Joel 2:18-27: Intervention Promised
“18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. 19 The Lord answered and said to his people, ‘Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations. 20 I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise’, for he has done great things. 21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! 22 Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23 Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. ‘25 I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. 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 again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame’”.
The Lord responds: Mercy and Intervention promised
The end of Joel Part 3, saw the nation of Israel being led by their priest in a corporate show of repentance. Verse 18 shows the results of the repentance:
“18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people”.
So, the repentant prayers of verse 17 are answered by the Lord in this next section, with the Lord Himself speaking. God is deeply touched by the afflictions of His people; Isaiah records that He is so concerned for Israel that He equates His attention towards them as greater than a nursing mother for her child. Isaiah goes on to document an astonishing confession, that God will never forget Israel because they are carved upon the palm of His hand (Isa 49:16). Isaiah also writes that it is not only impossible for God to forget Israel, but that “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in his love and in his pity, He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”.
“19 The Lord answered and said to his people, ‘Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations’.”
God loves Israel deeply and is jealous for “His land” (v18), in fact Zechariah records that “whoever touches (Israel) touches the apple of his eye” (2:8). One can then imagine how grieved God was when He, because of the disobedience of Israel, was required to remove them from the land. The last instance being for 1 900 years, where the land of Israel without the presence of the chosen people, became a barren wasteland. In 1948 God opened the doors for Israel’s return and the land blossomed, becoming once more the land of milk and honey.
Joel reminds the people of the very important fact, that it was the Lord’s mercy that restores the Jews, and their deliverance had nothing to do with the efforts of man.
“20 ‘I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things”.”
God promises to remove the enemy referred to as the “northerner” from the land. The question that is immediately raised is who is this northerner, is it locust or man?
The majority of the locust plagues ride upon the winds of the south, bringing the swarms up from Egypt. Swarms descending from the north are rare, but do occur, and the picture painted by Joel is that they perish in the Negev with the swarm stretching from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea. However, nowhere in scripture are locusts referred to as the northerner, and it is difficult to interpret the destruction caused by the swarm as having achieved “great things”. To understand Joel’s prophetic writing, we must interpret it from a Hebrew perspective of both/and, rather than the Western mindset of either/or. The locust swarm is a type of the nations that will invade Israel from the north, as a judgement from God. The list of nations that will invade Israel/Judah from the north is long – Assyria, Babylon, Rome (x2) and the greatest of them all, the end time apocalyptic army that collects in the valley of Megiddo, just before the return of Jesus. The acts of the enemy will end in being a mere “foul smell,” which is in contrast to the “great things” of the Lord.
The Assyrian Empire
Capital – Nineveh, a city of Nimrod
The Babylonian Empire
Capital – Babylon, a city of Nimrod
“The land of Nimrod” – the tool of judgement
The nations of Israel and Judah both rebelled against the Lord and followed after false gods. The origin of these deities was in the Babylonian religion under Nimrod and Semiramis, at the time of the construction of the tower of Babel. God used Sargon and Nebuchadnezzar – kings over the land of Nimrod who were empowered by the Babylonian Mystery of Iniquity – as tools of His judgement upon the Jews. God used the nations of the origin of the sin to judge the sin! These two nations fall under the general definition of northerner. When we understand that God uses the nations where the seat of the Mystery of Iniquity was situated, as His tool of judgement, we can see how this also extends to the Romans and the end time army. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Jews were still continuing the temple sacrifices. Jesus, the Mystery of Godliness, had completed His work of salvation, yet the Jews had rejected God’s provision. God waited forty years for the Jews to repent of their rejection of Jesus, and when this did not occur He sent the Romans – from the north – to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The Roman pantheon housed all the gods of the empire, all of which had their origins in Babylon.
Deuteronomy 28 records the warnings of what will happen to the Jews if they break their covenant with God. By just reviewing verses 49 to 68 one sees amazing fulfilment of these warnings:
Verse 49: The Lord says that He will “bring a nation against [Israel] from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you do not understand”. Rome was a nation from far away. The symbol of Rome is an eagle and it “swooped” down upon Israel when the Roman general Titus led some 32 000 infantry, 10 000 archers and 10 000 cavalries against the Jews. Latin, the language of the Romans, was not understood by the Jews.
Verse 52: “They will lay siege to all the cities throughout [Israel]”. Rome systematically moved from northern Israel – laying siege to town and city and ravaging the countryside – efficiently moving south to destroy Jerusalem, and eventually ending with the suicide of 960 Jews at the siege of Masada in the Negev, near the Dead Sea.
Verse 53: “You will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters”. This scripture was literally fulfilled during the terrible Roman siege of Jerusalem in 68-70 AD, when food stores dwindled to nothing and the desperate population of Jerusalem resorted to desperate means.
Verse 64: “Then the Lord will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other”. As a result of campaigns by the Romans against Jewish revolts in 70AD and 132AD, most of the Jews were scattered, leaving few in Israel. Over the years of finding “no resting place for the sole of [Israel’s] foot” (verse 65), the Jews were scattered to all corners of the earth.
There is another army from the North in scripture, which has not as yet been covered. However, God repels this army before they can cause serious damage to Israel. The growth of Russia into a major world power is another “sign of the times”. Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophesies about a major battle which involves a confederacy of nations headed by Russia, referred to as the land of Magog. God has as yet not judged Russia for its rampant anti-Semitism over the years, and in recent times, the military aid it has given the Arab nations in support of their numerous conflicts with the Jews. It seems that God has a purpose in His delay and will use the Russian-led attack on Israel to show the world that He is the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel. He will raise His banner over Israel to show the world once more that He is the true God – the God of Israel defeats the invading armies by the methods He has used to defeat invading armies in the past. This is recorded in Ezekiel 38:21-22. Ezekiel prophesies the destruction of a future invading army, and reveals that God will use methods that He has used in the past, to deal with four different armies that have previously invaded Israel during First Covenant times, viz:
- The armies turn on each other and fight each other (vs.21): The Old Testament example is from 2 Chronicles 20:23 where Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah watch God bring confusion on the armies of the Moabites, the Ammonites and the men from Mount Seir, as they fought against each other and annihilated one another, while Israel and King Jehoshaphat sat and watched.
- Pestilence strikes the armies and kills many (vs.22): This example is covered in 2 Kings 19:34-36 when Hezekiah and Isaiah pray for deliverance from Sennacherib and the Assyrian army. In answer to their prayers God sends an angel down to the camp to put the Assyrian soldiers to death.
- A storm that cast down great hailstones (vs.22): This is from Joshua 10:11 where God cast down huge hailstones on the Amorites, killing more of them than the Israelites killed with the sword.
- Burning sulphur that is cast down from heaven (vs.22): In Genesis 19:24 Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by God for their wickedness.
The Lord responds – Mercy and Intervention promised
“…I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.” (v19)
The promise by God to ensure that the nation of Israel will never again be a “reproach among the nations,” must be a promise that points all the way to the Millennial Kingdom. From the time of Joel, as we have seen, there has been a succession of nations who have conquered Israel/Judah. To the list of conquers from the North, we need to add nations that Israel submitted to in the time after their return from Babylon. These nations include the Greeks under Alexander the Great, and the Seleucid dynasties from Syria. The list of nations that humbled Israel is lengthy, and even today the new nation of Israel experiences hatred and discrimination from the majority of the United Nations’ members. On the 10th of November, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution labelling “Zionism,” as a movement of “racism and racial discrimination”. Daniel Moynihan, the Ambassador of the United States at that time, stated that the resolution was not a condemnation of Zionism, but of Israel.
The extent of the anti-Semitism in the UN is made evident in the number of resolutions passed against Israel for human rights abuses; Israel consistently receives 3 to 6 times more than the rest of the world combined (see table below). The Human Rights Council consists of 47 members, with a large number of them from Islamic nations, who are hostile to Israel. There is great irony in the fact that Israel, a nation with freedom of religion and the only democratic nation in the Middle East, is being condemned by Islamic nations that do not allow freedom of religion, and most do not hold democratic elections, which are basic human rights. The HRC also has members that are repressive dictatorships such as China and Cuba, and nations that have a long history of human rights abuse such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. This council that monitors the rights of humanity, will sensor Israel for defending its citizens against continual unprovoked attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, with no mention of the continued Palestinian aggression. The anti-Israel agenda of the UN is clear evidence of the spirit of the Antichrist at work in a one world government organisation. The nation of Israel will continue to be a reproach to the nations of the world, until the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus returns to establish the Millennial Kingdom.
General Assembly Votes on Israel vs. The Rest of the World
|Year||Resolutions Related to Israel||Resolutions Related to the Rest of the World|
Prosperity from the Lord
“21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! 22 Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23 Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.”
The next section of the book of Joel is in stark contrast to the first two chapters. God, it seems, has heard their cry of repentance and removes the curse, bringing restoration and blessing to the land. The land will rejoice as it recovers from the devastation, receiving both the former rains required for the wheat and barley harvest, and latter rains for the fruit harvest. The livestock will not have to fear barren pastures, and the trees and vines will once more have branches laden with their fruit. The miraculous recovery will cause the people to rejoice in the favour and blessings of God.
The picture painted by Joel in these verses, is a foretaste of the abundance that the Millennial Kingdom will provide. Amos 9:13 also describes the abundance of this period, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it”.
“24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.”
There is a wonderful promise of restoration made by God in verse 25. Note that God promises to restore the “years” plural. This does not mean that there were successive invasions of locust swarms, but rather that the devastation was so great that it took a number of years for the land to recover. The effects of the restoration to both land and population are recorded in verse 24, with an abundance of grain (wheat and barley), wine (fruit) and oil (olive trees). Those servants of the Lord who have been put through times of hardship, with trials and testing, may be comforted by this promise to Israel. God will restore, and more so, that which was lost during the testing phase. “The years that the swarming locust has eaten,” will be restored. The lives of Job, Joseph, Daniel and David are testimony to this fact.
The prosperity of the restoration brings comfort to the people as the bounty fills their storage barns, and the abundance brings praise to their lips, as they marvel at the wonders that God had done. Joel emphasises to the people that God has dealt “wondrously” with them, the recovery was a miracle of wonderous proportions.
Through the restoration process God is making four very important points, which are of great significance:
- One of the names of God is “the God of Israel,” and God takes HIs titles very seriously, He has a covenant relationship with Israel; He will always be gracious to them.
- God never abandons His people, even during their most rebellious times, He is still their Father, bringing about the corrective methods required for their restoration.
- God is the “God of hosts,” the God of a mighty army, and He will protect His people from the northern army that comes upon the land in the last days.
- The life of a people who trust in God will be a life of abundance, not necessarily a life of riches, but a life filled with God’s provisions for a life dedicated in service to Him.
Christians can take cognisance of these four points, as we too are in a covenant relationship with God and the principles apply equally to us. Just as Satan is bent on the destruction of Israel through the “northern army”, so too is he determined to destroy us, and we have the assurance of God’s protection. Rebellion against God will bring a spiritual famine on the individual’s life, then there will also be the correction of God, as He brings circumstances to bear that will correct the relationship. But, there is the wonderful promise that God will restore “the years that the locust has eaten”
“… And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame”.
Joel ends the promise of restored prosperity with an eternal promise, a promise that points to the Kingdom period, that Israel will never again be put to shame. This is the continual focus of scripture, that God is going to restore the world to how He intended it to be. The promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18-91 of the full extent of the land from the river of Egypt (Nile delta), to the Euphrates river will be fulfilled for Israel. The disciples will sit in Judgement over the twelve tribes of Israel as promised by Jesus in Matthew 19:28. They will rule with the Son of David, from the city of David, the Prince of Peace, from the city of peace. This is our destiny as well, we will one day be ruling with Jesus as part of His Millennial Kingdom, this should then be the focus of our lives – not on the treasures of this life – but on earning eternal rewards.