TODAY’S READING: Joel
Not much is known about Joel except that he prophesied at a time when the temple was still standing. Some have that time being the 8th century BC and others during the late Persian period around 300 years later. Whatever the timing, Joel’s main warning is the terrible day of the Lord which in the immediate meant a plague of locusts on Israel (horrific to an agricultural society) and in the future the universal day of judgment on all nations (Joel 2:30–31, 3:14–16).
The day of the Lord in Israel’s thinking was a day of their vindication. They did not realize that in calling for justice they were calling judgment down on themselves. It is an error common to all self-righteous men of every age. Fundamental to their/our mistake is the misconception that God chose us because we are inherently special or better. But what if we are chosen for the opposite reason? What if we are chosen precisely because we are not special? Israel was chosen to be God’s missionary people, not because they were stronger than all, but because they were weaker than all and because God wanted to use them as an example that He could save and use everyone and anyone. Similarly, the Church (the people of God) are not chosen because we are wise, good, or strong, for God descends on the weak and foolish of the world as declaration that the Spirit will descend on all people from all nations.
When God’s people forget they were chosen for God’s universal ambition to redeem a remnant from every people, they face His wrath, whether that be locusts or apocalypse. When God’s people repent of their arrogance, rend their hearts and return to the Lord (2:12–13), He not only forgives and refreshes them with the former and latter rain and His presence in their midst (2:23, 27), He also refreshes their memory with His original intention: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (2:28)! The pouring out of the Spirit is for the express purpose that the nations be wakened as there are multitudes in the valley of decision (3:12, 14).
It was no mistake then at the day of Pentecost when Peter stood and quoted the prophet Joel, that the ones he addressed were Iranians (Parthians, Medes, and Elamites), Iraqi, Kuwaiti, and Syrian (Mesopotamia), Israeli and Palestinian (Judea), Turks (Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia), Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabs (Acts 2:9–11) hearing in their own tongues the wonderful works of God. For the message of Joel passed on through Peter was that God has ever wanted to pour out His Spirit on all peoples.
We cannot read Joel without seeing again God’s missionary heart for all peoples. We cannot read Joel without a surge of joy that God promised His Spirit will be poured out on all flesh, including the Daza of Chad. On that great and terrible day of the Lord, I look forward to hearing worship in the Dazaga tongue. In this great day God looks for Spirit-filled missionaries to lift their tongues where other tongues do not yet praise.