Joel, the Prophet of Last Day Things
The book of Joel proves itself to be written by God from the fact that three of its great prophecies are already fulfilled. These may be noted as follows:
1. Joel foretells the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28), and the fulfillment is shown by Peter's words recorded in Acts 2: 1, 14, 16-19.
2. Joel prophesies the darkening of the sun (Joel 2: 31), and this met fulfillment in the dark day of May 19, 1780. Concerning this we read: " May 19, 1780, stands in history as The Dark Day.' Since the time of Moses, no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration, has ever been recorded. The description of this event, as given by eyewitnesses, is but an echo of the words of the Lord, recorded by the prophet Joel, twenty-five hundred years previous to their fulfillment: ' The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.' "----" The Great Controversy," page 308.
3. Joel foretells preparations for Armageddon (Joel 3: 9-12), which was partially fulfilled in the preparations for the World War.
In view of these three definitely fulfilled prophecies, we may confidently expect that all other prophecies by Joel will be as surely fulfilled.
Prophecy Concerning "the Day of the Lord"
Joel was the first of the inspired prophets whose writings form a part of the Bible, who saw the events connected with " the day of the Lord," and he refers to it as follows: " Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." Joel 1: 15. He also states, " The Lord also shall roar out of Zion." Joel 3: 16. It may be noted that Amos, in the introduction of his prophecy, stated the same fact, " The Lord will roar from Zion " (Amos 1: 2), yet Amos prophesied while King Uzziah lived. Amos 1: 1. Isaiah also prophesied concerning " the day of the Lord," but he did not begin to prophesy before the year in which King Uzziah died (Iss. 6: 1) ; therefore Joel is the first of the prophets (I refer to those prophets whose books became part of the Bible), even before Isaiah and Amos, to prophesy concerning " the day of the Lord."
Joel Sounds the Keynote for All Succeeding Ages
Verse 2: " Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?" Hahn! The prophet will foretell something to come: a colossal scene, greater than the flood, greater than crossing the Red Sea, greater than anything which heretofore has happened in the memory of man.
Verse 3: " Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation." The coming event must be retold from one generation to another. It must be passed on until it becomes a proverb; it must be the keynote for coming ages.
Verses 4-15: As when one pitches a tent, he drives the first stake, then the last, and sights into line all the intervening stakes; so with Joel. He drives the last stake when he drives the first. After a series of instructions, then painful descriptions followed by instructions, comes the CLIMAX in verse fifteen: "Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come."
That which is to be told from one generation to another (as stated in verse 3) is information concerning the four great devastating powers described in verse 4 as follows: " That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left thath the caterpillar eaten."
In his commentary on the first chapter of Joel, Dr. Pusey says: " The locusts, accordingly, are not chiefly the insects which bark the actual trees, but every enemy which wastes the heritage of God, which He calls by those names. His vineyard, the Jewish people, was outwardly and repeatedly desolated by the Chaldeans, Antiochus Epiphanes, and afterward by the Romans."
We cannot say definitely that by the palmerworm, the locust, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar God had exactly in mind Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome, yet the following significant statements are worthy of due consideration:
1. These devastators are called " a nation," Joel 1: 6.
2. They are likened to a " lion" (Joel 1 :6), as is Babylon elsewhere.
3. They are likened to an army. Joel 2: 25.
4. They are identified as " the heathen." Joel 2: 17.
5. They are spoken of as rational creatures. Joel 2: 17. (See also Rev. 9: 4.)
If, however, the prophet has precisely in mind literal locusts, cankerworms, palm,erworms, and caterpillars, he must by these foresee the devastations of the seven last plagues, which later we will notice in reference to Joel 1: 16-20.
In verses 7 and 8 we find the region or people to be devastated by these four great powers, designated by the following terms:
a. A Vine.—" He hath laid my vine waste." Christ called His church a vineyard. Matt. 20: 4.
b. A Fig Tree.—" And barked my fig tree." Christ likened His people to a fig tree. Luke 13: 6, 7.
c. A Virgin.—" Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth." Paul likened the church to a virgin. 2 Cor. 11: 2.
The Serious Call to Repentance
Verse 9: The spiritual barrenness of the church is revealed, and the situation implies that the final stroke is near: "The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests, the Lord's ministers, mourn." Since the " meat offering " and " drink offering " are called " a blessing " (Joel 2: 14), their absence at this time shows that God's people are greatly devoid of spiritual power.
Verse 11: The serious condition of the ministry is portrayed: "Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandvien [appropriate term for evangelists whose duty it is to weed out sin and sinful habits by their preaching]; howl, O ye vinedressers [appropriate term for teachers who extract the wine from the word the true doctrine], for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished."
Verse 13: The priests are not only to be ashamed, as called for in verse eleven, but in view of the unprecedented, impending calamity, the " ministers of the altar " are called to pass days and nights in prayer and supplication before God. "Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God." The " evil servant " (Matt. 24: 48) would not lay aside his delicious programs to do this, and so is appointed a portion with the hypocrites.
Verse 14: As all the land was to be stricken, a fast and a solemn assembly was also enjoined upon " all the inhabitants of the land." "Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord."
The Day of the Lord
Verse 15: Here is stated the reason for making this serious call to repentance. The " day of the Lord " is the climax of the prophecy, and this day is declared to be " at hand; " therefore the church must know that it is at hand. "Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." The great signs which precede this impending event, " the day of the Lord," Joel brings to view a little farther on. (See Joel 2:31; 3:9.)
The reference to " the day of the Lord " by other prophets should be kept in mind in connection with the study of Joel 1: 15:
1. Zephaniah states that when the day of the Lord is near, it " hasteth greatly." It was slow for some time, but near the end it moves with incredible velocity. Zeph. 1: 14.
2. It will be ushered in by a great decree (Zeph. 2: 2), and in Revelation we find that this decree announces the close of probation; it is the decree which seals the unjust as forever unjust, and the holy as forever holy, Rev. 22: 11, 12.
3. The day of the Lord is called " a day of wrath." Zeph. 1: 15.
4. In connection with the " day of wrath " a great hail will be poured out (Job 38: 22, 23), but the hail is designated as the ending of the seven last plagues; therefore, the seven last plagues begin when the " day of the Lord " begins.
The Seven Last Plagues
Verse 16: Immediately after declaring that " the day of the Lord " was upon them, Joel cries: "Is not the meat cut of before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our Godt " It is serious when joy and gladness are departed from anything. But when these are gone from the house of God, the worst has come; the Bible no longer breathes hope, and the days of Amos 8: 11-14 are fulfilled, when people wander from sea to sea seeking the word of God.
Verse 17: The hope of the future is gone. The seed is not simply unfruitful, but it is rotten, and the barns are not repaired, because it is manifestly useless to do so. " The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered."
Verses 18-20: Here is brought to view the effect of the fourth plague. A comment on these verses, found in " The Great Controversy," page 628, reads as follows: " In the plague that follows, power is given to the sun to scorch men with fire.' . . . The prophets thus describe the condition of the earth at this fearful time. . . . ' How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture. . . . The rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.' "
Sound the Keynote
"The day of the Lord " was to be the keynote of the church down through the ages, the great event toward which all other events were hastening. What part would it play when that day was " at hand " ?
Washington, D. C.
(To be continued)