As a nation, we have been startled and saddened by the disaster at the Boston Marathon this week. It helps us identify with Israel’s calamities that we read about in Joel, the topic of our lesson quarterly this week. I hope you gain a blessing, as I have, from the study of God’s Word.
Memory Text: “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?” Joel 2:11 NIV
Joel is obviously describing the great day of judgment, also referred to as the day of the Lord, when the angels in heaven, an army of them, will bow to the thundering commands of their commander Jesus. Who indeed can endure this event? Only those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb, referred to as a remnant in Joel 2:32.
This week we shall not only see the disasters and calamities of God’s people and the world, but will also be reminded of the reward of the blessed, the glorious home God is now preparing for those who love and obey Him.
Joel’s name means “The Lord is God.” And this fits the theme of Joel’s book that God is holy and just, and His work is sovereign on earth, absolute and supreme.
Sunday: A National Disaster
The first chapter of Joel reveals the great agricultural disaster that plagues the land of God’s people, with four different kinds of locusts invading the crops, causing massive destruction to the ecology for years to come. The locust invasion was made even worse by drought. God’s people are suffering and they want to understand why.
They are living in the land of Israel, a place given to them by God himself. In what sense does it still belong to God though? (comparable to when we rent or buy a house–we are made a type of steward of that house, until it is paid for–we are expected to care for it as our own, but it still belongs to the landlord or the bank)
Monday: Blow the Trumpet!
Joel does not make a wide analysis of the people’s failings, but instead urges them to call for a national day of prayer and fasting. Joel 1:14 [“Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.” KJV]
He is telling them that instead of rending their garments (or mourning their losses), they should be rending their hearts and making them open vessels for God’s grace and compassion to come in.
Shouldn’t this be our model for comforting any heartsick sinner who comes to us for peace and solace? We often feel it our duty to remind them of all the terrible ways they have not followed God, but perhaps our greatest help to them would be simply to point them to the foot of the cross and the love that poured forth from our Savior there.
When we are faced with any physical disease, aren’t we more interested in the remedy and cure than details about the disease itself?
No matter what disaster strikes our life (and everyone is expected to have at least one trauma-causing event in his lifetime), we can have hope and strength to endure when we cling to God’s promises.
What promises have been especially meaningful to you? Do you ever have enough of God’s Word? Shouldn’t we be always searching for those gems that will not only bolster our faith, but may uplift our friends and loved ones in their times of need?
Tuesday: The Gift of God’s Spirit
In chapter 2 of Joel, we find a very significant passage, quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost.
Read Joel 2:28-29. [“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon servants and upon handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” KJV]
Peter stated specifically that the happenings at Pentecost, the unusual outpouring of God’s Spirit, that began the spread of Christianity to all the world, was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. See Acts 2:16-17.
But how can we claim that this outpouring will happen again at the end of time? See Joel 2:30-32. (The sun being darkened, etc. is definitely referring to the events before the Second Coming, when God’s message will once again reach the whole world. See Matthew 24:14, 29-30.)
Whenever God’s people have experienced a wide revival and reformation, the Holy Spirit has been available to strengthen the brethren and add to their numbers. For instance, Exodus 31:2-5 talks about how the Spirit of God worked through the builders of the tabernacle during Moses’s time, the beginning of another important phase of God’s work.
Personal thought question: Is there anything I can do in my own life to make me more receptive to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
Wednesday: Proclaiming God’s Name
Here we take a closer look at Joel 2:32, which reads in part “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered…” KJV.
At first glance, I’ve often wondered about this and similar texts that make it sound as if all you have to do is call on His name and magically be saved. But let’s take a look at the two types of people who are present at the Lord’s return.
Isaiah 25:9 describes them this way: [“And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” KJV]
Obviously, those who call upon God here are those who have been waiting for him and are glad for His presence.
Revelation, on the other hand, describes another class of persons who are calling something else: “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Rev. 6: 16-17 KJV
As a matter of fact, to “call on the name of the Lord” does not only mean to call oneself a follower of God, but to proclaim God’s name as well, to be a witness to others about the Lord and what He has done for them.
We see this clearly in Isaiah 12:4. It says, “And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.” KJV
Interestingly, God Himself proclaimed His name to Moses, when He allowed Moses to see His backside. See Exodus 33:19 and 34:5.
In Exodus 33:20 we discover the reason for the unusual way God had to show Himself to Moses: “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”
Indeed, sin cannot live in the presence of God. Oh, how much we need the Holy Spirit’s cleansing power before the Second Coming. It will require an outpouring of the Spirit, if we are to be part of that remnant who call on His name when He comes.
Thursday: The Refuge in Times of Trouble (Joel 3)
Not only will we need God’s Spirit to meet the Lord, but we’ll need Him to get through the troublesome disasters that will mark those end times.
Joel 3:16 says “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion…and the heavens and the earth shall shake:”
This roaring is often associated with a lion, as in Amos 3:8 which says, “The lion hath roared, who shall not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?”
In Revelation 5:5, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Why is the devil also spoken of as a roaring lion? See I Peter 5:8. [“…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” KJV] (Could it be because Satan has always tried to copy or counterfeit all of God’s workings? For example, he is also seen as an angel of light, but deceiving many. See II Corinthians 11:14.)
How careful we must be not to be deceived in the last days. Satan will not only look like Jesus, he’ll sound like Him too!
Joel’s message ends with a beautiful vision of the New Jerusalem, challenging us as God’s children today to walk in the Spirit, and follow our Lord wherever He leads, reaching out to others who have not yet called on His name.
In “Christ’s Object Lessons”, p. 158, we read: “We must understand our danger, or we shall not flee to the refuge.” Some who experienced the bombings in Boston, reported that they were not at first alarmed by the explosions. It was only when they were made aware of the danger that they started to flee to safety.
How does understanding the great controversy between Christ and Satan help us understand the dangerous and terrible times we live in?
Isn’t it time for each of us to flee to the Lord, our refuge and our strength, indeed our only safety?Next week we’ll begin a study of Amos. Read the first four chapters to acquaint yourself with Amos’ message.