Joel - Praising God in Discipline

Today we are going to study two topics Christians do not study often; and they are rather difficult topics: how God disciplines, and how we are to mourn.
The name "Joel" means "Yahweh is God". However we do not know if he was born with that name, or given that name later. It was not an unusual name, as around twelve other men in the Old Testament were also named Joel. However, there is nothing to suggest this prophet was any of them. We know nothing about Joel personally, except that his father was Pethual.
Uncertain Date:
As for the date, we do not know for sure when this locust plague was in Israel. Tyre and Sidon, mentioned together in Joel 3:4, were only united in the early eighth century. The Greeks in Joel 3:6 were not the later Greeks Athens and Sparta, but the earlier Ionian Greeks, who controlled the trade routes in modern-day Turkey in the early eighth century. There is no reference to either Assyrians or Babylonians. The period in history when both were week was from Adad-nirari's II death 782 B.C. to 745 B.C. when Tiglath-Pileser started his reign. Judah was strong at this time, and King Uzziah was the head of an anti-Assyrian alliance. The Philistines harassed Israel during this time.
On the other hand, Joel calls the Judean kingdom Israel in Joel 2:27 and 3:16, so this might have been after the exile of the northern kingdom in 722 A.D.
The New International Bible Commentary p.887 says that the locust came from the desert in Sudan. With the wind at their back, they were capable of migrating 1200 miles in three days. 400 miles per day, for 14 hours in a day would be about 28 miles per hour. Typically they migrated in a straight line. The ancient historian Pliny claims in Natural History 1.2.12 that a plague of locusts could even gnaw through doors. While this might not be true, this illustrates the terror a plague of locusts would bring.
apparently the book of Joel defies a western style of outlining. Seven Bible commentaries and study Bibles give seven very different outlines. But while most of them disagree on the high level outline, they tend to agree on the smaller parts. Perhaps that is how Joel is to be understood: as many sharp but brief warnings from the heart, rather than a long, highly structured treatise like Lamentations is. Here are the sections I see in chapter 1.
Immediate Discipline of the locust and drought (Joel 1:1-20)

Hear you elders - Joel 1:2-4
Wake up you drunkards - Joel 1:5-7
Priests should mourn like a wife grieving for her husband. - Joel 1:8-10
Despair you farmers - Joel 1:11-12
Put on sackcloth O priests and mourn - Joel 1:13-14
Why all should mourn Joel - 1:16-18
Our proper response: Call to the Lord in the midst of disaster. - Joel 1:19-20

Symbol of Future Judgment (Joel 2:1-27)
Aside: Outpouring of the Spirit (Joel 2:28-32)
Judgment in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:1-16)
Blessing After the Judgment (Joel 3:17-21)

Joel 1 - Praising God when the Locust Come

1. In Joel 1:2, why do you think Joel started off addressing the elders? Were they the only ones affected by the plague of locust?

2. People can be troubled that while some sinned and turned away from God, all seemed to suffer consequences. What do you think about this apparent "unfairness", - from an eternal perspective?

3. Christians disagree on whether elders here could means leaders, or older people, or both. How could both leaders and older people be at fault? Do you think Joel 1:2b-3 answers this?

4. In Joel 1:4, it mentions four types of locusts. While we are not sure what the differences are between these different Hebrew words, the point is that this punishment is in four waves. What two things can we learn about God's discipline from this?

5. In Joel 1:4 why would God send these terrible plagues of locusts, if God loved the Israelites? One might start to suspect that the prosperity of God's people was not God's highest priority!

6. Chapter 1 addresses various groups: elders, drunkards, priests, farmers, priests again, and all. The only sin mentioned in the book of Joel is drunkenness. Why do you think God would address these specific groups? What corresponding groups are there today?

7. There is one key word in almost every section in Joel; the Hebrew word ki, which can be translated as "because", "for" or "surely". It seems God is big on teaching people lessons about reasons to mourn.

8. In Joel 1:5 the drunkards are told to wake up and weep because (ki) their new wine has been snatched from their lips. Why would God start out with such an elementary, earth-centered message? How does Joel 1:6-7 relate to this?

9. In Joel 1:11 the farmers are to grieve for not one but two reasons; what do you see as the short-term and longer-term reason, Joel 1:11 says "because" (ki) and Joel 1:12f says "Surely (ki) the joy of mankind is withered away." (NIV).

10. In Joel 1:13, why would the farmer's crop failures affect the offerings? What are two ways "treasures in God's house" can be squandered?

11. While God brings punishment and discipline, what role do we as Christians have teaching people why these things came, and how they should respond to God? How can we do so, without appearing self-righteous? (example: New Orleans and hurricane Katrina)

12. Why is Joel calling to God in Joel 1:19? Is Joel actually asking God to help or to relent here?

13. 1 Th 5:18 says to give things in all things. How in the world are we to thank God for the locust coming? (Hints: Rom 8:28; Heb 12:5-8)

Joel 2:1-12 - How Do We Blow the Trumpet in Zion?

If all that the book of Joel taught was about how God disciplines and how we are to respond in difficult times, it would be a valuable book to read today. However, Joel is also a very prophetic book about the end times. Which verse in chapter 1 gives a hint of that?

1. In chapter 1, the people were commanded to wake up, weep, mourn, despair, put on sackcloth and wail. Joel himself simply called to the Lord in Joel 1:19. But what different thing are they commanded to do in Joel 2:1,15? Do you think there the order is significant of Joel 2:1,15 after the commands in Joel 1?

2. In applying Joel 2:1,15 today, what would Zion / the holy hill represent?

3. Why wouldn't Zion represent all people, or represent just wherever you lived?

4. Joel 2:1b-2 says that all who live in the land tremble because/for (ki) the day of the Lord is coming. Why should godly believers tremble?

5. When the Day of the Lord is coming in Revelation, should godly believers tremble? Why or why not?

6. Why exactly were they commanded to "blow the trumpet" back then? Why are we to "blow the trumpet" today?

7. Sometimes people are annoyed when things are not as good as they expect them to be, sometimes people are irritated when things do not go their way, and sometimes they are mad when things seem to be deliberately going against them. But Joel 2:6 does not say any of these. How does Joel 2:6 go beyond all of these?

8. What things today put people in anguish, or their face turning pale, verses just being annoyed, irritated, or mad?

9. Is Joel 2:1-11 talking about regular locusts, and invading army, or endtimes?

In the following questions, some relate and some do not.

10. Could Joel 2:1-11 relate to Revelation 9:1-11?

11. Could Joel 2:1-11 be related to Matthew 27:45?

12. Could Joel 2:11-12 relate to Revelation 8:12? Revelation 16:10?

13. How and where are we are Christians to blow the trumpet today?

Joel 2:13-32 - When Do We Ask God to Take Pity?

1. In Joel 2:12-15, once God has pronounced a calamity, is there any way for you to escape it? See Jonah 3:9-10; Amos 7:1-6; Jeremiah 18:5-10

2. In Joel 2:17, what is the significance of weeping between the porch and the altar?

3. In Joel 2:17 what two added reasons are given for blowing the trumpet in Zion in Joel 2:15?

4. What two reasons does Joel 2:18 give for why God's people would want to do these things? How do you think this relates to us being salt in the world?

5. Do you think the large northern army and "the big stench" in Joel 2:20 relate to Ezekiel 39:11-20; Rev 16:12-16; and/or Rev 19:17-19?

6. Joel 1:4 showed the thoroughness of God's discipline and judgment with the four kinds of locust. The army is mentioned in Joel 2:2. In Joel 2:25 how does the thoroughness of God's restoration compare with the thoroughness of God's discipline and judgment?

7. What is amazing about the promise God made to the people of Zion in Joel 2:25-27? Does this refer to a) the Millennium, b) heaven, and/or c) while we are living on earth now? Choose all that apply. (Hint: Joel 2:28 provides a partial clue)

8. In Joel 2:27 how has this been fulfilled? How is this going to be further fulfilled in the future?

9. When did/does Joel 2:28-32 occur? Acts 2:17-21 quotes Joel 2:28-32, so how does Acts 2 relate to this?

10. Romans 10:13 quotes Joel 2:32. How does Romans 10 relate to Joel 2?

11. The false religion called Baha'ism in Baha'u'llah and the New Era p.277-278 teaches that Joel 2:30-32 and Matthew 24:29-30 refer to Moses, Christ, and Mohammed in that their original teachings originally were a sun, but they all were darkened by corruption later on. How would you respond to this?

12. This sounds like a nice, comfortable promise until you read the words at the end: "among the survivors". Why is it so hard for a person to be a "survivor" here?

13. How are we called not just to be a Christian, but to be a "survivor".

Joel 3 - Lesser Judgments to the Great Judgment

1. In Joel 3:2,12 where is the Valley of Jehoshaphat and when and what does this refer to?

2. How does God judging the nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat related to Tyre and Sidon, and Philistia in Job 3:4?

3. What is the difference between the sin of Philistia and the sin of Tyre and Sidon?

4. Why do you think God has prophecies that have dual fulfillment (Isaiah 7:14-16 being the most famous.)

5. Joel 3:10 sounds almost the opposite of Micah 4:3. Is the command in Joel 3:10 something that God wants obedient believers to do, or does the command serve another purpose? (See Joel 3:9,12-13 for a hint.)

6. How does Joel 3:13 relate to Isa 63:2-4 and Rev 14:14-20?

7. When does Joel 3:15 occur?

8. In Joel 3:16 how is the LORD both "roaring/thundering" from Zion and is a refuge for his people?

9. In Joel 3:19, what could be some reasons God inflicts punishment in this life on nations?

10. In Joel 3:21 I thought the people's sacrifices were to take away their sin. How come it was not pardoned?

11. What event happened/will happen that caused God to pardon their bloodguilt?

12. How do we share an urgent, but negative message in a positive-thinking society?

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by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.