Monday, March 25, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to the Book of Joel

Readings for this week

Monday: Ecclesiastes 12
Tuesday: Joel 1
Wednesday: Joel 2
Thursday: Joel 3
Friday: Nahum 1
Saturday: Nahum 2
Sunday: Nahum 3

Introduction to the Book of Joel


The exact time of Joel’s life is uncertain. Some scholars list him as the earliest of the minor prophets, some list him as the latest, and many place him somewhere in the middle. Joel is placed as the second of the twelve prophets in the Hebrew canon. Joel possibly lived in the 8th century B.C. He may have prophesied in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the period of The Divided Kingdom from 792-740 B.C. His book likely did not reach its final redacted state until much later. If these are the correct dates for Joel’s ministry, then he would have ministered during the reign of King Uzziah (aka Azariah) of Judah. King Uzziah ruled for 52 years and died of leprosy. The prophet Isaiah began his ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died.” 

“The Ammonites paid annual tribute to him, and his fame spread even to Egypt, for he had become very powerful.”
-- 2nd Chronicles 26:8

The southern kingdom of Judah was experiencing tremendous expansion militarily, administratively, commercially, and economically. Judah was undergoing constant changes which would have affected Joel’s ministry, including natural disasters like plagues of locust, and severe drought.

Purpose for his ministry:

Proclaim the judgment and the grace of God
Encourage the people and leaders to gather for fellowship and prayer.
Challenge people to repent.
Record God’s prophetic message of encouragement and blessing for those who sincerely repented 

In Joel, we see:

God’s call for the sinners’ repentance (2:12-14)
The wisdom a follower of God should uphold in times of great crisis (plague, drought)
Foreshadowing of Christ’s coming (2:31)
God’s amazing grace to sinners 

The Message 

A call to repent because the day of the LORD is coming
The Restoration of Israel will take place. 

Chapter One 

Joel says, “What the locust swarm has left other locusts have eaten. The fields are destroyed. Lament, O priests! The day of the LORD is near.” 

Main Message: 

We see the prophet call for Israel to repent. The invasion of the locusts is foreshadowing the Day of the LORD. This plague could have been literal or figurative. 

Things Destroyed: Grain, wine, oil, joy in Israel, worship in the Temple. 

The exact sin of the people is not identified. But we see that God is giving His people a chance to repent and turn from their wicked ways.

Joel says, “Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.” 

Chapter Two 

Joel says, “A great army is on the mountains. Return to the LORD for he is merciful, and says to you, ‘Fear not, I will restore you. I will pour out my Spirit.’" 

Main Message:

God’s mercy is on display. He pleads with Israel to turn to Him. This chapter also highlights His grace, forgiveness, and restoration. He is jealous for His people. Zion is mentioned seven times. 

Chapter Three 

Joel says, "I will gather all the nations for judgement. For the day of the LORD is near. Jerusalem will be inhabited for all generations." 

Main Message:

Restoration for Israel and judgment on the nations who are against Israel. He calls for them to “...renew their connection with the LORD.” Destruction is only temporary – the Temple is destroyed, but not religious significance. The people can still pray to the LORD even when the Temple is in ruins.

Joel also tells the people to “Rend your hearts and not your garments!” To rend means: “to tear, split, or lacerate, usually clothing or hair, as a sign of anger, grief, or despair.” The point is for them to examine their own hearts, rather than worrying about outward appearances.

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