the divine plagues of Moses and called this disaster “a day of the Lord.”
Joel cautioned Israel about God’s impending judgment for its spiritual complacency and religious neglect. When the people prospered, they abandoned God or minimized the importance of Him in their lives. God always gives His people a change to repent before He inflicts discipline. Like a loving parent, God’s purpose is not to punish but to correct and nurture.
Joel saw the natural and supernatural blessing of God as a vindication of God’s people following the ravages of the locusts, which was seen as God’s judgment. The productivity of the crops and the abundance of the rains signified God’s renewed favour. Joel predicted that these natural blessings would be followed by supernatural blessings.
Joel saw the day of the Lord as a day filled with blood, darkness, and columns of smoke. Those who called on God’s name would be saved. They would be the survivors whom the Lord had called. God’s children are not immune from pain and sorrow, but they are survivors because they call on God’s name.
God always sees us, always loves us, and is actively involved in our lives, even when terrible things happen that turn our lives upside down. He can be trusted to bring comfort in the short term and restoration in the long term. His mercy can be severe. We can get past the times of trauma and need because of the hope we have in Christ.
God brings about both the good and the bad. The seasons of famine have divine purposes in our lives. They accomplish things that only these hard things can accomplish. There is a time when those hard things have accomplished their purpose and God begins to restore.
Israel faced this dilemma many thousands of years ago. They brought a lot of their trouble on themselves by ignoring the prophets, by not worshipping God, and by breaking their covenant with God. Their land was invaded by foreigners. Their best and brightest young people were carted away to serve the king of Babylon. Many years later, the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Jews to go home and rebuild their temple.
The reasons for ceasing to fear and for rejoicing in verses 23-24 show a pattern of development that goes from very brief and general to longer and more specific. The reason given for the exhortations to the land is that God has done great things. It is a summary of God’s great acts for the people.
God’s great acts include restitution. The harvests will again be plentiful enough for the people to eat and be satisfied. The people will then praise God and recognize Him as the source of their sustenance. The people had been previously warned of the dangers of being satisfied, especially forgetting God in complacency or presumption. The picture of restoration depends on a righteous relationship with God. It is a complete orientation around the God who is with them.
The events described in verses 28-32 will follow the deliverance from the northern invader. Prophecy in Scripture often produces praises to God. Dreams and visions were customary ways that the Lord communicated special revelations in Old Testament times. The people will never again be put to shame. It recalled the shame of foreign domination and the threatened conquest.
In verse 28 Joel’s prophecy moves from the near future with its promise of agricultural restoration to the more distant future. The people will experience new wonders such as a new experience of God’s Spirit, amazing signs in the heavens and earth, and the way of deliverance from the dangers of Joel’s time. The promise is that God will pour out His Spirit on everyone. The Spirit’s movement involve the whole society, regardless of sex, age, or social status. People will prophesy, dream dreams and see visions. They are manifestations of immediate and close relationships with God where He communicates His word and understanding to individuals, who then communicate it to others.
Verses 28-32 can also be found in Chapter 2 of the Book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost, Peter came out of the upper room with the anointing of the Holy Ghost upon him. He stood in front of the crowd and quoted these words as part of his speech. This message is as important to the Church today as it was to the Church in New Testament times. It is a prophecy of what is to come.
We miss the meaning of prophecy if we think of it as foretelling the future. It might include foretelling the future, but it is better characterized as proclaiming God’s word. Our greatest need today is for authentic prophets in both the pulpit and in the pew. We need prophets who will lead the church, launch personal evangelism and social mission actions, and caring for people while obeying God’s vision for new strategies for winning people to Christ. We can use the answers to these questions to determine if people can be effective prophets:
- Do you have love for people? Can you care for them and help them reach their full potential?
- Can you see beneath the surface of people to their deepest hopes and hurts?
- Can you discern what God wants to say to people through you?
- Can you speak the truth to people in love in a winsome, winning way?
- Would you like to have a direct, personal experience of God’s Spirit and become a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered person?
Any Christian who says “yes “to these questions is ready to be a prophet and receive the gift of prophecy. The needs of the people and groups before us will bring forth the gift of the Spirit from within us. All we have to do is keep on being filled with the Spirit. The indwelling Spirit gives the gift when we get into challenges that require wisdom, insight, discernment, and boldness.
Prophets are needed in the church today. We need church members who will take stands on social issues, speak out with fearlessness regardless of the cost, and become involved with their time, money, and hands-on ministry. Prophecy is also needed as pastors and church leaders lead the congregation in developing prophecy and programs. It would make a huge difference if before and during meetings leaders prayed for the gift of prophecy and then spoke forth the truth in love as God revealed it.
We are living in the new age of the Spirit, which has been poured out since the first Pentecost over 2,000 years ago. We can accept the gift of prophecy to proclaim the Gospel and state the words of Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Verses 30 and 31 reveal a new picture of the distant future-a picture of cosmic upheavals that signal the coming day of the Lord. These will not be simple indicators of the time to come. In the Bible, darkness accompanied serious events: when Jesus died on the cross, when Egypt was judged, and when the Lord came down at Mount Sinai. Cosmic upheavals will signal that a great event is about to happen, such as Jesus’ return to earth to establish His Kingdom.
Joel’s audience was devastated by the locust plague and faced the prospect of the day of the Lord with terror. Verses 28—32 are an assurance that those who repented would not only make it through the agricultural crisis but could look forward to a vibrant life with God. They could enjoy the immediacy of His presence as a whole community and not just through a few select individuals.
We need the power of the Holy Spirit to baptize us so we can have discernment, the word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge. We are living in days where we need God’s supernatural power like never before. If we do not have discernment, then sin will get into our lives and the church. When this happens, we will get infected. God will never accomplish His work that He wants to do through each one of us individually. He does not operate through dirty vessels, but clean vessels.
Like insects, our sins eat away at the fruitful life God intended for us. When we turn toward Him, and away from our past choices, He promises to remove our shame and restore us to an abundant life in Him.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1170-1171)
- Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 22: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1990; pp. 252-263)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Tammy Maltby, “A Vision for Trauma’s Aftermath.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Ron Moore, “Regret and Restoration.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- Os Hillman, “When God Restores What the Locusts Eat.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Life’s ‘Do-Overs’.” Retrieved from BibleGateway@e.BibleGateway.com
- Joel Osteen, “Restoration Mentality.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- Raul Ries, “Power of the Holy Spirit.” Retrieved from www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/somebody-loves-you-radio-w-raul-ries/
- Kristen Holmberg, “Restored.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Anderson, Russell F.: Lectionary Preaching Workbook, Series V, Cycle C (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Company Inc.; 1997; pp. 322-323)