Joel 2:13-14, “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God?”
The Book of Joel is one that has caused much perplexity for Bible students (myself included) through the generations. We know the prophet was a real man as both Peter and Paul quoted him in the New Testament (Acts 2:16-21; Romans 10:13). But when did this man live, and to whom did he declare the word of God?
For many years I’ve read this inspired book in God’s Holy Word. I’ve read, studied, and prayed for enlightenment. But through those years I’ve noticed something that seems to be missing, the name of a king in the beginning. So often when we read an Old Testament prophet we learn from the beginning that the prophet labored during the days of a certain king or kings (Isaiah 1:1, Jeremiah 1:3, Ezekiel 1:2, Daniel 1:1, Hosea 1:1, Amos 1:1, etc for an example). But the book of Joel doesn’t mention a king’s name in the beginning. We are able to gather in Joel 3:1-2 that these words were spoken between Jehoshaphat and the bringing back of the captivity from Babylon. But that is a large space of time, my friends. Why is a king’s name not given in the beginning? The answer to this question may help us to better understand when the prophet lived and who he spoke to.
There was a time in Israel’s history when many didn’t recognize those who claimed leadership. In 2 Kings 11-12 and 2 Chronicles 22-24, we read about a time when a wicked daughter of Ahab (Athaliah) claimed the throne of Judah for herself. In my humble estimation, This happened somewhere between 920-880 BC. During those days Athaliah’s son (Ahaziah) was killed. Rather than laboring to help the one who had a rightful claim to the throne, she had everyone murdered (seed royal-including her children) who had a claim so that she may claim it for herself (2 Chronicles 21:10). A sister of Ahaziah named Jehoshebeath, took one of the king’s sons, her nephew Joash, and hid him for six years. According to 2 Chronicles 22:12, Joash was with Jehoiada the priest (Jehoshebeath’s husband) in the house of God during those six years. In the seventh year of Joash’s life, he was crowned king of Judah. Athaliah was slain and a level of order was restored to Judah. Most likely, it was during those six years and during the young life of Joash that Joel prophesied to the people (which is probably the reason a king’s name is not given). It was a dark time when the judgment of God was sure. A time when evil ruled the throne and wickedness was justified among the people.
When we begin reading the Book of Joel, the anger of God against sin is easily gathered. The people had sinned against Him and He had already chastened them. The people had already suffered from the consequences of wrongdoings. But even in the midst of judgment, we find the mercy and kindness of God. Our study verse tells us that even in the midst of darkness and judgment, the Lord’s hand of mercy and kindness is still stretched out to His people. Rend your hearts and turn to God, and He will show mercy.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as I read through the Book of Joel, I can see similarities with the time in which we live. The wicked rule and the most filthy sins are being justified. Sometimes I wonder just how much more God will suffer. But the Lord is merciful and kind. God loves His little children way beyond our imaginations. And just as Joel called on the hearers to rend their hearts and turn to God, may we all be convicted to do the same. Joel 2:14, “Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him;…” And even in the midst of dark and sinful times, there are still Godly men and women like Jehoshabeath and Jehoiada who will stand for what’s right, even in the face of the power of wickedness. So let us stand, let us repent, and let us be found hoping in the Living, True and Eternal God, Amen!