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The Prophet Joel: The Coming Restoration of Israel and the Day of the Lord

Blowing the Shofar

The sound of the shofar (often translated trumpet in English Bibles) reminds us of the admonitions of the prophets and their calls to repentance.

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound the alarm in My holy mountain!  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand.”  (Joel 2:1)

The Hebrew prophet Yo’el (יוֹאֵל or Joel, meaning the LORD is God) provides some of the most exceptional and explicit details regarding the Day of the Lord, a time of judgment in our not-too-distant future that will be cloaked in darkness with armies that conquer like consuming fire.

Joel also tells us that in the end times, God will orchestrate the complete redemption of Israel, describing celestial signs involving the sun, moon, and heavenly bodies.

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance.”  (Joel 2:31–32)

Many Believers today wonder if this solar and lunar eclipse will be fulfilled by the Blood Moon Tetrad of which we are currently in the midst, meaning that the Day of the Lord is just around the corner.

Blood Mood Tetrad

The current Blood Moon Tetrad involves four Blood Moons coinciding with Passover and Sukkot in 2014 and 2015.  They are separated by a full solar eclipse that is only months away (March 20, 2015).  As well, the final Blood Moon during Sukkot (September 28, 2015) will be a supermoon, since the moon will be at its closest approach to the earth, making the moon appear extraordinarily large as it turns blood red.  (YouTube capture)

Joel: the Man and the Prophet

Although the Prophet Joel tells us about key end-time events that likely concern us today, he is a somewhat obscure, mysterious character.

While Joel 1:1 tells us that Joel is the son of Pethuel, little else is known about him.

The Bible offers no other explanation about the author’s life, the time in which he lived, or the king who was reigning in Judah.  The prophet’s name is given only once in Joel, and he is mentioned nowhere else in the Tanakh, although Amos seems to quote him (Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2) as does Isaiah (Joel 1:15: Isaiah 13:6).

Because of that, some conclude that Joel prophesied before these other prophets.

For this reason, Joel’s writing is placed as the second work of the Trei Asar (The Twelve), or the Minor Prophets, a collection of 12 prophetic books in the Tanakh (Old Testament).  This group of prophets is considered minor, not because any of them are less important, but because of the size of their works when compared with the Major Prophets.

The Books of the Tenakh (Old Testament)

The Books of the Tenakh (Old Testament)

The order of the books in the Trei Asar is thought to conform to the historical period of each prophet, beginning with Hosea around the mid-eighth century BC and concluding with Malachi in the early fifth century BC.

While some scholars have estimated Joel’s writings as being eighth century, before Amos, others estimate late 6th and early 5th century BC, a time at which the Temple was standing and the memories of the Babylonian exile were fresh in the minds of the people.

We can tell, however, that Joel’s prophecies begin in his own day and extend to the Day of the Lord—the end-time judgment, as well as Israel’s end-time restoration.

For that reason, the words of the Prophet Joel are entirely relevant for us today.

Fresco of the Hebrew prophet Joel painted by Michelangelo and his assistants for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican between 1508 to 1512.

Fresco of the Hebrew prophet Joel painted by Michelangelo and his assistants for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican between 1508 to 1512.

The Covenant Between God and Israel

Similar to many of the prophets’ writings, Joel emphasizes the importance of Israel’s relationship with the Lord and the consequences of their sin.

That relationship was codified, or drawn up into a legal document called the Mosaic Covenant at Mount Sinai.

In that covenant, the Lord promised through Moses that “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  (Exodus 19:5–6)

In this conditional agreement, the people vowed to do their part in maintaining the relationship, saying, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.”  (Exodus 19:8)

But, if they did not do their part, among the many curses for disobedience would be a great plague of locusts:

“You shall bring out much seed to the field but you will gather in little, for the locust will consume it.”  (Deuteronomy 28:38)

Chapter 1 of Joel begins with the consequence of Israel’s sin, the invasion of the land by locust, followed by Joel’s instruction to the people to turn from sin and receive God’s restorative blessings, instead of His wrath. 

Locusts on the grill of a car in Eilat, Israel (Photo by Niv Singer)

Locusts on the grill of a car in Eilat, Israel  (Photo by Niv Singer)

Swarms of Locusts Devastate Israel

“The vine has dried up, the fig tree has withered; The pomegranate, even the date palm and the apple—every tree in the field has dried up.  Joy itself has dried up among the people.”  (Joel 1:12)

In describing the total destruction of the harvest, followed by a severe drought, Joel describes a famine the Israelites had never seen before—one in which even the animals groan in despair.

God makes it clear that this plague and famine is His work and no natural disaster: “the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, [are] My great army, which I sent among you.”  (Joel 2:25)

By chapter 2, Joel uses the imagery of the swarming, hopping, cutting locusts as an object lesson and a metaphor to describe another vast destruction coming in the future where great armies “have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry.  With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops.”  (Joel 2:4–5)

IDF helicopters

If the Prophet Joel saw helicopters in his vision, it is quite possible that he would have likened them to locusts.  (IDF photo)

Without any reference point for helicopters, planes, tanks or special forces with advanced weaponry and rappelling skills, Joel could only describe this future army in relation to the familiar horses, chariots, and locusts:

“They burst through the weapons and are not halted.  They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.”  (2:8–9)

Because Joel connects this invading army to the Day of the Lord, he could have been seeing the same battle that the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 38–39) or the Seer Asaph (Psalm 83) saw, or even the last battle at Har Megiddo (Armageddon) in Revelation 16.

Yet, like other true prophets of God who bring news of approaching doom, Joel also provides hope for the people by showing them the only way to receive physical and spiritual restoration—God’s way.

IDF’s Nahal Brigade and elite rescuers from the Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit 669 soldiers embark on a helicopter mission exercise. (IDF photo by Pvt. Alexi Rosenfeld)

IDF’s Nahal Brigade and elite rescuers from the Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit 669 soldiers embark on a helicopter mission exercise.  (IDF photo by Pvt. Alexi Rosenfeld)

Where Is Your God?

Whenever we experience God’s judgment or discipline, we are in danger of falling away from our faith in Him, from believing that He loves us or that He is even real.  Moreover, when non-Believers see calamity come upon us, they, too, wonder if the God we have been sharing about is a good God or even real.

Joel understands this reality and is zealous to protect God’s integrity.  He gathers the priests, elders and all the people together and focuses them back on the One they entered into the Mosaic covenant with:

“Proclaim a holy fast! Call an assembly! Gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, to the house of the Lord, your God, and cry out to the Lord!”  (Joel 1:14)

The Lord Himself also pleads with His people to return to Him in sincere repentance:

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’”  (Joel 2:12)

Whatever the cause of our calamities, God is always there to see us through.  When we cry out to Him, turn from our wicked ways, and return to Him, we find that “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.”  (Joel 2:13)

A Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem. (Photo by Lev Cap)

A Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.  (Photo by Lev Cap)

We cannot see God fully work out His mercies, however, unless we renew our relationship with Him by giving Him permission to enter our lives as we seek to do His will.  In Joel’s day, the people simply had to turn from sin and walk in the covenant given through Moses.

In addition to the people turning back to the promises they made to God in that covenant, Joel charges intercessors to act on behalf of the people.

Joel tells them to remind the Lord of His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in which He would make their descendants great in number, give them a land, and make them a blessing to the world.

Unlike the Mosaic covenant, the covenant God made with Abraham was unconditional.  God alone cut the covenant while Abraham slept.  There is nothing the People of Israel have to do for God to keep this promise.  (Genesis 15:12–21)

“Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations.  Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”’”  (Joel 2:17)

If the Israelites had perished during this time of judgment against them, God would have broken the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  As a result, His heritage—the children of Israel that He called to be set apart as holy—would have been shamed, and His name mocked by the nations.

This is the same argument that Moses made to God when he interceded for the disobedient Israelites in the wilderness. He basically told God—If you kill your people, no matter how disobedient they are, the Egyptians will think you planned to kill them all along.  They will never learn of your holiness or see your great promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob come to pass.  (see Exodus 32:9–13)

After this intercessory plea by Moses, “the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”  (Exodus 32:14)

Jewish man reads at the Western Wall A Jewish man reads at the Western Wall. (Photo by Lev Cap)

Jewish man reads at the Western Wall A Jewish man reads at the Western Wall.  (Photo by Lev Cap)

Chapter 2 of Joel sees the period in the end-times when the Jewish People rend their hearts in sincere repentance and cry out to Him for their salvation.  As a result, the Lord is “jealous for His land” and takes “pity on His people.”  (Joel 2:18)

Believers in Yeshua are also called to be God’s holy nation, a royal priesthood and, as His priests, we each have the responsibility to intercede for the spiritual and physical salvation of the Jewish People.

We can intercede for their protection against the spirit of anti-Semitism that tries to kill every Jew on earth, by reminding God of His promises to them as we pray:

“Lord, make Your name great among the nations; let them see Your promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob come to pass, as well as the great prophecies of Your Word throughout the Bible.  Lift the veil off the hearts of Israel through faith in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), revealing to your people the Messiah in Bible prophecy such as the writings of Joel.  Continue to restore the fortunes of Your land, and bring prosperity and supernatural protection to Israel.”

Orthodox Jewish men and street vendor in 1948 Jerusalem

Orthodox Jewish men and street vendor in 1948 Jerusalem

The spirit of anti-Semitism is so evil and so aggressive that in 1948, when God miraculously rebirthed the nation of Israel and the ancient Hebrew language, five neighboring nations immediately invaded her, which seems to be at least a partial fulfillment of Joel.

But this vile hatred is still ongoing.  These same nations and more are still trying to destroy the land and the people that God has promised to protect forever:

“‘Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, My holy hill.  Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. …  But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood.  Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations.  Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?  No, I will not.’  The Lord dwells in Zion!”  (3:17–21)

Because God is a promise-keeping God, we can hold Him to these promises in our prayers for the Jewish People, as well as for ourselves and those for whom we intercede.

Israeli teens at the Kotel (Western Wall). (Photo by Matt Bargar)

Israeli teens at the Kotel (Western Wall).  (Photo by Matt Bargar)

“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.  You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”  (Isaiah 62:6–7)

The Day of the Lord Is Near

“O!  The day!  For near is the day of the Lord, like destruction from the Almighty it is coming!”  (Joel 1:15)

Like every good prophet, Joel had a greater application to the very real curse of locusts.  Joel wanted to prepare the people of Israel and all of us for the coming Day of the Lord’s judgment and the destruction that will lead up to it.  (Joel 2:12–17)

Joel describes it as being unlike any day from the past or the future—“a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds!”  (2:2)

Joel sees this day, which is far into the future, to our very day and beyond, to a time of judgment for the nations—nations responsible for divvying up His land:

“Because they scattered them among the nations, they divided up My land.  For My people they cast lots, trading a young boy for the price of a prostitute, exchanging a young girl for the wine they drank.”  (3:2–3)

Orthodox Jewish girls in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

Orthodox Jewish girls in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

The Lord is still jealous for His land and He still keeps His covenants; therefore, He will keep His promise to avenge Israel and judge the nations for how they treated His land and His people:

“In those days [the last days] and at that time [the end time], when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.  There I will put them on trial for what they did to My inheritance, My people Israel, because they scattered My people among the nations and divided up My land.”  (3:1–2)

In the past 65 years, the world has seen the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem being restored, “the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.  The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.”  (2:22)

Before that great Day of Judgment comes, though, there are more signs to be fulfilled.

Anemones bloom in the Negev desert.

The desert blossoms.

The People Will Prophecy

After God restores what the locusts have eaten and does wonders for the people so they will never again be shamed, God says He will perform specific signs.  The first is the sign of prophecy:

“I will pour out My Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”  (Joel 2:28–29)

Peter (Acts 2:16–17) quoted these verses in Joel to explain what was happening on Shavuot (Pentecost) when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on the early Jewish Believers in Yeshua, causing them to speak boldly, even in other languages, about their risen Messiah.

This same Ruach is available to all who believe in Yeshua and ask for His Spirit to fill them.

For several hundred years, though, the Ruach seemed to be missing from many Believers and congregations, but great revivals have occurred in the last three hundred years.  Two of the most recent being the Pentecostal Movement that began in 1906 with the Azusa Street Revival and the Yeshua Movement of the 1970s.

For 2,000 years, these signs have been visible in varying degrees, but as we come closer to the very last days, we will see a greater outpouring of the Ruach around the world, especially among individual Believers of Yeshua, who are even now experiencing God’s manifest glory in tangible ways, including prophecy, visions, and dreams.

In addition to the sign of prophecy, we are perhaps in the midst of witnessing the second sign Joel speaks about. 

Blood Moon (NASA)

Blood Moon (NASA)

The Moon Will Turn Blood-Red

“The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, before the day of the Lord arrives, that great and terrible day.”  (Joel 2:31)

In his third and last chapter, Joel mentions a blood moon in connection with the Day of the Lord.

We are currently in the midst of a period of series of four Blood Moons called a Tetrad.

Two of these blood moons occurred in 2014 on Passover and Sukkot, two of God’s appointed feasts that celebrate redemption and the Exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel.

The next two occur this year, once again on Passover and Sukkot, making a total of four Blood Moons—eclipsed moons that reflect the earth’s light and give the appearance of a reddish glow.

Passover Seder with the family

A Jewish family recounts the story of the Exodus during the Passover Seder (ritual meal).  (Photo by Jorge Novominsky for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism)

While this current series of four blood moons (Blood Moon Tetrad) may not be linked to that great judgment day that Joel prophesies, in the past, they have been linked to momentous events in the history of the Jewish People.

For example, in 1493–94 their occurrence was linked with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492).

A Blood Moon Tetrad occurred again in 1949–50 just months after David Ben Gurion issued the Declaration of Independence for the newborn State of Israel, giving the Jewish people their ancient homeland and capital of Jerusalem after a 2,000-year exile.

Their appearance during the years 1967–68 was linked with Israel’s regaining the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Regarding the current tetrad, the Temple Mount Faithful website says that “the blood moons and dark suns on the Feasts of Sukkot 2014 and 2015 indicate again judgment upon the nations that continue to pressure or to fight against Israel in order to destroy her, such as Iran, who prepares herself ‘to remove Israel from the map of the world.'”

Globe showing the Middle East

A globe showing the tiny country of Israel in the Middle East.

As we study the prophecies of Joel, written 2,500 to 2,800 years ago, we cannot help but see their relevance for today when so many of the signs that he predicted are coming to pass.

The Day of the Lord of which Joel speaks is not to be feared by those who bless Israel, but it should be feared by the nations who turn against His people and divide up His land; they will be judged in the Valley of Jehoshaphat.

While Joel reminds us all of God’s great promises to avenge Israel’s enemies, restore her land, and prosper His people, He reminds us of another important truth:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”  (Joel 2:32)

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