In our study of Joel chapter two, we will look at the coming Day of the Lord and its purpose for mankind. In chapter one, we saw the prophet warn the people of a coming local plague of judgment by locusts and call for them to repent and turn back to God. Now, his message speaks of the coming judgment on all the earth.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.
In Numbers 10, Moses was instructed to make two silver trumpets for signaling God's people. These trumpets were used to call the people to assemble, to tell them to move out, and for the people to be remembered by God in their battles. They were also used in worship as they were blown over the sacrifices. In this case, we see that the trumpet is a call for God's people to listen for there is danger approaching.
It is close at hand - a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.
A Jewish day begins at sundown and it is the same here as this day is described by the prophet. The day is described as a day of blackness speaking about the sin and rebellion that is widespread. We see the warning that a massive army is approaching and we can see that this is the army that John saw in Revelation 19 & 20.
Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste - nothing escapes them. They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle.
This passage describes the effects of the plague of locusts during the days of the prophet as well as the coming army of locusts (see Revelation 9). The army of locusts that is to come attacks people and not the crops.
At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows.
This passage describes an unstoppable wall of locusts that ravaged the land in the prophet's day but is even more terrible in the days that are to come. Like an army of robots, they are not distracted from their mission and they go everywhere to torture the people. They are not stopped by walls or anything else and they do not distinguish between the rich and the poor as all homes are entered.
Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.
These same events are described in Revelation 8 as they are unleashed when the fourth trumpet is blown.
The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?
This verse describes the same events that John described in Revelation 19. The nations of the earth have gathered for battle in hopes of overtaking the city of Jerusalem but they are opposed by the army of God led by Jesus Christ.
'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'
What is the purpose of this judgment and the great tribulation that is to come? We see, here, that the purpose is for Israel to repent and return to the Lord.
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Even during this great time of trouble, God is still offering His mercy and His grace. The call, here, is for a change of heart to replace the religious rituals. That same call goes out even today as many Christians are going through the motions of religious rituals instead of having a turning of the heart to God.
Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing - grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.
This turning of the heart to God will lead to peace with Him. There may also be a physical blessing as mentioned here with the crops producing grain and fruit. A key point is that the prophet says that God MAY "leave behind a blessing". There are those today who have come to faith in a god of their own creation where they can just demand that he give them whatever they want. Our reward of salvation through Jesus Christ should be enough to satisfy us and anything else that the Lord provides is like a bonus while we are here on the earth. As we see, with this example, even the blessing of the grain and the fruit was to be used to worship Him. Those that are peddling salvation as a means to present God with a shopping list of things that they want are doing so for their own purposes and not for the glory of God. Those that are peddling the notion of a "seed offering" are, in effect, saying that God can be corrupted by a bribe. In both cases, their hearts have not been changed and one must wonder if they have truly repented of their ways.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.
Now, we see the focus of the Day of the Lord which is on the Jewish people. The trumpet was first used to call the Jews to assemble while they were in the wilderness (see Numbers 10). The holy fast (no eating or drinking) was first given to the Jews for the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 23). The sacred assembly was first given to the Jews as part of the celebration of Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread, see Exodus 12). As we see in this passage, all of the people were required to gather from the smallest child to even the newly married.
Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, 'Spare your people, O Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, "Where is their God?"'
The prophet informs the people that this change of heart must begin with the priests. They must openly repent and cry out to the Lord for forgiveness for themselves as well as the rest of the people.
Then the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.
The land that God gave His people is special to Him even though we do not know why He chose that place. He cares for that land as well as for His people and, when they turn to Him in repentance, He will hear and act on their behalf. This repentance is the same way that we come to faith in Jesus Christ and become His children.
The Lord will reply to them: 'I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.'
When God's people humble themselves and turn back to Him, He will provide for their needs. He will also raise them up to be honored instead of scorned. This verse speaks of the coming millennial reign as we see in Revelation 20.
'I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.' Surely he has done great things.
These words were partially fulfilled with the Assyrians but its complete fulfillment comes on the Day of the Lord. On that day, God will judge the armies that are led by Russia (the northern army see Ezekiel 38 & Revelation 19).
Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things. Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
There has been and will continue to be famines and drought but they are all temporary. When our hearts are changed and turned back to the Lord, He will take care of us both now and forever.
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
In the land of Israel, the majority of rain falls between October and April. Although the land is very dry today, we see that, during this millennial reign, the rains will be plentiful once again.
The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
This return of the rains will allow the crops to grow in abundance. We see that they are not merely enough to survive but in fact are overflowing. This is a fulfillment of the promise that was given through the prophet Malachi when God told His people to trust Him by bringing in the tithes of the crops (see Malachi 3).
'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.'
This abundance will more than make up for the years that the land suffered desolation. We notice that, once again, this speaks of a time after the tribulation that is to come. This thousand years will be a time of plenty as men praise and worship the Lord again in Jerusalem.
'Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.'
The purpose of the plague of locusts during Joel's day was to call God's people to repentance and that is the same purpose for this time of tribulation. There will be an undeniable presence of God in Jerusalem and His people will be lifted up as a shining example for the rest of the world to see. We see that God repeats the fact that His people will no longer be shamed and are reminded that the number two is the number of witness.
'And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.'
So, what will God's people be doing during this period of time? We see the answer here as we are told that they will all be filled with the Spirit which will lead to dreams, visions, and prophesy. There are those who say that this was fulfilled in Acts 2 but it was not as that outpouring of the Spirit was not on "all people".
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
The same type of things was revealed to John in Revelation 6. All of these things are signs that point to the return of Jesus and they are displays of God's power and authority. Their purpose is to call people to repent and turn to Him before it is too late (the day of the Lord).
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls.
Even during this time that is referred to as the Great Tribulation, the invitation to salvation stands. All who call on Jesus during this time will join the rest of the saints.