This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction
The first section we’re looking at today goes from Joel 2 verses 1-17.
KEY VERSE: “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart” (verse 12)
Some scholars believe that this passage refers to a coming invasion by an army of men. Others believe it refers to a second plague of insects, worse than the first. I’m persuaded by the second theory, mostly because of all the metaphors – an appearance “like” men.
In any case, the point is that the coming disaster will be MUCH worse than the current crisis. Joel essentially asks the people to recognise how desperate their situation is, then says “if you think this is bad, just wait and see what’s coming next!”
Not only that, but Joel is also clear that this is no mere natural disaster, or scheme of evil men. God himself is bringing this disaster on his people. This army (whether made up of men or insects) moves at HIS command. God is the commander of this army and he’s on the front lines, leading the way.
In verse 12, God speaks directly for the first time. This time the Tanya Paraphrase would say: “It’s not too late! I’m trying to get your attention – see how far I’m willing to go to get it? If it takes such drastic measures make you turn back, that’s what I’ll do.”
Joel carries on straight away, clarifying what this “returning” and “mourning” God wants is really all about. It’s not an outward thing, going through the motions of external ritual. It’s not about pressing the right buttons so as to appease a demanding god. This is not ordinary religion as practiced by the rest of the world. Tearing one’s clothes was, among that people, a sign of remorse and mourning – but an external showing wasn’t enough. There needed to be a real change of HEART. God doesn’t want empty ritual, he wants our hearts. Every time we RETURN, he listens, and takes us in. He answers the CRY of his loved ones’ hearts.
Joel reminds us of God’s character (verse 13). Repentance works because God wants our hearts. He doesn’t punish out of cruelty of sadism. His punishment has a purpose. There is an element of consequences for sin, yes, but throughout the prophets God is shown to be sending hard times on his people so that they will notice him, and turn back to him.
return = re + turn = turn again
The repentance Joel describes is one of unity – a gathering together of people from all walks of life. Coming together is so important!
- What are some things you associate with “being right with God”?
- How often do you notice yourself perform these “rituals” out of habit, without engaging your heart?
- Describe an occasion you found your heart easily engaged in connecting with God?
- What can you do this week to turn your heart toward God?
KEY VERSE: “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully” (verse 19)
This section is God’s plan to bless his people once again. Some scholars believe that this section is designed as a follow on from the previous section – that the people had repented as Joel urged before this word was given. Regardless of whether this was the case or not, I find it very beautiful to read God’s words of love and blessing. He delights to give good gifts! He gives plentifully, good gifts in abundance.
This section is very clear that God gives more than the essentials – he gives enough to satisfy fully. When we trust God to supply our needs, we can be assured that he is able to SATISFY us FULLY – not just give us enough to get by on. I know it’s easy for me to doubt him on this one. I figure he’ll provide me with just enough – that’s fair, right, for giving me a freebie? Handouts are about essentials, not luxuries. That’s not how God looks at it. I am not his charity case. I am his beloved child and heir – all he has is mine, and he loves to give!
I love Joel’s little section in verse 21-24 – he responds to God’s word with joy, and calling others to joy! Restoration WILL come, there WILL be fullness, even if it’s not evident right now. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that God will restore us, but God is faithful, even when we aren’t. We can rejoice NOW for what will be true in our lives LATER – we can be joyful during the night because we KNOW morning will come.
The phrase “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” in verse 25 is very powerful to me. God is telling his people that they won’t lose out. They won’t be worse off for the years of God’s discipline. He isn’t out to get them, he is trying to teach a lesson. When the season of teaching has passed, God will repay them what they lost. God isn’t short on resources – he has more than enough to go around. Whatever I might feel I “lose” through following him, obeying him, receiving lessons from him, he can easily “repay” to me. I’m not saying that God keeps some tally of what he “owes” us – that seems a silly picture to me. This promise, however, gives me hope during the times I feel I’m missing out on something. I’m not missing out. I might lose in some areas, but I will gain in others. Anything I give up for the sake of following God is more than made up for by what he gives me.
KEY VERSE: “And afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (verse 28)
Now here comes the best part. After all this talk about the physical blessings God will give, he says “And afterward”. I love those two words. After satisfying his people FULLY, God still has more to give! Filling our stomachs isn’t enough – he wants to give us spiritual blessings as well.
This passage is quoted in Acts on the first Christian Pentecost. The early followers of Jesus believed this prophecy was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. Acts 2 has the whole story and is worth reading – it helps apply this passage to us, now. The same concept is also found in other prophets – if you’re interested you can check out Isaiah 44:2-4 and Ezekiel 39:27-29.
The main point I’m making here now, though, is that God GIVES. He is a GIVER. He gives over and above what is necessary for life. He gives abundant life and THEN GIVES MORE. This is the giving nature of our God. A God who LOVES us and wants to give us GOOD gifts. For more evidence of this giving nature, check out these verses: Matthew 7:7-11, Luke 11:1-13, Ephesians 3:20-21, James 1:17, 2 Peter 1:2-4.
This section of the book gives us a picture of how God gives – his giving nature. Scripture shows us that God loves to give good gifts, but our understanding of his giving nature is affected by living imperfect lives among imperfect people.
- Describe one of the best gifts you’ve ever received. Why was it so special? How did you feel about the giver?
- Which of these fits the way you REALLY feel about God’s giving nature when you ask him for things?
- Charity Donation – God will give me the essentials I need when I don’t have enough to get by.
- Birthday Present – God will give me something every so often. It’s almost like an annual obligation.
- Perfect Parent – God will provide everything I need, and also enjoys giving me fun things.
- How does your perception of God’s giving nature affect how you ASK for things from him, and how you RECEIVE the things he gives you?