The prophet insisted that the “Day of the Lord” was “near.” What could he mean? Though the ultimate moment of God’s final judgment upon the earth was many centuries away, throughout the history of mankind the Lord has given humanity many reminders of the reality of the eventual end of the world. The trouble that Israel faced with plagues of locusts described in Joel was one such moment of terror. Another would happen when armies from the north threatened much of Israel and Judah. The Romans would be the agents of a future sad story involving a second destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. More than all of these, a Day of the Lord is still promised that will be worldwide, inescapable, and completely definitive regarding the eternal destiny of billions of people.
Each of the earlier trials preserved for us in the Scriptures are opportunities for us to consider and learn about God and His plans. When He returns with signs in the heavens we should not be surprised that any observer would say: “Who can endure it?” While we still have time to make the most important choices of life, we should hear the voice of the Lord recorded in Joel: “Return to Me with all your heart.”
Joel 2 preserves an amazing occasion when Israel did gather together in covenant assembly, pleading with the Almighty, and the Lord heard their cries. God then brought them the “early rain” and the “latter rain” necessary for a bountiful harvest. He more than made up for all that the locusts had eaten. Regarding the armies to the north, there was at least a delay in the exile that would eventually take place. Nonetheless, one day a greater calamity would arrive that would only be avoided by the singular means that God had appointed for the salvation of His people, calling upon the Name of the Lord.
Joel 2:28-29 prepares us for the New Testament era of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that began with the pouring out of the third Person of the Trinity at Pentecost combined with the forthright gospel preaching of Peter. Yet verses 30-31 indicate the appearance of frightening displays of God’s wrath like those that once fell upon the Egyptians when they persecuted the children of Israel. Which would it be, blessing (28-29) or curse (30-31)? Verse 32, as quoted by Peter in Acts 2 and Paul in Romans 10, tells us this important biblical answer: “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”
What “Name” shall we use when we need to be heard? Acts 2:36 assures us that “Jesus” is the “Lord” referred to so long ago by the prophet Joel. The time has finally arrived for people everywhere to confess with their lips that “Jesus is Lord,” together with the church all over the earth. True worshipers must not only sing and pray using the word “Jesus,” they also need to believe in their hearts “that God raised Him from the dead.” (Romans 10:9,13) This is the way to have the blessing of the heavenly “Zion” promised in Joel 2:32.
What can we do as we hear the demands of God in the gospel? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 citing the final words of Joel 2:32, “those whom the Lord calls.”)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, help us to learn from personal and societal disaster. Is not the day of Your judgment coming upon the whole earth in due time? Will we be ready for that day? Locusts destroy the produce of the land, and invading armies take Your people captive and assault life as we know it. Yet even in difficult times of trouble, Your Word goes out to Your people. We must repent, return to You, and gather together in solemn assembly. Spare Your people! Hear us, O Lord, and be jealous for Your children, for You love us. You can remove invading armies in a moment, give health to the land again, and restore what the locust has consumed. You can bring about a day of blessing that is beyond anything that we ask for or imagine. You are the Lord God. According to Your Word, we shall surely all be full of the Spirit like the prophets of old. Though there will be frightening signs of Your judgment in the heavens and upon the earth, all who turn to You in sincere worship shall be saved. We call upon the Name of Jesus now, O Lord, for You have provided Your perfect Son, through whom we have bold access to Your heavenly sanctuary.