A Short Study of Joel

June 3, 2009

Just wanted to post some notes from recent messages I’ve been studying for and teaching over here.  Most of what follows came from a question based, one night look at the book of Joel, but some of it also come from my notes and is a bit more eclectic in its focus.  All in all, not much more than study notes in this one I’m afraid, but still here she is.

What is the structure?

  1. 1:1-3 Intro
  2. 1:4-14 Destruction described and a call to lament
  3. 1:15-2:11 Day of YHWH
  4. 2:12-17 Call to repent
  5. 2:18-3:21 YHWH’s response in three movements:

Coming to restore the land
Coming to dwell with His people
Coming to judge the nations

Why the devastation of the land? (1:4-20)

On top of the devastating effects of sin on those of us who perpetrate it, the land also always feels the effects of sin.  It always has (Gen. 3:17-19) and it always will–at least, as long as man continues to pollute it with sin.  More specifically though, the coming of the locusts and the destruction they bring should harken us back to the covenant curses detailed in Deuteronomy 28:38-42.

You will take much seed to the field but gather little harvest, because locusts will consume it.  You will plant vineyards and cultivate them, but you will not drink wine or gather in grapes, because worms will eat them.  You will have olive trees throughout your territory but you will not anoint yourself with olive oil, because the olives will drop off the trees while still unripe. You will bear sons and daughters but not keep them, because they will be taken into captivity.  Whirring locusts will take over every tree and all the produce of your soil.

What’s more, Joel’s ambiguous language in chapter 1:15-2:11 (Who is this army?  Locusts or people?) actually moves us in to the next phase of covenant curses: military seige (Dt. 28:47-57).

What of the peculiar language of 2:1-3?

As the language makes clear, this is the “day of YHWH”, but not the special language cues: trumpet, holy mountain, shaking, fear, darkness, storm clouds, blackness and fire.  Now, think of the first time this same language is employed in a group (at least as far as I can tell)–Exodus 19:16-19.  Israel is invited to come up on the mountain, shrouded in cloud and wreathed in flame, when the trumpet sounds.  Instead they disobey and remain at the foot of the mountain shaking in fear as Moses goes up to meet with the Lord.  I may be preaching to the choir on this one, but I love this connection: the scene distinctly communicates the coming of YHWH to his earth.

What about God’s response to the repentance of his people?

Compare Deuteronomy 30:1-10 with the repentance (2:12-17) and response (2:18-3:21) sections of Joel:

  • “Return” – Dt. 30:2; Jl 2:12
  • “Pity” – Dt. 30:3; Jl 2:17
  • Return of exiles – Dt 30:3-5; Jl 3:1
  • Making up for loss – Dt. 30:5, 9; Jl 2:25
  • Israel’s curses transferred to enemies – Dt. 30:7; Jl 2:32-3:16

It seems pretty clear that the two bookend facets of the response sections of Joel (restoring the land and judging the nations) are pretty clearly paralleled by the restoration section of Dt. 30.  The one piece from Deuteronomy that does not appear to be explicitly recapitulated in Joel though comes in Dt. 30:6–

The Lord your God will also cleanse your heart and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love him with all your mind and being and so that you may live.

The only parallel I see in Joel to this passage in Deuteronomy is the central piece of YHWH’s response to His people where Joel details the coming of the Spirit.  Finally, after so many years (Num. 11:29), the Spirit will finally bring the presence of YHWH back to the people of God as he indwells them at the coming of the end and restoration of all things! (for more, follow this link, to Peter’s take on Joel)

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Pentecost Acts 2:1-47

June 3, 2009

Again, just a type version of a recent study we did over here; this time over Acts 2 on Pentecost Sunday.

Four verses of action (Ac. 2:1-4) require a whole chapter of explaining.  Four verses of action filled with intriguing imagery and occurrence that have goaded many to wonder at the Old Testament connections of the event.  The feast of Pentecost is underway.  A time when the “firstfruits of the harvest” are brought in and celebrated (Dt. 16:9-11).  The sound of wind or spirit (what a wonderfully ambiguous word!) without presence of wind draws us back to the creation story (Gen 1:2, 2:7).  The tongues of fire remind us of YHWH’s leading of his people through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21).  The coming of the Spirit recalls Moses’ longing “that all the Lord’s people were prophets”  (Nu 11:29).  And the varying languages spoken in the tongues of “every nation under heaven” and their confusion are both reminiscent of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11).

Frankly, its not surprising those who witnessed the event responded as they did.  Confusion: “How is this happening?” (Ac. 2:7).  Questioning: “What does this mean?” (2:12).  And skepticism, or even cynicism: “They’re drunk!” (2:13).

And so, amid such thoughts, Peter stands up to preach a three point sermon, each revolving around Old Testament quotations.  As I’ve studied the passage, it seems the theme of Peter’s message is stated in his first point/quotation: we are in the last days. Here’s how I see Peter’s message breaking down:

Point #1 Acts 2:14-21 – The Spirit is here (Jl. 2:28-32)–therefore, the last days have come, restoration is here and the firstfruits of the great harvest of God are already being brought in! (Note: Pentecost vs. the desolation of Joel 1-2:11)

Point #2 – Acts 2:22-32 – Death is already being defeated (Ps. 16:8-11) in Jesus’ body–therefore, Jesus is living proof that death and all his friends are already being condemned by the life that is already available in Jesus!

Point #3 – Acts 2:33-36 – Jesus is already reigning (Ps. 110:1)–therefore, how will you live, in these last days, when life is finally being restored?

The implications of the message are simple.  How will you reorient your life around the current reality Peter has just declared?  Will you live as if the end were not already so near?  Will you live in the death you have always known?  Will you choose slavery to the old masters?  Or, will you live these last days enjoying life under the great King?