Summary: Joel sees a time when all will be made right, Israel will not be ashamed, or a curse to anyone. We know this time has not yet come.
The Lord offers mercy even now. 2:12-17
Utterly amazing is the grace and mercy and tenderness of the Lord. “Even now”, He is willing to forgive Judah. Remember He was willing to spare Sodom. And the northern kingdom of Israel. Any nation, including even America, that will repent from the heart will be spared.
v.12. First let Him see something. Fasting, weeping, mourning.
v.13. “Tear your hearts, not – just – your clothing,” has become a classic invitation even to our day. Is it possible that we have waited thus far 2,000 plus years for the return of Jesus because somewhere in the world there has, so far, always been someone tearing their heart before the Lord, truly sorry for sin, truly making the Father smile, and to put off His judgment just a little while longer?
v. 14. “Who knows…” Yet the implication is clear that true repentance will bring God to us. Not a show, an outward manifestation that looks sorry, but isn’t. Rather a true stirring up of the inside of a man until the man dies to his old ways.
v. 15. We return to the beginning of the chapter, with the same theme. A trumpet sounds, this time not for pending judgment, but for pending repentance, the way of escape from that pending judgment.
v. 16. This must be universal. The nation must be on the same page. Old and young. Husbands and wives…
v. 17. … Priests too, religious leaders. Everyone. The Lord’s ministers, then and now, being called out from their duties to seek God “between the porch and the altar.” Begging God to spare their land. The nation has worn God’s name. Let not that name be brought into reproach, is the thrust of their prayers.
Notice here that they are worried about a “people” who will rule over them, not a swarm of locusts.
Perhaps we need to take a moment to look at that phrase, made popular by preachers like Ravenhill, “between the porch and the altar.” Is there significance, literally or figuratively, in that phrase? Here the priests normally entered to offer their sacrifices. The sacrifice God was looking for now was a broken heart. All the animals in the world would not save Judah, but tears offered in sincerity before the Judge of all the Earth would avail. And still will.
So as we enter our place of sacrifice in our day, where we give our worship, whether it be with music or the uplifted hands or the falling on the face before God, we must let the Spirit of God bring upon us a rending of the heart for lost humanity, a brokenness for the people of God and their idolatrous ways. Hence ministers in our time can be said to be weeping between the porch and the altar. We must enter His presence, but go beyond the ordinary sacrifices, and die to all that is coming between us and revival in our day.
The promise of restoration. 2:18-27
The challenge of interpretation returns in this section. Joel tells the people that even now, if they repent, they will be blessed of God, and things will return to “normal.” But even here it is impossible to fix the words said, to 9th century B.C. Judah. The prophet is again seeing more. His words stretch to the very end of the age, as God fulfills literally His promises to bless a repentant end-time Israel, also.
v. 18. If Judah repents (and did they, fully?) God will have pity on them.
v. 19. Material blessings galore for a broken Israel. But here comes the first problem with the passage: I will never again make you a reproach among the nations. No, we must look further than Joel’s day, for sure. Israel must deal with its Savior before its ills can be fully healed. Israel is even now a “reproach” among the nations and has been since its re-creation in 1948. It was even more so in the centuries preceding that day. God cannot lie. He says that when they truly repent they will not be a reproach again. Therefore this passage speaks of the end.
v. 20. The northern army. The same as in chapter one? An end-time army? As in Ezekiel’s talk of such? True, Babylonia could be said to be “north” of Israel, but many see an end-time resurrection of Rosh (Russia) that will swoop down upon unsuspecting Israel, seeking to profit from its riches. This could be repeated once more at the end of the Millennium, also. Ezekiel’s description of Gog and Magog and Rosh and all the rest is an intriguing one, and may indeed be the same thing that Joel sees.
Reference to the stench reminds us of the Scripture that informs God’s people that the army that comes against Israel in the end days will require full time employees to bury its dead soldiers, such will be the slaughter. The supper of the birds of the air comes to mind also. Such carnage is coming to the planet, and Joel was seeing waves of it intertwined with the pictures he was receiving of the current situation.