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Joel 2 and God's Army

This is page two of a study of Joel 2. If you haven't read it, go back to part 1 for a description of God's army.

"The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:" (Joel 2:10)

This is not describing a normal eclipse as the stars are also involved. Because of the required alignment, it is not possible to have solar and lunar eclipses at the same time. It is more likely something occurring on earth that is blocking the light from them. There is some similarity to events described in Revelation:

"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;" (Rev 6:12)

This also sounds like a passage in Isaiah:

"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine." (Isa 13:9-10)
"And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" (Joel 2:11)

This is the last verse of a description of a group of people which began with verse two. It now gives a name to this group - the Lord's army. Each member of that army will be guided by the Spirit as God utters His voice as He leads. This is suggesting that there will be no church structure, no hierarchical structure but, rather, God's direct, personal involvement.

The locust plague described in Joel 1 which resulted in a literal famine may be foreshadowing a future spiritual famine not of bread and water, but for the Word of God.

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it." (Amos 8: 11, 12)

This famine for the word may not literally mean that people cannot find the word of the LORD as in they can't find copies of the Bible. It may mean that they cannot find an understanding of what the word of the Lord is actually saying; what it actually means. Far too many who claim to be ministers of the Word are not following or teaching what scripture actually is trying to teach.

This is similar to what is said by Hosea:

"They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them." (Hosea 5:6)

Rather than a locust plague to punish unfaithful Israel, this may be symbolically teaching about God's "army" of evangelists who will stand the final test in the last days and do His work.

"Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;" (Jer 51:20)

This is not so much a physical, military battle as it is a work to overcome spiritual darkness. The group of people described in Joel 2 verses 2-11 and called the army of the Lord are in contrast with another group described in Revelation 9. That group is described in association with a darkness which could conceivably darken the sun moon and stars (which cannot happen with just a simple eclipse).

"And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power." (Rev 9:2-3)

Aside from the coincidence of the astronomical happenings in both Joel and Revelation 9, there are quite a few other comparisons between the two chapters that seem to suggest they do go together.

Joel 2 Compared with Revelation Chapter 9

Revelation chapter 9, set in the sounding of the trumpets, includes the sounding of the fourth and fifth trumpets which are associated with warning. Note the correspondence with Joel 2.

Joel 2
Revelation 9
blow the trumpet trumpets
v2 day of darkness, thick darkness v2 sun and the air were darkened
God's army described in vs 2-11 144,000 described in chapter 7
locusts in chapter 1 locusts of fifth trumpet
v8 not wounded by the sword v4 not hurt those that are sealed
v4 appearance as horses v7 locusts like horses

Both passages seem to indicate warning messages given by a special group of people during a time of great distress.

"The day of the LORD is great and very terrible" with "great" being a word for large in magnitude and extent and "terrible" being a word most commonly rendered as fear. This is describing a day (or period of time) that is very significant for the whole world.

Joel 2 - A Time for Repentance

"Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:" (Joel 2:12)

Fasting and weeping and mourning suggest repentance. The same three words are used in Esther:

"And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; (from the same original word translated "mourning" in Joel 2:12) and many lay in sackcloth and ashes." (Esther 4:3)

Esther and the Jews she was with also faced a grave danger even to the point of a death decree.

"And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." (Joel 2:13)

"Rend your heart" refers to having true repentance for a life of sin, to change direction. However, "repenteth him of the evil" in reference to God is not saying that He changes His mind but that He will act differently in reaction to our position, in accord with whether people truly turn to Him or not. His actions change because His character does not. If we turn to Him, He will protect from the inevitable results of a course of sin.

"Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?" (Joel 2:14)

Is the message of Joel 2 verses 12-14 directed to God's army (who have presumably already returned to Him and repented) or is it the message they are to give? The thought that "He" (if that is referring to God in verse 14) will return and repent, and leave offerings to God seems awkward. Is it possible that the intent of these verses is more a message being given by God to His army to, in turn, give to the world? It could be like the following with God directing His servants to go to sinners and give this plea:

"Go and give this message: The LORD says turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God. And encourage them (the sinners) by explaining to them what I am like: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. And then perhaps he (the sinner) will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto me, the LORD your God?" (Joel 2:12-14, paraphrased with underlined portions being the message to be spoken to those in need of repentance, emphasizing the forgiving character of God).
Part 3 of this study will continue at verse 15 - blow the trumpet in Zion.  

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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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