Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Joel 2: 18-22

Deliverance Promised
18Then the LORD will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people.
19The LORD will answer and say to His people,
"Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil,
And you will be satisfied in full with them;
And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.
20"But I will remove the northern army far from you,
And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land,
And its vanguard into the eastern sea, and its rear guard into the western sea
And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up,
For it has done great things."
21Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad,
For the LORD has done great things.
22Do not fear, beasts of the field,
For the pastures of the wilderness have turned green,
For the tree has borne its fruit, the fig tree and the vine have yielded in full.

We continue the good news of relief for Judah in the midst of Chapter 2. There is clearly a break in the text as Joel's prophecy focuses for the remainder of the book on God's grace and mercy in Judah's situation.

My study Bible suggests that there was a period of time (between verses 17 and 18) in which Judah did repent, and the verses following tell of the Lord's work in light of their repentance. The tense of the passage is future, as it is in other translations, including the King James, so I'm wondering why repentance had to occur at this point. I'm not doubting that repentance did occur, but wouldn't it be appropriate for God to outline what He would do in a prophecy?

How God-planned it is that as 'deliverance' comes up in this blog the same week as my new small group Bible study (Priscilla Shirer's One in a Million) also begins on the same topic! Besides referring to the literal taking of something to someone, 'deliverance' also means salvation--saving--or liberation--rescuing and freeing from. ( Shirer uses Israel during the time of bondage in Egypt as her subject, saying that the people needed to be delivered from "a person" and "a place." [She also says we all have this issue.]

I would suggest that Judah was in the same position during Joel's time. Whereas captive Israel needed to be freed from Egypt's allure and led to the promised land, devastated Judah needed to be freed from its place of famine and "reproach" among the heathen nations (vs. 19). Israel needed deliverance from the person of Pharoah, Shirer continues. Judah needed deliverance from the person of their other gods. [As Shirer also suggests, we all need deliverance from the person of Satan.]

With its repentance, the nation of Judah would see the return of the zeal of the Lord their God and His hand in their lives. Interesting how 'zealous' and 'jealous' are somewhat related. The New Living Translation actually uses the phrasing "...and jealously guard the honor of his land," in verse 18. 'Zeal' means "enthusiastic devotion or passion, eager desire." 'Jealous' can mean being "vigilant in maintaining or guarding something," along with some other definitions that are more negative. Biblically speaking, 'jealous' refers to being "intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry." (all His zeal and compassion make way for His restorative work. "Our God is a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5) is the lifetime posture to which God wants Judah to return.

The Lord's work means the lifting of the famine and all that would bring that condition about, including restoration of the crops as the food source for people and animals. (vs. 22) [And I love how He speaks to all His creation in that verse!] The sustenance of the nation will be returned not only through food to eat but restoration of food for sacrifice and offering (i.e., new grain, wine and oil) (vs. 19), so, spiritual restoration.

The content of verse 20 lies as a point of discrepancy amongst Bible scholars. Some view the "northern destroyer" as the locusts and some view this reference as pointing to a future military invasion. The Amplified Bible seems to infuse both viewpoints, noting the stench is "like that of a decaying mass of locusts, a symbol and forecast of the fate of the northern army in the final day of the Lord."

There is also discrepancy over the phrase "great things" referring to both "the northern army" and, in verse 21, God. The Hebrew for 'great' in these two verses is the same word. And, as my study Bible suggests, one could successfully argue that the locusts or a large army could have done great things. We know that God most assuredly does great things. Either way, I believe the meaning is pretty clear, don't you think?

Lastly, I must note the assurance given in the first part of verse 21:

"Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad...."

What I understand is the most oft-mentioned phrase in the Bible, "Do not fear," is here, again. This time, it is offered to "the land"--the nation of Judah.

God knows that hardship has come upon Judah and has come under His providence. Yet even in the most dire of circumstances, He has "pity" (vs. 18) upon His people--compassion...and a desire, a zeal, to spare them. He "will answer" (vs. 19) their cries of confession and will honor the turn of their faces in repentance. And He will restore them!

"And you will be satisfied in full...." (vs. 19)

More of God's plan for Judah's deliverance.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Joel 2: 23-27

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).


Carmen said...

I really love your explanation for the word 'jealous.'

'Jealous' can mean being "vigilant in maintaining or guarding something,". Biblically speaking, 'jealous' refers to being "intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry."

It is so often regarded as a negative word, and yet, if your mate cheated, wouldn't you be jealous, and righteously so? This is how God feels for us when we go asunder as well...and it's because of His great love for us. I should hook you up with Oprah. ;)

Sue J. said...

I really like your example of marriage, Carmen, because it's so true (or, at least, it should be!!)

[As for Oprah, I used to live in Chicago. When I did hospital PR, we used to book doctors (mostly psychiatrists) for the Oprah show, which was just down the street. I, myself, never made it into the studio. Think time is running out, too, for that....]