The Terrible Visitation1Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the LORD is coming; surely it is near,
2A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness
As the dawn is spread over the mountains, so there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
3A fire consumes before them and behind them a flame burns
The land is like the garden of Eden before them
But a desolate wilderness behind them, and nothing at all escapes them.
4Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like war horses, so they run.
5With a noise as of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains,
Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
Like a mighty people arranged for battle.
Joel kicks up his description of the “day of the LORD”, making it perfectly clear that this is a day unlike any other.
Our passage starts with “Blow the trumpet” which is always a signal that something significant is coming. [Remember Joshua?] The Hebrew for the verb blow implies a mighty explosion of air with the intent to “clatter” [Strong’s], not simply to make an announcement or to proclaim. This is “an alarm.” Perhaps the ultimate Emergency Broadcast System test, except it isn’t a test.
“Let all the inhabitants…tremble.” I just spent two weeks as a substitute music teacher in a Christian school. What a wonderful experience! The two weeks in and around Holy Week is a great time to share some particularly moving spiritual music. I taught them Were you there? Do you remember the chant in the middle? “Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble….” It’s difficult to define, but what an opportunity to share about the pairing of fear and awe, and that’s what we’re reading here. We’re shaking at the sight, but we’re in awe at the One who is bringing about that which the people are experiencing.
Verse 2 contains much visual description and contrasts. “A day of darkness”—not just dark but, in the Hebrew, “gloom, as if a lowering sky.” [Strong’s] [Was Chicken Little that far off?] But, there’s more. “Gloominess” meaning misfortune, concealment, and “clouds and of thick darkness” which is more than just the state of being dark, like black, but, figuratively, to all things bad—“misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness.” [Strong’s] The day of the Lord will not come as something welcomed but as something that will truly bring fear to the forefront.
I like how Joel says that this darkness will come “as the morning.” When I think about darkness rising like morning, I get very concerned. Whereas morning is the breaking forth of light, this day will come as the breaking forth of darkness. Just look out your nearest easterly window and think about what that might look like. It humbles me when I realize that our God gives us a new day every day in which to make the choice to follow Him, to follow the Light, to know that Light breaks forth—piercing the darkness of every day. Do we see it? I want to swallow in the Light, that I may not see such a day as the Day of the Lord.
"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
--II Peter 1:19
My study Bible makes the point that the horses of verses 4 and 5 are comparable to the locusts. In fact, the explanation of these verses notes the remarkable sameness of the head of a locust and the head of a horse!
In the day, horses were "the most feared military equipment," [S.B.] which would explain the numerous mentions in the Bible of horses and chariots and armies, and the association with fear and dread upon that sight. Locusts came with a horrid noise, like the rush of a chariot; like the "noise of a flame" [KJV]--'flame' in the Hebrew not only meaning a gleam or a flash, but also a sharply polished blade or point of a weapon [Strong's]--polishing off what was left of the food supply; as a battle army, poised to conquer.
"...Like war horses, so they run...."
[And, please forgive me for adjusting the calendar! Next time I have a vacation scheduled, I should just take the vacation; Internet is unpredictable!!]
Photo: http://7art-screensavers.com/screenshots/Graceful_Horses/running-horses.jpg; http://fineartamerica.com/images-medium/1-head-of-dressage-horse-j-and-o-art-studio-cologne.jpg; http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_YniKlbPh29k/SRm_-bBuNoI/AAAAAAAACnw/rxpZmnP16uo/s400/giant_locust_3.jpg
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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).