James 2:14-17)”My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, ‘God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!’ – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions than it is dead.
It becomes quite clear that we must act out our faith. Isn’t it worth trying! To you there may come the same wonderful changes that have come to other men and women all down through the years.
Your life may be guided by Christ… Your problems may be solved by His wisdom… Your weakness may be burned into strength by His help… Your struggles may become – victories by His grace… Your sorrows may be turned into joy by His comfort.
And you too, may have that fellowship with the risen Christ. Indeed, you will not believe the fact of the Resurrection for yourself until the living Christ lives in your own heart. When you have in your own life that sense of His nearness and His power – ah, then, you too will know!
Joel Book Overview
The occasion for Joel’s prophetic ministry was a plague of locusts which was consuming Judah. The fact that no historical record of such a plague has endured does not mean this event was simply an allegorical device of a writer. Rather, this underscores the truth that even the worst natural or national disasters fade from memory when attention is turned to something that endures for forever – an eternal God and his future kingdom.
|853 b.c.||King Ahab dies in battle
|848||Elisha becomes a prophet
|841||Jehu becomes king of Israel; Athaliah seizes Judah’s throne|
|835||Joel becomes a prophet? Joash becomes king of Judah
|814||Jehoahaz becomes king of Israel
|798||Jehoash becomes king of Israel|
|796?||Joel’s ministry ends|
|served as a prophet to Judah, possibly from 835-796 b.c.|
|Climate of the times||Wicked Queen Athaliah seized power in a bloody coup but was overthrown after a few years. Joash was crowned king, but he was only seven years old and in great need of spiritual guidance. Joash followed God in his early years but then turned away from him.|
|Main message||A plague of locusts had come to discipline the nation. Joel called the people to turn back to God before an even greater judgment occurred.|
|Importance of message||God judges all people for their sins, but he is merciful to those who turn to him and offers them eternal salvation.|
|Contemporary prophets||Elisha (848-797 b.c.), Jonah (793-753 b.c.)|
|Purpose:||To warn Judah of God’s impending judgment because of its sins and to urge the people to turn back to God|
|Author:||Joel son of Pethuel|
|To Whom Written:||The people of Judah, the southern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere|
|Date Written:||Probably during the time Joel may have prophesied, from approximately 835-796 b.c.|
|Setting:||The people of Judah had become prosperous and complacent. Taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centeredness, idolatry, and sin. Joel warned them that this kind of life-style would inevitably bring down God’s judgment.|
|Key Verses:||“That is why the Lord says, ‘Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you” (2:12, 13).|
|Key People:||Joel, the people of Judah|
“Listen up!” “I’m talking to you!”
What gets your attention? For some, a touch on the arm, for others, a shout from the street. But some people seem oblivious to everything and everyone.
Distractions, daydreams, worries, and concerns can consume us. They make it difficult to hear or think about anything else. Sometimes we need a wake-up call, something to grab our attention and put it on the right track.
The people of Judah needed such a call.
They were coasting.
Prosperous and complacent they have become self centered. Taking God for granted, they had turned to Idols. So, through Joel, God sends a wake-up call, a divine attention-getter to shake them out of their lethargy and sin. Joel predicts a devastating plague of locusts that will destroy the land unless the people repent and turn back to God.
God does what it takes to get our attention. Does he have yours?
A single bomb devastates a city, and the world is ushered into the nuclear age. A split atom—power and force such as we had never seen.
At a launch site, rockets roar and a payload is thrust into space. Discoveries dreamed of for centuries are ours as we begin to explore the edge of the universe.
Volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, and tornadoes unleash uncontrollable and unstoppable force. And we can only avoid them and then pick up the pieces.
Power, strength, might—we stand in awe at the natural and man-made display. But these forces cannot touch the power of omnipotent God. Creator of galaxies, atoms, and natural laws, the Sovereign Lord rules all there is and ever will be. How silly to live without him; how foolish to run and hide from him; how ridiculous to disobey him. But we do. Since Eden, we have sought independence from his control, as though we were gods and could control our destiny. And he has allowed our rebellion. But soon the day of the Lord will come.
It is about this day that the prophet Joel speaks, and it is the theme of his book. On this day God will judge all unrighteousness and disobedience—all accounts will be settled and the crooked made straight.
We know very little about Joel—only that he was a prophet and the son of Pethuel. He may have lived in Jerusalem because his audience was Judah, the southern kingdom. Whoever he was, Joel speaks forthrightly and forcefully in this short and powerful book. His message is one of foreboding and warning, but it is also filled with hope. Joel states that our Creator, the omnipotent Judge, is also merciful, and he wants to bless all those who trust him.
Joel begins by describing a terrible plague of locusts that covers the land and devours the crops. The devastation wrought by these creatures is but a foretaste of the coming judgment of God, the “day of the Lord.” Joel, therefore, urges the people to turn from their sin and turn back to God. Woven into this message of judgment and the need for repentance is an affirmation of God’s kindness and the blessings he promises for all who follow him. In fact, “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (2:32).
As you read Joel, catch his vision of the power and might of God and of God’s ultimate judgment of sin. Choose to follow, obey, and worship God alone as your sovereign Lord.
|1. The day of the locusts (1:1–2:27)
2. The day of the Lord (2:28–3:21)
|The locust plague was only a foretaste of the judgment to come in the day of the Lord. This is a timeless call to repentance with the promise of blessing. Just as the people faced the tragedy of their crops being destroyed, we, too, will face tragic judgment if we live in sin. But God’s grace is available to us both now and in that coming day.|
|Punishment||Like a destroying army of locusts, God’s punishment for sin is overwhelming, dreadful, and unavoidable. When it comes, there will be no food, no water, no protection, and no escape. The day for settling accounts with God for how we have lived is fast approaching.||God is the one with whom we all must reckon—not nature, the economy, or a foreign invader. We can’t ignore or offend God forever. We must pay attention to his message now, or we will face his anger later.|
|Forgiveness||God stood ready to forgive and restore all those who would come to him and turn away from sin. God wanted to shower his people with his love and restore them to a proper relationship with him.||Forgiveness comes by turning from sin and turning toward God. It is not too late to receive God’s forgiveness. God’s greatest desire is for you to come to him.|
|Promise of the Holy Spirit||Joel predicts the time when God will pour out his Holy Spirit on all people. It will be the beginning of new and fresh worship of God by those who believe in him, as well as the beginning of judgment on all who reject him.||God is in control. Justice and restoration are in his hands. The Holy Spirit confirms God’s love for us just as he did for the first Christians (Acts 2). We must be faithful to God and place our life under the guidance and power of his Holy Spirit.|
The literary genius of Joel shines through in the book’s structure, which flows smoothly from start to finish. Each section relates to what precedes it and what follows it. Hence, it helps to read the whole book in one sitting before studying its parts. The focus of the book is two-fold: (1) The ever present, practical problems of what to do about locust plague; and (2) The Future Day of the Lord, of which the current plague a sign. In combining the two – event plus interpretation – joel is performing the classic function of an OT prophet, that of conveying God’s revelation.
1 The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.
2 When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But with wise and knowledgeable leaders, there is stability.
3 A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops.
4 To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them.
5 Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.
6 It is better to be poor and honest than rich and crooked.
7 Young people who obey the law are wise; those who seek out worthless companions bring shame to their parents.
8 A person who makes money by charging interest will lose it. It will end up in the hands of someone who is kind to the poor.
9 The prayers of a person who ignores the law are despised.
10 Those who lead the upright into sin will fall into their own trap, but the honest will inherit good things.
11 Rich people picture themselves as wise, but their real poverty is evident to the poor.
12 When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.
13 People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy.
14 Blessed are those who have a tender conscience,£ but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.
15 A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a lion or bear attacking them.
16 Only a stupid prince will oppress his people, but a king will have a long reign if he hates dishonesty and bribes.
17 A murderer’s tormented conscience will drive him into the grave. Don’t protect him!
18The honest will be rescued from harm, but those who are crooked will be destroyed.
19 Hard workers have plenty of food; playing around brings poverty.
20 The trustworthy will get a rich reward. But the person who wants to get rich quick will only get into trouble.
21 Showing partiality is never good, yet some will do wrong for something as small as a piece of bread.
22A greedy person tries to get rich quick, but it only leads to poverty.
23In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.
24 Robbing your parents and then saying, “What’s wrong with that?” is as serious as committing murder.
25Greed causes fighting; trusting the Lord leads to prosperity.
26 Trusting oneself is foolish, but those who walk in wisdom are safe.
27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing. But a curse will come upon those who close their eyes to poverty.
28When the wicked take charge, people hide. When the wicked meet disaster, the godly multiply.
For a government or a society to endure, it needs wise, informed leaders—and these are hard to find. Each person’s selfishness quickly affects others. A selfish employee who steals from his company ruins its productivity. A selfish driver who drinks before taking the wheel makes the state highways unsafe. A selfish spouse who has an adulterous affair often breaks up several families. When people live for themselves with little concern for how their actions affect others, the resulting moral rot contaminates the entire nation. Are you part of the problem or the solution?
Because justice is part of God’s character, a person who follows God treats others justly. Justice begins with concern for what is happening to others. A Christian cannot be indifferent to human suffering because God isn’t. And we certainly must not contribute to human suffering through selfish business practices or unfair government policies. Be sure you are more concerned for justice than for the bottom line.
God does not listen to our prayers if we intend to go back to our sin as soon as we get off our knees. When we forsake our sin and follow him, however, he willingly listens—no matter how bad our sin has been. What closes his ears is not the depth of our sin but our secret intention to do it again.
Rich people often think they are wonderful; depending on no one, they take credit for all they do. But that’s a hollow self-esteem. Through dependence on God in their struggles, the poor may develop a richness of spirit that no amount of wealth can provide. The rich man can lose all his material wealth, while no one can take away the poor man’s character. Don’t be jealous of the rich; money may be all they will ever have.
It is human nature to hide our sins or overlook our mistakes. But it is hard to learn from a mistake you don’t acknowledge making. And what good is a mistake if it doesn’t teach you something? To learn from an error you need to admit it, confess it, analyze it, and make adjustments so that it doesn’t happen again. Everybody makes mistakes, but only fools repeat them.
Something in each of us strongly resists admitting we are wrong. That is why we admire people who openly and graciously admit their mistakes and sins. These people have a strong self-image. They do not always have to be right to feel good about themselves. Be willing to reconsider—to admit you are wrong and to change your plans when necessary. And remember, the first step toward forgiveness is confession.
Proverbs 28:17, 18
A sinner’s conscience will drive him into either guilt, resulting in repentance, or to death itself because of a refusal to repent. It is no act of kindness to try to make him feel better; the more guilt he feels, the more likely he is to turn to God and repent. If we interfere with the natural consequences of his act, we may make it easier for him to continue in sin.
For many people, the rugged individualist is a hero. We admire the bold, self-directed men and women who know what they want and fight for it. They are self-reliant, neither giving nor asking advice. What a contrast to God’s way. A person can’t know the future or predict the consequences of his or her choices with certainty. And so the totally self-reliant person is doomed to failure. The wise person depends on God.
God wants us to identify with the needy, not ignore them. The second part of this proverb could be restated positively: “Those who open their eyes to poor people will be blessed.” If we help others when they are in trouble, they will do whatever they can to return the favor (see 11:24, 25). Paul promises that God will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19); he usually does this through other people. What can you do today to help God supply someone’s need?
|Diligence and Laziness|
|Proverbs makes it clear that diligence—-being willing to work hard and do one’s best at any job given to him or her—is a vital part of wise living. We work hard, not to become rich, famous, or admired (although those may be by-products), but to serve God with our very best during our lives.|
|The Diligent||The Lazy||Reference|
|Become rich||Are soon poor||10:4|
|Gather crops early||Sleep during harvest||10:5|
|Are an annoyance||10:26|
|Are prosperous||Are idle||12:11|
|Hard work returns rewards||12:14|
|Will become leaders||Will become slaves||12:24|
|Make good use of resources||Waste good resources||12:27|
|Are fully satisfied||Want much but get little||13:4|
|Bring profit||Experience poverty||14:23|
|Have an easy path||Have trouble all through life||15:19|
|Are like those who destroy||18:9|
|Won’t feed themselves||19:24|
|Won’t plow in season||20:4|
|Stay awake and have food to spare||Love sleep and grow poor||20:13|
|Make careful plans||Make hasty shortcuts||21:5|
|Love pleasure and become poor||21:17|
|Love to give||Desire things but refuse to work for them||21:25, 26|
|Are full of excuses for not working||22:13|
|Will serve before kings||22:29|
|Sleep too much, which leads to poverty||24:30-34|
|Reap abundance through hard work||Experience poverty because of laziness||28:19|