Philippe R. Sterling
God visits divine correction upon His people that they might return to Him and experience His deliverance and blessing before the great and awesome day of the LORD.
There is no settled date for the writing of the book of Joel. Some ascribe it to the early pre-exilic period of the nation of Judah in the 9th century BC, others to the post-exilic community of the 6th or 5th century BC. I surmise that it was probably written in the latter period of the 9th century in the time of Joash and Jehoiada. We know little about Joel. The meaning of his name is the LORD is God. He is a prophet to the elders and inhabitants of the land of Judah. His message focuses on the day of the LORD.
Literary Structure and Content
1. Author: The word of the LORD came to Joel (1:1).
2. Opening Address: Joel directs the LORD’S message to contemporary and future generations (1:2-3).
I. Recent Day of the Locust: After a terrible locust invasion and drought has devastated the land Joel calls upon
its inhabitants to wake up, wail and cry out to the LORD since the present reality is a harbinger of an
impending day of the LORD that will bring even greater destruction (1:4-20).
A. Locust Invasion: A locust invasion has eaten everything (4-7).
B. Call to Wail and Cry out to the LORD: Joel calls for the inhabitants of the land and its spiritual leaders to
wake up, wail, and cry out to the LORD (8-14).
C. Harbinger of the Day of the LORD: Joel bewails an impending day of the LORD that will bring even
greater destruction than the present reality of the locust invasion, drought and brush fires (15-20).
II. Impending Day of the LORD: God calls for Joel to sound the alarm of an impending day of the LORD that
will involve the invasion of a devastating foreign army (2:1-11).
A. Warning Trumpet: God instructs Joel to blow a trumpet of alarm in Zion (1a).
B. Day of the LORD Is Coming: The great and awesome day of the LORD that will bring the invasion
of a devastating foreign army is impending (1b-11).
III. Appeal to Return to the LORD: There is still time for the people to return to the LORD and ask Him to spare
them in accordance with His grace and compassion (2:12-17).
A. God’s Appeal: God appeals to His people to return to Him at the present time with all their heart, and
with fasting, weeping and mourning (12).
B. Joel’s Encouragement: Joel encourages the people to rend their hearts and return to the LORD since
He is gracious and compassionate and might turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him (13-14).
C. Assembly Trumpet: God instructs Joel to blow a trumpet in Zion to gather the people for a solemn
assembly that they might ask Him to spare them (15-17).
IV. Answer of the LORD – Postponement of Impending Day of the LORD: God promises to respond to the cry of
His people and remove the northern army and restore the land making up for the locust devastation that they
might praise Him and know that He is in their midst and that He is the LORD their God (2:18-27).
A. God’s Answer: God answers and says to the people that He will restore the land and remove the
northern army – which is perhaps the army of Assyria (2:18-20).
B. Joy of the People: Joel tells the people to rejoice in the goodness of the LORD (2:23-24).
C. Praise of the People: God tells the people that He will make up for the locust devastation that they
might praise Him and know that He is in their midst and that He is the LORD their God and that they will
not be put to shame (2:25-27).
V. Promise of the Spirit: Sometime after this God will pour out His Spirit upon all mankind (2:28-29).
VI. Ultimate Day of the LORD: God will display His wonders in the sky and on the earth before the great
and awesome day of the Lord comes and deliver those who call on His name and then judge the nations in
the Valley of Jehoshaphat (2:30—3:16).
A. Display of God’s Wonders – Before the Day: God will display His wonders in the sky an on the earth the
great and awesome day of the LORD comes (2:30-31).
B. Deliverance of those who Call upon God: God will deliver those who call upon Him on Mount Zion
and in Jerusalem (2:32).
C. Judgment of the Nations – In those days: In those days and at that time when He restores Judah
and Jerusalem, God will enter into judgment with the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat which is also
called the valley of decision (3:1-15).
D. Refuge for Israel: The LORD will be a refuge for Israel which will once again be in covenant relationship
with Him (3:16).
Conclusion – Israel’s Ultimate Restoration – In that Day (3:17-21)
1. Holy City: Israel will once again be in covenant relationship with God and Jerusalem will be holy (17)
2. Fruitful Land: In that day the land will be extremely fruitful with a spring flowing from the temple of the LORD
but Egypt and Edom will be desolate (18-19).
3. Inhabited City: Judah and Jerusalem will be inhabited for all generations (20).
4. Resident LORD: The LORD will vindicate His people and dwell in Zion (3:21).
Theological Reflection and Application
God disciplines His people for unfaithfulness to the covenant by sending a locust invasion that devastates the land. An invading army will follow the locust invasion unless the nation returns to the LORD. God will relent and bless the nation if it returns and calls upon Him. There will be a future day of the LORD when He will judge the nations and deliver those who call upon Him. After the judgment, the LORD will heal the land, restore Israel, and dwell in Zion. The phrase “the day of the LORD” occurs explicitly five times in the book (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and three times implicitly as “in those days” (2:29; 3:1) and “in that day” (4:18).
Note these truths:
- God disciplines His people for sin. He may first use natural calamities and then follow with foreign invasion.
- God is gracious and may relent if His people return to Him.
- God will judge the nations in the day of the LORD and establish the Messianic kingdom.
- Turn from God and experience His severe discipline.
- Return to God and experience His gracious restoration.
The main Messianic thread concerns the day of the LORD and the dwelling of the LORD in Zion. The LORD will judge the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat. The LORD will dwell with His people. The New Testament verifies that this will be Christ.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Spirit after he departed (John 14:26; 16:7). When the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” (see Acts 2:14-20). The endowment of the Holy Spirit and the need for Jews to call upon the Lord for deliverance from coming judgment partly fulfills the prophecy of Joel. The full fulfillment might have come about had all Israel repented at the preaching of Peter and the apostles. Israel again rejected the offer of the kingdom. The fulfillment of the day of the LORD has been postponed and now awaits the second coming of Christ.