Reading through the Bible together
Joel’s name (“Yahweh is God”) reflects the unchangeable character of God and His marvelous intervention in both history and anticipated last day events. From a historical “Day of the Lord” that ancient Israel experienced through a natural disaster of a locust invasion (chapter 1), Joel moves to a prophetic “Day of the Lord” (chapter 2) which materialized in the form of a foreign army invasion (possibly the Babylonian forces invading Judah before the Exile). Then he ends his short book with a prophetic outlook on end times (“Day of the Lord”) and its accompanying final events (chapter 2 and 3).
The book of Joel is a masterpiece of Hebrew poetry with a skillful use of language and vivid figures of speech. The prophet’s messages appear in the form of sermons addressed to all Israel. He calls attention to the calamities God has sent to remind His people of the need of a thorough reformation. A quick glance at selected expressions from the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) vividly describe such a need: “Listen to this , O elders. Give ear, all inhabitants of the land. Has the like of this happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it. The priests must mourn. The country is ravished. Proclaim an assembly and cry out to the Lord. For the day of the LORD is near.”
Considering that Joel also has in mind the events of the last days, natural disasters have become a part of the daily world news: from landslides in Bolivia and Burundi to earthquakes in Chile and China, we are seeing the long treks of displaced people making their way across the devastated landscapes of our old planet as we watch the news on TV screens in our living rooms.
What happens when disaster strikes closer to home or when such events displace us? Can we still look up in all of this and affirm that God remains God and that He is in control? Even more so when we realize that all these signs tell us that His coming is very near. Let us lift up our heads and know that our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).
Martin Klingbeil, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies and Archaeology
Southern Adventist University