Summary: We cannot change the past: but in Christ, God restores to us what would have been had we not allowed sin an entrance (Joel 2:25).
AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF JOEL
The name Joel means ‘Yahweh is God’ or perhaps ‘Whose God is the LORD’.
There is no doubt that Joel's God is the LORD: not only on account of his given name, but also because of his courage in confronting Israel and the nations with a far-reaching message from the LORD.
I. A CALL TO NATIONAL REPENTANCE
Not only was the land wasted for the farmers and wine-makers, but also the offerings of the LORD were cut off. The priests mourned. The drunkards moaned. The cattle were perplexed!
Joel's reaction to the plague of locusts is to speak into the ear of government and church leadership, calling for a national fast and a public day of prayer and humiliation before the LORD! (Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15). In this he takes the lead.
Some of Joel's language seems to suggest another event: that of an army invading from the north. But whether the threat is from nature or man, the reaction should be the same: national repentance, rending of hearts, fasting, weeping and mourning (Joel 2:12-14).
Part of this repentance is not to question that we deserve the wrath of God against us, but to acknowledge it, and to take the stance of the king of Nineveh in Jonah's day, and of Joel here: Who knows but that He might turn from the intended destruction with which He so vividly threatens us?
II. THE TURNING POINT
The turning point in Joel's book is at Joel 2:18 - “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.”
When they humble themselves and fast and weep and mourn, and cry to the LORD. Not moaning that they don't deserve this judgment, but acknowledging His justice, and appealing to His mercy.
Then the years that the locusts have eaten away are restored (Joel 2:25), the vats are full, rejoicing is restored, the rains come in their due season, there is plenty - and the people who worship the LORD are vindicated along with His great name. Even the groaning of creation (Romans 8:22) is abated.
III. THE YEARS THAT THE LOCUSTS HAVE EATEN
We cannot change the past: but in Christ, God restores to us what would have been had we not allowed sin an entrance.
Ultimately, the full restoration will be in heaven: but meantime we have the "guarantee of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14) - the Holy Spirit, and all the rich present blessings that come with His presence in our lives.
IV. THREE VALLEYS
1. Valley of Judgment (Joel 3:2)
The vivid events of Joel's prophecy, the locusts and the hint of an army from the north, are a precursor of the judgment that awaits the nations. In his final chapter he is no longer calling Israel to a public solemn assembly for repentance, but now he is calling the nations to the “valley of judgment”.
Some of this judgment has already occurred in time: the people of Tyre who capitalised upon Israel's misfortune by selling their children into slavery, for example, were themselves sold into slavery in the days of Alexander the Great.
This is also eschatological: it refers to the end of the last times. The last times, according to Peter, began at Pentecost.
2. Valley of Decision (Joel 3:14)
There is a “valley of decision”: not a place where people have any further opportunity to ‘decide’ to follow Jesus, but the place where God will pronounce His decision in judgment against the sinners.
Here the sun is darkened, even as it is darkened with the advance of a swarm of locusts or an invading army. Now again the vats are full, but this time with the wickedness of the peoples. It is the wine-press of the wrath of God.
But the LORD is the hope and strength of His own people in that great and awful day: and Joel sees beyond, even to the New Jerusalem (Joel 3:16-17).
3. Valley of Acacia Trees (Joel 3:18)
Joel’s book ends with a full reversal of the judgments with which he commenced. The days that the locusts have eaten are again restored: there is new wine dripping from the vines, the cattle are full, the rivers flow.
And a fountain flows from the house of the LORD to the “valley of Acacia trees” - an evergreen with useful wood and yellow flowers.
Blessings began to flow from the house of God in Jerusalem, Judea at Pentecost, but those will be nothing compared to what God has in store for His own people in the New Jerusalem.