Please read INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHETICAL BOOKS if you have not already done so.
It is impossible to pinpoint the exact date of the prophecy of Joel. I put it within the reign of King Joash of Judah (835-796 B.C.). Other scholars put it after the exile, some time after 516 B.C.
Here is where Joel fits within the historical narrative of the Bible:
2 Chr. 22-24: 841-796 (2 Kings 8-13)
841-825 - OBADIAH 1825-809 - JOEL 1-3
King Joash followed God in his early years, but he fell away from God in later ones. As the King went, so did the nation. The people of Judah had become prosperous too, and this had lulled them into spiritual complacency. They became self-centered, idolatrous, and sinful. Joel was a prophet who cried that this would bring about God's judgment. The day of the locusts (1:1-2:27) was only a foretaste of the judgement to come in the day of the Lord (2:28-3:21).
We will be hearing quite a bit about the "day of the Lord" as we study the prophets. In brief, it is a time when the nations will be judged. In this case, there is warning of an invasion (probably the Assyrian one in 701 B.C.).
In the midst of the judgment is a plea from God: Return to Me!
The most beautiful (and probably key) verses in this book are:
"Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil. (Joel 2:12-13)"Even now" with all their sin, He wanted them back. God only wants our hearts. He wanted to show them His great mercy. In addition, He wanted to restore what the locusts had eaten, bless them, and pour out His Spirit on all people. Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 when the outpouring of the Spirit occurred during Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). Ezekiel and Zechariah also spoke of this outpouring (Ezekiel 39:28,29; Zechariah 12:10). In the Old Testament, the Spirit came and went on certain people (Numbers 11:24-29; 1 Samuel 10:10-11; 19:20-24). Now, all believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Joel was talking about current situations but also about a future time when God will bless believers with everything they need and will destroy evil.
I struggled mightily yesterday to write this post. Then, I woke up this morning and two verses in my prayer book spoke exactly what I wanted to say yesterday:
You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.
My flesh trembles for fear of You;
I stand in awe of Your judgments.
God is holy. Therefore, His judgments are sure, but He wants us to run away from sin and into his "gracious and compassionate" arms! We need to not worry about what we are running away from (sin) and realize WHO we are running to. God confirmed this over and over yesterday as I ruminated on writing this post. One confirmation even came through the lips of a person named Joel! Isn't that funny?(Psalms 119:120)
Here are other examples of our gracious and compassionate God:
He turns and "has pity" (Joel 2:14 NIV) on us! What a great God!
Lord, it is Your kindness that leads us to repentance. Lord, all You want is my heart, and I give it freely to You this morning. In Jesus name, Amen.