Blow a trumpet in Zion;
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.
Fire devours before them,
and behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them,
but behind them a desolate wilderness,
and nothing escapes them.
Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,
and like war horses they run.
As with the rumbling of chariots,
they leap on the tops of the mountains,
like the crackling of a flame of fire
devouring the stubble,
like a powerful army
drawn up for battle.
Before them peoples are in anguish;
all faces grow pale.
Like warriors they charge;
like soldiers they scale the wall.
They march each on his way;
they do not swerve from their paths.
They do not jostle one another;
each marches in his path;
they burst through the weapons
and are not halted.
They leap upon the city,
they run upon the walls,
they climb up into the houses,
they enter through the windows like a thief.
The earth quakes before them;
the heavens tremble.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
The LORD utters his voice
before his army,
for his camp is exceedingly great;
he who executes his word is powerful.
For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome;
who can endure it?
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O LORD,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
Then the LORD became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
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.
“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.
“Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
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.
“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 threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
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.
“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.
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.
“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,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
(Joel 2 ESV)
A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.
With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
(Psalm 142 ESV)
For the Love of God
THE OPENING VERSES OF JOEL 2 provide a stunning picture of the advancing hordes of locusts. The last verse of the section (2:11) makes it clear that these locusts are the Lord’s army. The fact of the matter is that “the day of the Lord” in the Old Testament, i.e., the day when the Lord manifests himself, is as often a day of judgment as of blessing and light: “The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” (2:11). Transposed to the ultimate day of the Lord, the same thing is true: it is very great and dreadful. Who can endure it? Only those who have fled for protection to the security that only God himself provides will be able to proclaim on the last day, when the wrath of God is fully displayed, “I need no other argument / I need no other plea; / It is enough that Jesus died / And that he died for me” (L. H. Edmonds).
Two highly memorable passages follow:
First, in Joel’s exhortation to return to the Lord comes this remarkable verse: “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (2:13). The habit of wearing sackcloth or of rending one’s garment at times of great distress or as a sign of repentance was well known. Like all outward manifestations, however, it could be aped. Instead of being an outward manifestation of inward repentance, it could easily become one more piece of religious cant. God wants a change that stems from within, not an external display that hopes it can wheedle blessings from him. This also suggests, in strong terms, that deep repentance involves not only a turning away from sinful behavior but an emotional, visceral response — a rent heart, a deeply shamed repugnance at previous engagement with sin. It does not produce people who try to negotiate a new contract with God, but men and women who, convicted by the Spirit, cry out in desperation, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
Second, the closing verses of the chapter (2:28-32) tell us what God will do “afterward,” i.e., after the blessings that he promises to pour out on the people in terms of their homeland and harvest. He will pour out his Spirit on all people (2:28) so mightily that all will have the knowledge of God, all will enjoy the prophetic Spirit. These verses are quoted by Peter as being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21); they are parallel to various promises of the new covenant (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36). See the meditation for July 15 in volume 1, and, in this volume, for August 3 and October 3.