The Future’s So Bright…

Posted: June 10, 2017 in Joel, Uncategorized

Joel 2:18 – 3:21, “The Future’s So Bright…”

“The future’s so bright…I gotta wear shades.”  That’s the way some of the promises of the Bible can seem.  Things may look dark now, but the future looks to be amazingly awesome!  It’s so bright, we’ve got to wear shades.

That’s certainly the case for Christians, as we look forward to the incredible promises we have in Christ Jesus.  He’s promised to come and receive us to Himself, in a home that He’s been building for the past 2000 years.  He’s made us His co-heirs in His eternal inheritance, we’ve been promised crowns of glory, we’ve been given new names & new natures, and (best of all) we will be united with Jesus in a marriage relationship so incredible that human marriage provides merely shadows and glimpses of what is yet to come.  The Church has awesome promises in the future!

That’s the Church, but what about Israel?  Do they have anything to which they can look forward?  Yes!  The Bible is chock-full of promises of future blessings for Israel, many of which have some sort of correlation to the blessings that will be experienced by the Church.  But never let it be said that Israel is forgotten by God, or replaced in His eyes!  There is a definite future for Israel, and it is wonderful.

Some of those promises are in view in the latter half of the book of Joel.  The first half looked at judgment; the second looks at blessing.  The first half looked at discipline; the second half looks at restoration.

The book began abruptly, without any note of the time-period or background of the prophet.  Joel simply begins speaking, and he sounds a warning to anyone in Judah who would hear him.  There had been a terrible locust swarm in the land, one that left the crops and economy in ruins.  Joel proclaimed that as bad as it was, it was merely a foretaste of what would happen when a future army swept across the countryside, destroying everything in its path.  Scholars debate the identity of this army (with it depending on when Joel lived & wrote), but it is clear that there are at least two armies in view.  There is the one that was about to overwhelm Judah in the present day, and there was another that was expected to come in during the fateful Day of the Lord in the end-times.  Joel foresaw a time when Jerusalem would be overrun, with soldiers running over the walls like a swarm of insects, all brought in by the Lord as His instrument of judgment and wrath.  As Joel wrote in 2:11, that day would be “great and very terrible; who can endure it?”

In light of these two expressions of certain judgment, the call went out for God’s people to repent.  They weren’t to simply go through the motions, doing ritualistic practices; they were to turn to God with all their heart, trusting in the goodness & graciousness of God.  All the people from all over the land were to gather in unified purpose to seek the Lord, knowing that even the worst judgment might be something from which God might relent.

It’s at this point in the prophecy that things start to change.  What would be the response to a repentant people?  What might the Jews expect from their gracious God?  Glorious results!  The promise God gives them is one of incredible grace.  God knew His people would be rebellious and would face certain doom in many ways – but He also knew that eventually they would repent, and God promised to pour out His salvation in abundance.  The blessings of God flow freely upon the people of God, when they are humble & repentant – and that is exactly what is promised to Israel.

God was going to bless them, and the blessings given unto them would overflow to the rest of the world.  Their future was bright…bright, indeed!

Joel 2:18–32

  • Healing: God restores His people (2:18-27)

18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, And pity His people. 19 The LORD will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

  • This is the answer to the question of 2:17.  In the repentance of the people, they were supposed to call upon the character and nature of God according to His promise, asking for His help & deliverance.  It was for His own fame and glory that God would rise up on their behalf.  The Jews weren’t worthy of God’s action, but God Himself is.  Why should the nations have reason to wonder where God is, in regard to His people?  The clear answer from verse 18: God is here & He is active!
  • God is not dispassionate towards His people.  On the contrary, He is “zealous” for them like a husband for his wife.  There is a renewed compassion for His covenant people as He pities them & spares them from the judgment they deserved.
  • The picture here is of internal & external blessings.  Internally, they have a renewal of their crops & economy.  Notice the restoration from 1:10: “grain and new wine and oil.”  All that the locusts (and future armies) had wiped out was now regrown.  Once more the nation was equipped to worship God through grain & drink offerings.  Externally, they are no longer a “reproach among the nations.”  Their public humiliation is rolled back, as they are once more in the favor of Almighty God.
  • Part of the external blessings is the Lord’s protection of Israel from their enemies.  Vs. 20…

20 “But I will remove far from you the northern army, And will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, With his face toward the eastern sea And his back toward the western sea; His stench will come up, And his foul odor will rise, Because he has done monstrous things.”

  • God had brought the army in; now He would drive them out.  Just as with the prophecy of Gog & Magog from Ezekiel 38, God does the same with this unidentified army.  (Be it the Babylonians, or an unnamed army during the Great Tribulation)  At one time, this army overwhelmed Judah like a swarm of locusts, but now God drove them far away into desolation.
  • And they deserved it!  Even though this had been God’s army, it doesn’t mean that they were excused from their own sin.  What they did was still odious in the nostrils of God.  God never excuses the sins of the unrepentant.  He may use pagans as His tool for judgment, but as long as they remain pagan, they are responsible for their own actions.  The only solution to sin is the grace of Jesus – no matter now those sins might be used by the Lord God.
  • How bad were their deeds?  They were “monstrous.”  That’s a very loose translation of the word, though it is not inappropriate to the context.  NASB, ESV, & NIV all translate it literally as “great.”  “Great” is not a moralistic judgment; it’s a comparison of size & grandeur.  And it’s that grandeur that Joel contrasts with the deeds of the Lord God…

21 Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things!

  • Marvelous” is also a contextual gloss – a loose translation of the exact same word for “great.”  But the idea of one being “monstrous” while the other is “marvelous,” gets the basic point across.  The great deeds of God are greater than even the best efforts of the world.  The great deeds of God are greater than the best efforts of the devil.  God is simply greater…period.
  • In light of that, what was Israel’s reaction to be?  Joyful confidence!  No more fear…

22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you— The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

  • Remember that the “fig tree” and “vine” are pictures of Israel. (1:7)  Before, they lay in ruins; now they are blessed and fruitful.  No longer did the people of Judah have reason to fear extermination – no longer did even the bests of the field have reason to fear desolation and hunger.  God removed all reason for fear when He gave them His grace.
    • What do you fear?  Why?  As a born-again Christian, what reason do you possibly have?  Yes, we have troubles, trials, and tribulations – yes, we have a spiritual enemy who hates us & worldly enemies that work against us.  But we still have no reason for fear.  We belong to the Most High God!  We’ve been bought with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!  We’ve been sealed & indwelt by God the Holy Spirit Himself!  We have no cause for fear – He has removed that from us when He brought us into His grace.  We are blessed beyond measure…even during the times that we cannot see His blessings.  Fear not, but rejoice in the Lord your God!
  • Question: was Israel to rejoice in their blessings?  No.  Their blessings were reason for joy, but the primary object of their joy is the Lord.  “Rejoice in the LORD your God.”  We thank God for the gifts we have received – we give Him credit for the blessings we enjoy – but we do not rejoice in those blessings.  Those blessings are not the things we seek.  We seek the Lord our God – we seek to live in His grace – we seek to walk in unfettered relationship with Him.
  • That said, the blessings would be abundant!  It would be overflowing.  Everything that they had lost in the past would be restored to the uttermost, with them having even more than what they had at the beginning.
    • Like Job.  He had lost everything he held dear, including his health and his children.  But God restored him, and abundantly so!  Job 42:12, "Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys."  Goes on to speak of his children & other blessings.  Can those children be replaced?  Of course not – but the idea is clear: God gave more to Job than what he had in the past.  It didn’t remove the pain of the past, but it certainly provided for him a glorious future.

25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.

  • In Chapter 1, it was declared that this was what was lost.  Now there is a total reversal of what was listed in 1:4.  God promised to restore them.  What does restoration look like?  Wholeness.  The Hebrew verb is the same root from which we get the word “Shalom / peace / completeness.” (שָׁלֵם )  When God restores, He makes His people whole.  For Israel, it was restoring them to that place of blessing & favor in His sight.  It was a literal physical restoration of the land, their kingdom, and their economic prosperity.  For us, we are made whole in Christ Jesus.  We are restored from dead men & women walking to living, breathing, creations of the Most High God.
  • Restoration happens even in terms of discipline.  What was lost can be regained!  This is impossible from the point of view of men.  Years lost are lost forever – there’s no recovering decades of sinful living or re-doing youthful years of parenthood, etc.  What’s gone is gone…at least, humanly speaking.  But nothing is impossible with God!  Parents who lost years with their children can have relationships miraculously restored.  Time that seems forever gone can be transformed into future years better than we could have possibly imagined.
    • What have you lost?  God can restore it!  He can make you whole.  Trust Him for it!  So often, we lose something & then we lose hope.  Believers in Christ never need lose hope!  The restoration may come in a different form than what we can think in this present time, but there’s no question that when people who are submitted to God place themselves in the hands of God, restoration can come!

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.

  • Earlier, it was God’s army & God’s discipline.  The Jews had experienced God’s focused hand of His wrath.  Now it is God’s grace.  They will be satisfied in their bodies & in their spirits.  Their restoration & wholeness is seen in far more than the physical land of Israel, but in their praise of God. 
  • No more shame – no more isolation.  No more being removed from God’s attention & blessing.  Now He looks upon His people as they look to Him.  They are promised a total restored relationship with Him – He is the LORD their God!
    • Question: how is isolation possible for God’s people if He promises never to leave us nor forsake us?  Answer: we isolate ourselves from Him.  This is what happens in our sin.  We shut our eyes to our heavenly Father as we turn away from Him to serve ourselves.  That’s why we need to “repent” – to “re-turn” to God.  What we’ll find is that He never left us, even when we had left Him.
  • Interesting trivia: the remaining verses in Chapter 2 are actually counted as a separate chapter in the Hebrew text.  Our English Bibles follow the example of the Latin Vulgate, which combined the Hebrew chapters 2 & 3 together.  Our English Chapter 3 is actually the Hebrew Chapter 4.  Obviously chapter breaks aren’t inspired, but the Hebrew chapter division seems to make better sense.  The following promises are so amazingly good that they are set apart by themselves. J
  • Outpouring: God gives the Spirit and salvation (2:28-32)

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

  • Should be recognizable from Acts 2, as Peter quoted this entire chapter during his sermon on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:16–17, "(16) But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: (17) ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams."  The disciples had all been speaking in tongues, and those from foreign lands heard these Christians praising God in their own languages.  What was going on?  It was a move of the Holy Spirit.  God poured out His Spirit on all flesh, exactly as He had promised through the prophet.
  • All flesh” – really?  All flesh = all believers.  “All flesh” is appropriate in the context of “all flesh who trust in God.”  The whole idea is that no one is left out.  Everyone experiences the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.
  • How does this work today?  We need to keep the different ministries of the Holy Spirit in view.  “With, in, upon.”  He is among the world of non-believers, convicting them of sin, righteousness, & judgment.  He is “with” those seeking after Jesus, guiding us into all truth. (Jn 14:17)  He is “in” us the moment we become born-again believers. (Jn 20:22)  He comes upon us with power to equip us for ministry. (Acts 1:8)  In this last experience, it happens a first time (the baptism), but it also happens again & again (the filling).  It’s this final experience that is debated among Christians, as to whether it always happens for everyone at conversion, or if it takes place subsequent to it.  Whatever someone’s viewpoint of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt in the New Testament that the filling of the Holy Spirit is a repeatable experience, and is received through faith. (Eph 5:18)
    • The biggest issue isn’t what you call it, but whether or not you have it.  Perhaps you were filled once, but when was the last time you asked to be filled?  Perhaps you’re unsure if you’ve ever been filled with the Holy Spirit?  Nothing stops you from asking.  He is available to “all flesh” – to all those who believe upon Jesus Christ by faith.
  • BTW – the NT clearly shows an aspect of this prophecy that was fulfilled on Pentecost (and in the generations following).  But contextually, this is spoken to the Jews – so there is still an unfilled aspect of this even to this day.  The Jews still await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them.  When will it come?  When they finally put their faith in Jesus as their Messiah!
  • That there are future unfilled aspects of the prophecy is evident from the following verses…

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

  • Obviously this did not take place in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost!  When will this happen?  During the days of the Great Tribulation.  This seems to be referenced by the apostle John in his description of the 6th seal.  Revelation 6:12, "I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood."  At that moment, those on earth realize that the day of the wrath of God has come, and they will seek to hide themselves in the mountains & under the rocks.  God will make His power & His presence known, and even the most hardened of skeptics will lose his/her ability to doubt the existence of God.
  • At that late hour, will it be too late to be saved?  No.  Vs. 32…

32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

  • There will be a “remnant” even at that time, and from that population, God will call people to put their faith in Jesus and be saved.  They will be able to flee to safety from the Tribulation destruction that is determined for Jerusalem, and they will find “deliverance.
  • That said, this offer isn’t limited only to the Jews.  “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  This was quoted by Paul in his letter to the Romans.  Romans 10:9–13, "(9) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (12) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. (13) For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”"  The offer is open to any & all in the entire world!  As many as the Lord calls to salvation will be saved.
    • The question is: have you heard His call?  Respond!
  • With all this in mind, if God has this sort of blessing in store for His people of Israel, then surely there are repercussions for the various nations of the world that oppressed them.  And there are.  That’s what the prophecies of Joel next address…

Joel 3

  • Vindication!  God judges the nations (3:1-17)

1 “For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land. 3 They have cast lots for My people, Have given a boy as payment for a harlot, And sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.

  • There are two possible interpretations of this future judgment: (1) the battle of Armageddon, when the nations of the world join forces with Antichrist to fight against God…  (2) The judgment of the sheep and the goats, when Jesus judges the nations that survive the Great Tribulation based on their treatment of Israel & the saints of God.
  • Whichever judgment this is, it doesn’t bode well for these nations.  They treated the Jews like a common commodity, and sold God’s people into slavery.
    • How people treat other people matters.  How people treat the Jews (in particular) matters.  They may be a nation in rebellion, but they are still God’s chosen people.  The covenant He made with Abraham is unconditional, and the nations of this world persecute Israel at their own peril.  These are things God sees, and these are things that God will judge.

4 “Indeed, what have you to do with Me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia? Will you retaliate against Me? But if you retaliate against Me, Swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head;

  • Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia are apparently included in this judgment.  Being that they are the regions that physically surround the nation of Israel (i.e. Lebanon to the north, and the Gaza Strip to the south), it makes sense that they would be specifically identified in this judgment for how the nations of the world treated the people of Israel.
    • That said, this isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list.  These named regions could also be symbolic of all the nations of the world that are to be judged by God at this time.
  • God’s retaliation would be swift upon them.  Why?  Because they stole from Him…

5 Because you have taken My silver and My gold, And have carried into your temples My prized possessions. 6 Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem You have sold to the Greeks, That you may remove them far from their borders.

  • They stole God’s treasures, and (more specifically) they stole God’s treasured people.  They had sold the Jews into slavery.  When this happens, we don’t know.  We do know that the Jews have been treated as the castoffs of the world since the time Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD.  There’s no limit as to how this sort of slavery could be symbolically fulfilled throughout history.  Even so, there’s a potential of a future literal fulfillment – one of which has not yet been seen.
  • That said, it doesn’t last.  God redeems from slavery!  God redeemed His people once, and He will do it again.
    • God redeems us!  We have been freed from the slavery of sin & death!
  • God returns retribution!  Vs. 7…

7 “Behold, I will raise them Out of the place to which you have sold them, And will return your retaliation upon your own head. 8 I will sell your sons and your daughters Into the hand of the people of Judah, And they will sell them to the Sabeans, To a people far off; For the LORD has spoken.”

  • The punishment fits the crime.  The Gentile nations had enslaved Israel; now it would be their turn to be enslaved.

9 Proclaim this among the nations: “Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, Let all the men of war draw near, Let them come up. 10 Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’ ” 11 Assemble and come, all you nations, And gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD.

  • This seems to more specifically point to the battle of Armageddon.  The call goes out to the nations to “prepare for war” as they arm themselves and draw up battle lines.
  • Ultimately, their plans are futile.  To fight against God always ends in futility.  We see this on a spiritual level all the time.  How much more on a physical level?

12 “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow— For their wickedness is great.”

  • No small irony in vs. 13.  Earlier, there was no “new wine” for the vats.  Now the vats are overflowing!  This time however, it isn’t wine in view; it’s blood.  This is the harvest of the grapes of wrath, and the blood will be deep.
  • Again, the apostle John seems to call upon this imagery in Rev. 14.  Revelation 14:19–20, "(19) So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. (20) And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs."  Gory?  Yes.  Justified?  Without question.

14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness. 16 The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.

  • The valley of decision = the valley of Jehoshaphat.  Similarity in the definitions, as “Jehoshaphat” means “God judges.”  God judges – He makes His decisions regarding the nations of the world.  Multitudes are destroyed because of their rebellion against God & their sin against God’s people.
  • Once more, this imagery of darkness comes up – seen at various times throughout Revelation. (4th trumpet, Rev 8:12 – 5th bowl, Rev 16:10)  Which is this?  It’s unclear.  Prophecy often looks at future events as occurring simultaneously to each other, simply because it is so far away in the future. (Mountain peaks)  Regardless, it’s a plain reference to the Great Tribulation.  Signs in the heavens will be clear that Jesus is about to return to Earth, and it is a warning to all the world to be ready for His arrival.
    • Are you ready?
  • When He comes, it will be with a “roar”!  It will be with power & might & glory! … The same sound that terrifies the world will strengthen God’s people.  The manifestation of the power of Almighty God causes those who are not reconciled to Him to fear & quake.  Yet that same manifestation of power is a comfort to those who trust Him.  He is our shelter & strength.

17 “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”

  • The idea is repeated from 2:27.  Finally, they will know the Lord their God AS God.
  • Final, forever protection of Israel.
  • Conclusion: God blesses His people (3:18-21)

18 And it will come to pass in that day That the mountains shall drip with new wine, The hills shall flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD And water the Valley of Acacias.

  • Millennial blessings.  Every kingdom promise given to the people of Israel will be realized in the Millennial Kingdom of the Lord Jesus.  Every description given of the land “flowing with milk & honey” will be understood, and the prosperity of God’s people will be literally fulfilled.
  • Ezekiel 47 also speaks of a river flowing from the Millennial temple of God.

19 “Egypt shall be a desolation, And Edom a desolate wilderness, Because of violence against the people of Judah, For they have shed innocent blood in their land.

  • Reiteration of God’s judgment upon Israel’s enemies.
  • All of that is contrasted with Israel…

20 But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation. 21 For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; For the LORD dwells in Zion.

  • Judah is “acquitted”!  God chooses to hold them innocent, declaring them free from future punishment.
  • He will forever dwell with His people in grace.

Conclusion:
What amazing promises for Israel!  What amazing promises for us!  Israel could look forward to a day when God personally dwelled among them, protected them, and poured out His Spirit & salvation upon them.  Yes, judgment and discipline was in their immediate future, but their ultimate future was one of the goodness & grace of God.  He would stand up on their behalf, judge their enemies as their defense, and generally bless them beyond measure.

What is promised to future Israel is already ours to enjoy today!  We are the ones upon whom God has poured out His Spirit!  He has saved us from the twin enemies of sin & death – He has passed judgment upon our accuser the devil – He already dwells among us spiritually & has promised to dwell among us physically in heaven.  There is hardly any promise in this text that has no corollary application to the Church today…which just goes to show how amazing our God truly is!

But remember: these promises come in the context of a repentant people.  They are given by the grace of God – they are assured by the faithfulness of God – but they are only given to a people in a right relationship with God.  They are given to those who trust God in humility and faith.

Is this you?  Then rejoice!  Live in the reality of this blessing, trusting Jesus for the restoration He brings.

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