I’ve been reading through Joel in my devotions and have been enjoying the beautiful structure of this little book. I think it’s so easy for us to get caught up in the small verses of prophecy, which can be confusing, and lose sight of the fact that each book is structured in such a way that the verses, taken in chunks, tell a story that isn’t immediately visible.
Joel starts off telling us about how the Lord is judging them at that time (Ch. 1) and gives many details as to the plagues and lack of joy. Then Joel goes on to tell us about an ultimate judgment that is coming upon the earth (Ch. 2:1-11). The judgment of the day was meant as a prefiguring warning of the ultimate judgment to come.
Then the Lord speaks through Joel about how He is merciful and gracious and that if they will turn from their wickedness and give their hearts to God then He will spare them from the judgment (Ch. 2:12-17). So we see that the judgment of the day that prefigured the ultimate judgment was there to bring them to repentance and salvation.
The Lord then has pity on His people and returns food and joy to the land with promises of goodness and relationship with God (Ch. 2:18-27). Just like the judgment of the day prefigured the ultimate judgment so this mercy of the day prefigures the ultimate mercy where God tells us that He will pour out the Holy Spirit upon His people and give them spiritual gifts and that everyone (gentiles included) who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Ch. 2:28-32).
So we see that God prefigured the judgment and explained the ultimate judgment in order to bring them to repentance and then prefigured the ultimate mercy by giving them temporal blessings – He is pleased to explain salvation to His people in terms that they can understand, seeing as Christ has not yet come and the gospel is not yet fully revealed.
Chapter 3 closes with God separating His people (Israel at the time being the only ones who are God’s people) from the nations (who at this time are all God’s enemies) and speaks of the harvest of the earth where the people are put in the winepress of God’s wrath (Ch. 3:13). Revelation picks up on this theme in Ch. 14:17-20 and speaks again of the harvest of the earth where people are personally treaded upon by God’s feet until their blood comes out. It’s worth noting that it’s not a contradiction for God to say that everyone (including gentiles) who calls upon the Lord will be saved and then use gentiles as the synonym for unbelievers; gentiles as being part of the true Israel is not clearly explained until after Jesus comes and fulfills the Law and the Prophets -the term “Israel” is used both for the nation and also for those who are actual believers and “gentiles” in the mind of the Jews are the people who reject God. Finally, Israel (God’s people), have victory and everyone who has not called upon the name of the Lord is destroyed.
This little book is a wonderful reminder of God’s mercy and how the blessings of this world prefigure the ultimate blessedness in Christ in the New Heavens and the New Earth and how the horrors of this world prefigure the horrors of the resurrection to the Lake of Fire. We would do well to read with sober minds and respond with thankful hearts that we, whose sins are paid in Christ, will be rejoicing with Jesus instead of being trod upon by God personally.