The Minor Prophets in the OT are portions of Scriptures that are seldom read, but it does contain several important biblical principles that are still relevant to our lives as God’s children today. I will share with you some of my reflections on the book of Joel. As we study this book, we will begin to see the overall theme of God’s judgment, repentance and restoration being unfolded by the prophet before our eyes.
The judgment of God is one of the important biblical principles preached by the prophets. In this regard, an understanding of the historical setting would enable us to better appreciate God’s judgment on Judah. Joel lived and prophesied in Judah during a period of peace and great prosperity. There was great expansion in the nation’s military, administration, commercial and economy during the reign of king Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:8, 15).
However, the material prosperity of the nation has brought about spiritual poverty and religious formalism in the lives of the people of Judah. In particular, the people spent much of their time in merry-making and drunkenness, and they have forgotten about God (Joel 1:5). Moreover, the people were insincere when they brought their grain and drink offerings to the house of the Lord (Joel 1:9). They did so because that was a requirement of the law of God, but they were just going through the motion without sincerity towards worshipping God.
As a result, a terrible plague of locusts destroyed the grain, vineyards, gardens and trees. The devastation was so great it led to a severe famine throughout the land. Joel uses this national tragedy to preach the Lord’s message of divine judgment against the nation for her sins. The Day of the Lord is near (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11). As we reflect on the history of Judah, we can understand that the people were punished for their sins.
The Psalmist tells us that God will judge the world according to His Word (Psalms 96:13). The apostle Paul warns us that the Day of the Lord will come unexpectedly (2 Peter 3:10) and it will be a terrifying day of God’s wrath and judgment for those who do not know God and render their obedience to Him (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
The book of Ecclesiastes also tells us that all mankind will have to give an account to God for how they live on the Day of Judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Therefore, bearing in mind the above-mentioned passages of Scriptures, let us set aside time to take stock of our spiritual walk with God that we may be found acceptable and pleasing to Him on the Day of Judgment.
Besides the judgment of God, Joel also preached repentance to Judah after the land was devastated by locusts. “Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; wail, you who minister before the altar; come, lie all night in sackcloth, you who minister to my God; for the grain offering and the drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.” (Joel 1:13-14).
Joel also emphasised that repentance ought not to be an outward show, but rather it should flow out from a genuine heart of recognising one’s wrongdoings and purposefully making the decision to live a faithful and righteous life in the sight of God: “So rend your heart, and not your garments.” (Joel 2:13). Our God desires His children to come before Him with a contrite heart of repentance.
As members of the family of God at Jurong, we understand and appreciate how God has sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to be a sacrificial Lamb for the sins of all mankind so that we can have our sins cleansed and be reconciled with Him (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 6:23). Peter also reminds us of the love of God in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Despite how much God desires His people to be saved, we need to recognise that without repentance, judgment will be harsh, thorough and certain (Luke 13:3, 5). Thus, we must be willing to humble ourselves and repent of our sins before God would forgive us of our transgressions.
The restoration of God’s people is another important biblical principle that we can learn from the book of Joel. Restoration and blessing will come only after judgment and repentance. The people of the nation of Judah repented of their wrongdoings and sought forgiveness from God, and the prophet Joel gave assurance to the people that God will heal their land with material abundance and renewed spiritual blessings (Joel 2:18-27).
As we consider the restoration of God’s people during the time of Joel, it is important for us to understand that the ultimate purpose of God blessing His people is so that they would desire to know Him and develop a deeper spiritual relationship with Him. Consider Joel 2:27 when God said He will bless the nation of Judah: “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.”
Hence, we need to constantly remind ourselves not to forget the Giver of all blessings while we enjoy the gifts that He has given us. To this end, let us learn to appreciate and hold on to the spiritual blessings that can be found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) as we continue our spiritual walk with God each day.