Summary: Joel promises restoration through his Son and the sending of his Spirit. God promises to renew people who repent and turn to him.
For all the talk about forging our own brave, new world, the evidence seems to the contrary. People are despondent and the world seems a mess. Every day the ideological battles play out in the public square are they are prising apart public opinion and fragmenting society.
Climate change—gender and sexuality—immigration—distribution of wealth.
Yet there remains an unreserved trust in democracy. But democracy is no more than the sum of the people. In a year of elections, we reply upon the will of the people to impose order and stability. But whose order and whose stability?
Listen to talkback radio. Does order and stability flow from the ones with the loudest voice? The pessimists say that we are beyond order and stability. They say the world is one big, chaotic and uncontrollable mess. They say the best we can do is make the most of a sad and meaningless life.
The optimists are confident that evolution is working. They hope that over time the pessimists will fade away and people will learn to take refuge in the good that lies within us. The optimists have an incredible faith in scientists and economists who with new discoveries will lead us into the world of our dreams.
But not in my lifetime.
The Book of Joel bravely steps into our world and says that neither the pessimists or the optimists account for the historical day of the Lord. And to ignore the day of the Lord is the biggest mistake anyone can make.
It was a mistake made by Judah in the days of the prophet, Joel. These people were optimists who thought life would be better if they did it their way. And so they did it their way. They made decisions which, they believed, would further their quality of life. They naively thought that the kindness of God wasn’t kind enough—that the generosity of God wasn’t generous enough.
And they thought that God wasn’t serious about sending his curses upon them. Why would God punish such a great group of people? Judah lived like there was no day of the Lord.
So God sent a plague of locusts and then he sent his spokesman, Joel. Absolutely God is serious about sin. So the locusts came and Joel called his people to return to the Lord.
The prophet then Judah about the future. He says in Joel 1.15, “For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty”. And again in 2.1, “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming”. Joel describes an army descending upon his people and, verse 11, “the Lord thunders at the head of his army … The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it”?
Joel answers his own question. When the day of the Lord comes survival is possible. The summary verse is 2.13, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love”.
We aren’t told whether Judah privately and publicly repented and returned to the Lord. The prophet doesn’t say probably because the book was written with that knowledge known to the readers. But this doesn’t affect our reading of 2.18–32 which we turn to now. The Hebrew verbs are unclear. Is the restoration spoken about from verse 18, is it past or is it future? Did Judah repent and this is God’s response? Or will Judah repent and this is how God will respond?
I’m going to treat verses 18 to 27 as what God promised to do if the people properly respond to Joel’s call to repentance. These verses are specific to Judah living in the land. Then the second part, verses 28 to 32, broadens God’s response to include all people as we see in Acts 2.
The big idea is that God promises to renew people who repent and return to him. It’s exactly the same message as the Book of Acts which we return to in a few weeks. God restores pessimists and the optimists who turn from their rebellion and come to Him in humility and seeking his mercy. God is a God of restoration and he will renew you when you give up your rebellion against God and become Christ-centred in your living.
Alison Thompson is an Australian volunteer aid worker who wrote a book called The Third Wave. It all started about 18 years ago. In 2001 she was filming in New York at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Centre. She lost 23 friends and witnessed the north tower coming down as she was giving CPR to a person.
Three years later news came through of the tsunami in Asia. With $300 in cash and a few supplies she headed off to Sri Lanka. She ended up running a refugee centre for 3,000 people. Then later she was involved in Haiti after 65,000 people were killed in an earthquake and tsunami. The quake was so bad that it totally wiped out the trees and all the crops which amounted to even more poverty and even more crime.