Today’s Chocolate: Theo 70% Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Joel 2
The second chapter of Joel begins with a trumpet warning of war, if you can call it a war.
Joel sees a vision of an advancing foreign nation, and he devotes nearly half the chapter to describing their power. Even at a distance, it’ll be clear to the people of Israel that they’re terrifyingly outclassed by the coming army; Joel prophesies, “Before them the people are in anguish; all faces turn pale” (6). These are disciplined soldiers, besieging cities with ease, and their power even shakes heaven and earth with apocalyptic might. And on top of that, they’re sanctioned by God.
That’s right: Israel may be God’s chosen people, yet this army that will march against them belongs to the Lord. Joel tells us: “The Lord utters His voice before His army; surely His camp is very great, for strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?” (11). These advancing soldiers belong to God just as much as the Hebrew nation of Joel’s day, at least when you view the army as an instrument of the Almighty’s judgment. It’s a huge blow to Israelite pride that God would consider them so unfaithful to his calling as to sanction a foreign army against them, even calling the opposition’s forces his own.
And, as in chapter one, the prophecy doesn’t specify the particular charges of Israel’s wrongdoing. Joel simply enjoins his countrymen to beg God for mercy. Speaking for God, he commands, “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning'” (12). Like a child who knows exactly what he’s done wrong and is waiting for the other shoe to drop, there’s nothing for Israel to do but cop to the crime, repent, and throw one’s national self on God’s compassion.
And God’s got the compassion. If his people ask him to spare them, he’ll spare them. If, as Joel urges them to, they say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not make Your inheritance a reproach” (17), God promises to rescind his punishments: “The Lord will answer and say to His people, ‘Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, and…I will remove the northern army far from you” (19-20). They’ll have crops and vineyards again: locust revokus. And the army of God’s wrath? Wrapped up. God promises to turn the situation around if Israel will simply turn from their sin: “I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, my great army which I sent among you” (25). They may deserve their punishment, but if they return to God, he’ll make their suffering up to them with prosperity as if it were a debt.
That’s the Day of the Lord, says Joel. It can be judgment for you, or it can be rescue. Repent and escape, receiving God’s mercy, or persist in your sins and suffer the consequences. And we all know which one Joel is hoping his people will choose.