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My Commentary On Joel

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Rend Your Heart (ch. 2:12-17)

Verse 12 is like verse 1.  God calls for His people Israel to repentance.  Of course, this passage applies to Jews but the principle of repentance applies to all peoples, including Christians.  One cannot walk uprightly before the Lord without a spirit of humble repentance in their lives.  At initial salvation one must repent before he can possess genuine faith in Jesus.  Then, once a person is saved, obedience to God requires an ongoing life of repentance.     

In Old Testament Hebrew thought, repentance meant more than acknowledging one's sin as many Evangelicals tend to believe today.  It meant to depart from one's sin.  It meant to leave your sins behind.  Repentance was a serious matter in the Old Testament and it is also a serious matter in the New Testament.  We see the serious nature of repentance with the arrival of John the Baptist.  He was executed because of his ministry of repentance as seen when he rebuked King Hared for his adultery.  John was to prepare the way for the Lord by calling Israel to repentance.  I believe God will and is raising prophets of God to call the church to repentance as Jesus' second return to earth draws neIt's my thinking the today's church has lowered the Biblical bar of salvation that allows people to think they are Christian when in fact they are not.  One way this is done is the lack of teaching and preaching on the meaning of true repentance.  If someone does not really repent, it is impossible for him to have genuine faith.  It is also impossible for him to receive the Holy Spirit that confirms the fact that he is saved.        

Joel says, "even now, return to me with your heart." God doesnít want His people to wait for another day to repent. Today is the day, lest there be no tomorrow.  The words "even now" show this to be true.  God gives time for us to repent, but that time is limited.  This is especially true with the nations.  He always gives nations time to repent, as we see here with Israel, but, once that time is up, and, once God declares judgment, judgment is inevitable.   

The words "with your heart" mean that this repentance is not a matter of the mind.  The Greek way of thinking concerning repentance was to change your mind about sin.  This is basically what much of the Evangelical Church has embraced.  That is to say, repentance is just a simple acknowledgment of sin, but that is not what is seen here in Joel.  With your heart suggests something much more than an acknowledgment of sin.     

This heart felt repentance is seen by God saying that the Jews must return to Him with fasting, that is, with weeping, and mourning. This is not a casual decision in the eyes of God. The return of His people to Him is a very serious issue.   

I don't believe that such repentance as is seen here can be done in our own strength.  I believe that God Himself will give us a spirit of repentance if we are willing to receive it.  Acts 11:18 states that it is God who grants repentance, or as some versions have put it, "led them to repentance."  As Zechariah 12:10 says, God Himself will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication upon Israel at the end of this age.  As Christians we need to ask for such an outpouring of repentance.  We often ask for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but the outpouring of repentance is just as important.  I might suggest that the outpouring of the Spirit is subsequent to the outpouring of repentance. The outpouring of repentance precedes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in many cases.     

2 Timothy 2:25 speaks of God granting people repentance.  The Greek word "didomi" that is translated as "grant" here means "to give."  It is thus clear to me that God has a hand in the process of repenting.  If we are willing to repent, He will help us repent.  

Acts 26:20 tells us that true repentance will be seen in our deeds, or, in how we live.  If there is no evidence of repentance in your life, you have not repented. 

I'm not convinced that an emotional state of weeping and mourning is always necessary for one to exhibit true repentance.  Since repenting means to walk away from a life of sin, it's the walking away that is the important thing.  Any emotionalism that comes with this walking away is secondary.  I might add that the way in which Israel of old showed their spirit of repenting was when they gathered together and wept over their sins.  That may well be the case with many today, but it's not necessarily the case.  All of the above being said, if we understood the nature of our sin as God did, I think we might be disturbed to the degree that we would weep.   

In verse 13 God says to "rend your hearts and not your garments."  The tradition in those days, and even in Jesusí day, was to rip your clothes when you were disgusted and wanted to show this disgust outwardly. Here, God says that the outward ripping of clothes means nothing if your heart isnít ripped apart. This is what repentance is all about. Yes, it is a matter of changing your mind, but once you change your mind about your sin you act upon this change of mind by departing from sin.  The ripping of one's heart is a very good way of saying it.  When one really meets the Lord Jesus Christ and finds true repentance and trust in Him, you feel like your heart has been ripped out of your chest.  The more one sees the sinful condition of his life as Paul speaks about in Romans 1, 2, and 7, the more his heart will feel ripped out of his chest when he repents.  This tells me that any outward expression of repentance is secondary to the inner response.    

I believe, at least in part, this verse speaks to religious tradition, which can easily be applied to the church today.  God is not interested in the outward tradition of repentance as can be seen at times in our times of corporate prayer.  Unless corporate prayer is a serious matter from the heart and there is evidence of true repentance in the way we live, it is pure tradition.  God is not interested in our tradition.       

Amos 5:21 actually says that God hated, even despised, Israel 's religious feast, the very feasts that He instituted for them to keep.  Their assemblies were a stench to the Lord.  He hated them because they became pure tradition.  There was no heart felt worship to the Lord in their religious ceremonies.  I'd say that the church today is more like Israel than we think in the western world.  God might well hate some of our church meetings.      

Note here that fasting was part of the repentance process, or, I might say, helped the people repent.  Fasting in Old Testament times was always associated with repenting. 

In the rest of verse 13 we see another side to God that has not yet been seen in the book of Joel as yet.  God says that His people should return to Him because "He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and relents from sending calamityÖ" The picture here is that God is very loving, kind, and gracious.  You can only experience the full measure of God's love, however, once you return to Him in repentance.  He relents of calamity means that He really doesnít want to send calamity.  He will not bring calamity on you if you repent, and in this case the pronoun "you" that I use is in reference to Israel.  So, the plea goes out to God's people to come and experience Godís love.  If God's people, whether Jew or Christian, fail to come to Him in repentance, sooner or later, calamity will come, and as the book of Revelation portrays it, it is an explosion of God's wrath on an unrepentant nation or person. God holds back His wrath but there will come a time that His wrath will explode upon the earth, but not after everyone has had a chance to repent and experience His great love.

Verse 14 says that "who knows, He may turn and relent Ö"  The word "relent" is probably not a well understood word today.  It means to abandon a harsh intention.  Joel is saying that if Israelis repent, then God might relent.  In other words, if Israelis repent, God just might abandon His harsh intension He had planned for Israel.  This phrase, however, does suggest to me the possibility that God might not relent.  On the other hand, the wording Joel uses might just be poetic license.  That is to say, He is making his point in such a way that he is doing his best to get his readers to repent, even if he exaggerates a bit by suggesting that maybe God won't relent.  

One thing we should understand is that in the period of time when God through His prophets spoke the warning of coming judgment, as He is hear, He can change is mind.  This means He can, and will, abandon His intentions to judge with calamities.  That being said, once the time period ends, and, once He declares judgment, I do not believe He changes His mind.  Judgment and sentencing will come.     

The process of relenting here means more then God changing His mind about sending calamities.  It includes blessings that He wants to give His people.       

The reference to the grain offering is
interesting here.  As we saw in chapter 1, God's judgment can destroy the agriculture of a nation.  If Jews had no grain they could not fulfill their religious duties of a grain offering.  So, if Israel would repent, God would restore their agriculture so they could have grain for the offerings.  As this verse states, God would bless them instead of cursing them.   

Although what I say now is debatable, there are many Prophetic Futurists who believe that during the thousand year rule of Christ on earth the Jews will obey the Law of Moses as they promised God.  God will hold them to their promise.  The thousand year rule of Christ, at least in part, is to have Israel be what it was meant to be, and that is a godly example to the nations of the world and live as they were meant to live.  This means that the sacrificial system for the Jews would be re-instated during the thousand years, and thus this reference to the blessing of grain being restored for the grain offerings.  That being said, many Bible teachers don't see this reference to the grain offering as futuristic.  They see it as being in Old Testament time if Israel repented of their sins.  If, however, this grain offering is in reference to the 1,000 year rule of Christ, let me suggest that all of the sacrificial offerings would be thought of in terms of their Messiah having already come and already redeeming them.  This was not the case in Old Testament times when the offerings were prophetic of a future day in time.  This time they would be in reference to a past day in time.        

At the moment I believe that the word "relent" should be understood in Joel's day.  This call for repentance, although will be a call for a future generation of Jews to repent, was a call for the Jews in Joel's day to repent as well. 

Verse 15 tells us that Israel was to blow the trumpet in Zion and declare a sacred fast.  The blowing of the trumpet in Old Testament Israel was an act to bring the Jews together for a specific reason.  It was an alarm, a call to gather together.  In this case it was a call to corporate fasting.

Note the name "Zion."  If you believe in Replacement Theology, that is, the church has replaced the  Israel in prophetic history, then you would understand Zion to be the church.  I do not see it that way.  I see Zion as being literal Zion.

From verses 16 through 18 we see the call to repent again.  Everyone is to come and gather together for a mass repentance.  The priests, the ministers, the elders, and the whole congregation, including mothers feeding babies and brides and grooms who are preparing for marriage.  This is more important than anything else in life, including marriage.  This is not a time to be doing other things.  You can feed your children in the congregation of prayer.  Bring the babies along with you God says, because you need to be there to repent.  This shows us how serious repentance is in the mind of God.

In these verses we see one reason for the need for Godís people to repent, and that is so scorn and shame will not come on His people from the world around them.  It is one thing for the world to look upon Godís people and shake their heads in scorn because of their sin and hypocrisy.  It is quite a different thing for the world to scorn God because of His people's sinful hypocrisy.  This is what is happening in many parts of the western world today.  Because God's people, the church, are not living like they should, not only are they being scorned but the God they claim to serve is being scorned.  I don't think God is very happy about that.      

The whole point to these few verses is that the assembly of God's people, whether Old Testament Israel or the New Testament church, must gather for a time of serious and meaningful prayer and repentance.  Both the Jews of old and the church today must repent.  If we are indeed living in the time of the end, this message is for us. 

This section ends with, "why should they say among the nations, 'where is their God.'" Like much of what weíve been reading here, all that is said about Israel and their relation to their God can be said about Christians and the church in their relationship to their God.  Why should the world say, "where is their God?"  They shouldn't say such a thing but they do, and they do for good reason.  God can no longer be seen in much of what is commonly called church in the western world today.  Therefore, the world says, "where is the God you claim to serve?"  

We should realize that God will not restore Israel for their sake.  It is for His name sake that He will restore Israel as He has promised (Ezekiel 36:22).  The reason for this is because Israel 's sin has caused the nations to scorn God.  In order for God to redeem His name, He must, and He will, do as He promised.  It's to keep His name credible among the nations.    

Verse 16 says to "consecrate the assembly."  This simply means to call the people of God together and set them aside for a time of prayer.  Consecrate means to set something aside for a specific purpose.  In this case people are to be set aside for the purpose of both prayer and repentance.

In verse 17 the people of God are to ask God to spare His people and not allow "His inheritance to be scorned."  Note that God's people are His inheritance.  God's people belong to God and for this reason; His people should pray that He would save His inheritance, save those who belong to Him.  Of course He will if His people repent.  God is not so insecure that He cannot destroy what belongs to Him.  He has done it before and He will do it again.     

Verse 17 is right when it speaks of God's people being scorned among the nations.  That has been the life of the Jews for centuries.  In one sense of the word that is the life of the church as well.  One reason why Christian and Jews are scorned because of their faith in their God, but far too often they are scorned is because of our hypocrisy.   This should never be.  May no one ever say to you, "where is your God" because of the way you live.   

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