THE DAY OF THE LORD: Intervention Promised Part Four
Will God answer the repentant plea of a nation marked out for judgment? The cynic says, “No!”
The religionist says, “I hope so!” The believer responds in faith, “God will!”
Will God? What saith the prophet? Jeremiah said to Judah, “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I [God] will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” (18:8). Amos hopefully proclaimed to Israel “Seek ye me [God], and ye shall live” (5:4).
Jonah reluctantly declared to Nineveh, “… God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them, and he did it not” (3 : 10). To Solomon God promised, “If my people, who are called by my name; . . turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven…and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). Yes, God will forgive the sins and stay His hand of judgment toward a people who turn in repentance. Such was the case with Judah in the days of Joel.
PITY ON THE LAMENTORS (v. 18)
The Lord heard the pleading petition of His people and had pity on them. He is more sensitive to the cry of Israel than a mother for her child. In fact God says, a mother might forget to show compassion on her nursing child, but the Lord will not forget Israel. So concerned is God for Israel that He even engraved their name upon the palm of His hands (Isa. 49:15-16).
God is touched deeply by the affliction of His people. isaiah states, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bore them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9). Who is this “angel of his presence”? It is none other than Jesus the Messiah! Yes, Jesus, the Rock that followed them in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:4-5), the One who has sustained them in their trials and persecutions throughout the centuries.
God loves Israel so much that He is “jealous for his land” (v. 18). His eye is continually on it in protective care throughout the year (Dt..11:12). One can imagine how it grieved the heart of God to bring judgment on Israel. For nineteen centuries the land lay in disarray, deserted by its people, until the sons of Jacob returned to restore it in this century.
Lest Israel take credit for the removal of judgment, Joel reminds her that it was the Lord who “pitied his people” and delivered them from destruction.
PROMISE TO THE LAMENTORS (v. 20)
God promises to remove the enemy referred to as the “northern [lit., northerner] army” (v. 20). Is the “northemer” to be interpreted as locust or man?
Locust plagues have been known to descend upon Jerusalem from the north (e.g., 1915 plague), but this is rare. Usually they come riding on the winds which blow from the south or southeast. A northern plague of locusts could have been driven into the barren and desolate Negev, where God would destroy them, causing a great stench to prevail over the land (v-20).
Jerome reports seeing locusts, which had been drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, piled in a stinking heap from three to four feet high, stretching more than fifty miles along the shoreline. But nowhere in the Bible are locusts referred to as the “northerner,” nor does Scripture ever make reference to them performing “great things” (v. 20).
The word north is used as a technical term in the Old Testament apocalyptic sections to typify the enemies of Israel: Assyria, Babylon, and others coming on her in the latter days (Isa. 14:31; Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6; 6:1, 22; Ezek. 38:6, 15; 39:2; Zeph. 2:13). Thus, the imagery in verse twenty changes from that of locust, to a mighty army poised to come down on Israel.
Although God did deliver Judah from the locust plague and the Assyrians (Isa. 36-39) in answer to prayer, this section looks toward a greater time of deliverance in the latter days.
Who is this army mentioned in verse twenty? Ezekiel describes a huge confederacy of nations who will descend upon Israel from. the north in the latter days (Ezek. 38:3; 39:2). The confederacy is made up of Magog (Russia), Persia (Iran), Libya, Ethiopia (in North Africa), Gomer (Germany), and Togarmah of the north quarters (Turkey and Armenia) [Ezek. 38:2, 5-6].
When will the army descend? It must be in the “latter days” (Ezek 38:8, 14, 16, 18; 39:8, 11) when Israel is dwelling safely (Ezek. 38:8) without bars or gates (Ezek. 38:11). The only time Scripture mentions a time when Israel is dwelling safely (before the Lord’s return) is during the first half of the Tribulation. At that time, the Antichrist will make a covenant of peace with Israel (Dan. 9:27) guaranteeing her protection; from surrounding enemies. But after three-and-one-half years of peace the Antichrist breaks this covenant, turns on Israel, and starts to persecute all who will not worship him and his image which is erected in the Tribulation Temple, Most likely, this huge army will descend from the north sometime near the middle of the Tribulation.
Why will this army come against Israel? For three basic reasons. The first reason is because of location. Israel is in the midst of the nations (Ezek. 5:5; Dt. 32:8), a land bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa. The one who controls Israel would be strategically positioned to have a controlling impact on the above continents. This location would give Russia a central military base, control over Middle East oil flowing to the west, domination of Israel’s government (changing it from a democracy to a socialistic state), supremacy to govern Israel’s worship of God, and many ideal places for warm water ports on the Mediterranean coastline. Second, Russia would control the mineral wealth of the Dead Sea which is an inestimable fortune. Third, a huge deposit of oil may be discovered in Israel which the Russians would want to control. Only oil would bring great and instant wealth to Israel (Ezek. 38:13).
How will the army be destroyed? God uses four means to bring on its demise: earthquake; self-destruction; pestilence (disease); and the Lord rains fire and brimstone on them (Ezek. 39:4, 20-22). Some see the fire and brimstone as being a nuclear explosion, but this is impossible since it would mean destruction of all Israel. The destruction of this army is so vast that it takes seven months to bury the dead (Ezek. 39:12,14).
Joel promised Judah that she would not have to lift a finger to defend herself, God would remove the enemy (v. 20) . The same is true when the Russian confederacy descends on Israel in the latter days. God completely destroys the army sent into the Middle East (Ezek, 39:2-4, 6, 11).
PROTECTED BY THE LORD (v. 19)
God tells Judah that He will not only remove the prophesied plague and deliver them from impending destruction, but He will no more make them a reproach among the nations (v. 19). This last statement has not been fulfilled as yet, for Israel is still a reproach among the nations. The Jew has been hated and discriminated against by many nations even before Joel’s time to the present day.
On November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution vilifying the Zionistic Movement as “a form of racism or racial discrimination,”’ on a 72 to 35 vote with 32 abstentions and 3 absences (Congressional Quarterly, third edition).
The United States Ambassador, Daniel Moynihan, called the resolution an “obscene act.” He went on to say, “It was not Zionism that was condemned at the United Nations on Friday, it was Israel.”
When will Israel’s reproach from among the nations be removed? The reproach will be removed when Christ returns to set up the Millennial Kingdom on earth.
PROSPERITY FROM THE LORD (vv. 19, 21-27)
Since God heard the repentant cry of Judah, removed the curse, and brought healing to the land, Joel calls upon all of creation to replace their fear with gladness and rejoicing (vv. 21, 23).
Comparing this section with the prophecies given in chapters one and two, a number of contrasts can be seen. First, the denuded land (1:17-20) will break forth in gladness and joy (2:21) when new life springs forth because of the former and latter rain (2:23). Second, animals will not have to fear for their survival, because the barren pastures (1:19-20) will spring forth in greenness (2:22); withered trees and vines (1:12) will produce an abundance of fruit (2:22). Third, man who was called to weep, wail, lament, and be ashamed is now to be glad and rejoice (v. 23) over the lifting of the curse and renewal of the land.
This is a foretaste of what Israel will experience during the Millennial Kingdom. When Christ returns, He shall give to the children of Zion (v. 23), “. . . beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness . . .” (Isa. 61:3). Jerusalem will be a place of rejoicing, and the voice of weeping and crying will be removed (Isa. 65:18-19).
The animal kingdom will be at peace, for “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock … They shall not hurt nor destroy…” (Isa. 65: 25). Notice, all of the animal kingdom is changed except the serpent who caused Eve to sin. He will still crawl upon his belly obtaining his food from the dust of the earth (Isa. 65:25).
Israel is to rejoice because God has given her “the former rain moderately. .. and the latter rain in the first month” (v. 23). This phrase has been debated for centuries as to its meaning — whether it should be interpreted spiritually or physically in context.
Some want to interpret the passage spiritually since the phrase “former rain [lit., a teacher] moderately [lit, unto righteousness]” can be translated “a teacher of righteousness,” Many rabbis in times past interpreted this phrase in reference to the Messiah, for He is a teacher come from God to show the way of righteousness. Other rabbis see the phrase referring to any prophet who brings righteous instruction. Still others interpret the words, “rain for righteousness,” as a sign that God has restored Judah to a position of righteousness.
Although all of the above is true, it seems best to interpret the section as having reference to physical rain since the context bears this out In context the phrase “former rain moderately” is better interpreted “to rain in right measure.” The rain will be of great blessing to Israel during the kingdom age because the Lord will send it in the right amount at the proper time. The “former rain” comes in abundance during the autumn (October) to prepare the land for sowing, and the “latter rain” comes in the spring (April) just before the harvest. By providing the rain in right measure, the Lord is assuring Israel of her right relationship with Him during the Millennium (Lev. 26:3-4; Dt. 11:13-15).
To the cynic who said, “Where is their God?” (v. 17), God answers, “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten. . .” (v. 25). Notice, Joel does not say “year,” but “years” which the locusts have eaten. The reference is not to swarms of locusts invading Judah for several years in succession, but to the crop lost for a number of years due to the devastation of the land by the locust plague.
The effects of restoration io both people and land is that they have great abundance of grain, wine. and oil (v. 19); their “floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (v. 24). Amos, echoing this passage says, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed.” (Amos 9:13). What a contrast to the earlier prophecy of desolation (1:10-12)!
Judah’s renewed prosperity produces inner satisfaction and outward praise (v. 26) unto their God who again has proven Himself to be gracious, merciful, and loving to a repentant people. Joel reminds the people that God has dealt with them “wondrously:” (v. 26); that is, He worked in a miraculous way in bringing restoration to both Judah and the land.
Through this renewal experience both Judah and the surrounding nations learn a number of lessons. First, Israel is God’s people (v. 27). Seeing their helpless situation He had pity (v. 18) on them. Second, God is present with His people (v. 27) and will not forsake them in times of disobedience. Third, God protects Israel from those bent on her destruction. God will destroy the “northern army” (v. 20) who will come in the latter days. Fourth, God provides prosperity for a people who walk before Him in righteousness (vv. 19, 23-24). Fifth, God keeps the promises He made to Israel. She shall never be put to shame (vv. 23-24) before the nations of the world by trusting in Him, the true and living God.
Israel’s experience typifies the life of many Christians today. They are the people of God, having trusted Christ as their Savior. God’s presence indwells them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He protects them from the onslaughts of Satan who is bent on their destruction. Yet, their life lacks spiritual prosperity, for sin has severed their fellowship in Christ.
Like Israel, they need to turn from sin with a repentant heart if God is to show pity and provide pardon. Sad to say, many will not turn, but wander in the wilderness of sin for years spiritually blind and bankrupt.
Yet, God promises spiritual intervention if they turn to Him. He will bring the former and latter rain of spiritual renewal, restoring the years which the locust of sin have destroyed, What pleasant words are they, “. . . restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.. ,”’ (v. 25). True, years of sin leave their mark on mind and body. True, years of sin are unredeemable. But the repentant Christian can experience a new beginning and enjoy the fullness of spiritual blessing in each fresh tomorrow.
For those who return, God promises to take away the shame of sin. Why delay, come today!