Reading through the Bible together
This final chapter of the book of Joel, provides a fitting climax to Joel’s prophetic message. It does so by emphasizing some very important themes, themes that were not only important for Joel’s audience but which also speak with relevance and power to our own day. In fact, several of the themes underscored in chapter 3 anticipate and foreshadow certain themes that will be highlighted in the Bible’s last book, Revelation. Let’s briefly consider a few of these themes.
First, there is the emphasis on the closeness of the Day of the Lord. As Joel proclaims, “For the day of the Lord is near” (3:14). Of course, this theme is not limited to the prophet Joel. Repeatedly, the Bible speaks of the Lord’s coming intervention in human affairs. This theme reaches a grand climax with the very last promise of Scripture, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20).
This theme has special significance for Seventh-day Adventists, begun as a movement proclaiming the soon second coming of Jesus. Perhaps we need to take Joel’s message seriously and renew as never before our focus on the nearness of the coming Kingdom of God.
A second theme that is emphasized is the Lord’s deliverance of His people. Joel was not stating that God’s people would face no danger. Not at all, in fact, he warned that their enemies would come up to do battle against them (3:9-12). In a vivid description of the looming threat, Joel describes how the “men of war” (3:9) of the nations of the world would gather in the “valley of Jehoshaphat” (3:12), ready to pounce on a helpless Jerusalem. But at the moment of extremity, a wonderful deliverance would be experienced, because “the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).
This same emphasis is prominent in other places in Scripture, and it also has special meaning for God’s last day church. When their enemies surround them, when the situation is most desperate, God will step in to save them. Indeed, “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 146).
Finally, there is the focus on the Lord’s ongoing presence with His people. After experiencing the devastation resulting from the locust plague (ch. 1) and the destruction brought about by the enemy army (ch. 2), one might wonder about the future of the people of Jerusalem. Does Joel offer any hope? Thankfully, the prophet answers this question in the magnificent phrase with which his book concludes: “The Lord dwells in Zion” (3:21). What is this but a beautiful anticipation of Revelation’s promise that God will dwell with His people forever when He restores them to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21).
May we, as God’s people today, live in expectation of the time foreseen by the prophet Joel. May we look forward to the soon-coming day of the Lord’s return, may we anticipate His glorious salvation, and may we long for the time when He will dwell with His people forever and ever.
Greg A. King, Ph. D.
Dean of the School of Religion
Southern Adventist University