Summary: Joel’s vision of a near-term army invasion pictures the judgment and restoration that God brings to His people.
This morning, we’re going to continue our examination of the Book of Joel as we look at most of Chapter 2. But before we do that, we need to take just a moment to put this chapter in its proper context by reviewing what we discovered last week about the overall structure of the book.
[Use chart as a visual aid]
Three sections in Joel:
1. The past locust invasion (1:2-20)
2. A near-term judgment – invasion by a human army (2:1-27)
3. A far-term judgment and restoration (2:28-3:21)
We also need to review our definition of the “Day of the Lord”. Based on what we’ve seen here in Joel and what is confirmed other places in the Scriptures, we’re using this working definition for now, subject to modification as we learn more in future studies.
The “Day of the Lord” = a cycle consisting of:
• God revealing man’s sin,
• A means of salvation,
• An opportunity for repentance,
With that background, let’s look at the first 27 verses of Chapter 2 which describe the near-term ”Day of the Lord”. Go ahead and open your Bibles to Joel chapter 2.
THE NEAR-TERM “DAY OF THE LORD”
Just as the entire Book of Joel can be divided into three sections, we also find that each of those three sections contains three distinct sub-sections as well. Even though we didn’t focus a lot on those sub-sections in Chapter 1 last week, it will be really helpful for us to do that as we look at the description of this near-term “Day of the Lord” here in chapter 2.
1. The invasion of a human army (vv. 1-11)
As you read the first eleven verses here in chapter 2, it seems at first glance that Joel could either be describing an invasion of a human army or that he could be describing a locust invasion – either a continuation of the one described in Chapter 1 or another one to come in the near future. But a further examination of the text leads us to conclude that this is a human army being described.
I’m going to spend a bit more time than I originally intended on this issue for a couple of reasons. First, I had a couple of people ask me about this last week. But secondly, and even more importantly, I want to use this as an example of how we can answer that question using just the text itself.
• Indications this is a human army
o A change in verb tenses:
We first noticed this last week. When we move from Chapter 1 to the rest of the book, there is a noticeable change in the tense of the majority of the verbs in each of those sections:
Chapter 1 – primarily past
Chapter 2 – primarily present/future
By itself, that certainly does not prove that this is a human army being described here in Chapter 2. But the change in verb tenses along with the fact that Joel describes this as the “day of the Lord” which “is coming” in 2:1, makes it clear that this is not merely a continuation of the description of the past locust plague from Chapter 1.
o Nature of the army:
Strictly from the text itself, we can find several descriptions of the nature of the army that will help us to determine whether it is a human army or a locust army.
Confronted by weapons (v. 8)
You’ll notice in verse 8 that Joel describes the army as they “burst through the weapons.” The Hebrew word used here for “weapons” is a word that describes swords, spears, arrows and other weapons of war. It seems somewhat absurd that those kinds of weapons would be used to battle a locust invasion. Everyone knows you just use your can of Raid.
Attack people, not crops (v. 9)
In verse 9, in particular, the army is pictured as running upon the walls and entering into houses like a thief. Just a quick sidebar: you’ll notice that the phrase “like a thief” is quite similar to how Jesus, Paul and John all describe certain aspects of the end times. The picture here is of a human army attacking people. The primary devastation caused by a locust army, on the other hand, results from their attacks on the crops.
From the north (v. 20)
It would not be usual to refer to a locust swarm as a “northerner”, especially given that most of the locust invasions in Israel have historically come from the south. On the other hand, most of the military invasions of Israel have historically come from the north and east.
o Focus of the prayer for deliverance (v. 17)
If you look at the prayer for deliverance in verse 17, in particular, you will note that there is nothing in that prayer that would indicate the people are desiring to be saved from a locust invasion. There is nothing there about protecting the crops or restoring the food supply.