And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…
The prophet had encouraged the nation to repentance by announcing the temporal blessings which would be consequent thereon. They would get the former rain, they would get the latter rain. The floors would be filled with wheat, and the fats would overflow with wine and oil. Desolation would vanish, plenty would return. This was the lower sphere of benediction consequent upon their repentance. Now the prophet mentions the higher blessing to follow, — the spiritual, of which the temporal was but a type.
I. THAT THE NEW GOSPEL ERA WOULD BE CHARACTERISED BY A COPIOUS OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (ver. 28).
1. The time. "Afterward." "In those days." To what time does this refer? To the days of the prophet? To the era of the law? Or, to the time when the promised Messiah should come? This outpouring of the Spirit seems to be connected by the prophet with the secular prosperity of which he had been speaking. He probably did not know the time to which his words had reference; but if it was in the future it was as real to his faith as the present to his sight. This promise no doubt had reference to the Messianic age, though Joel may not have been cognizant of the fact. It was not fulfilled at Bethlehem, nor in Gethsemane, nor at Calvary, nor at Olivet. It was still "afterward." It was partially accomplished at Pentecost (Acts 2:17), though there was concealed in it a deeper meaning than even Pentecost could impart, the entire significance of which we are as yet ignorant. We live in this afterward of time, and know its meaning, as did not the prophets of old; but the afterward of the kingdom of heaven has yet to evolve the universal reign of the Spirit of God.
2. The author. "I will pour." This outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to be of Divine origin. It is the alone prerogative of the Eternal God to bestow the Spirit upon mankind. Joel did not connect the gift of the Spirit in any way with himself, or with any agency he could command. Nor did Peter on the day of Pentecost. Prophets and apostles, however distinguished they may have been, were not the authors but the channels of spiritual energy. Man cannot give the Holy Spirit to his fellow-man. Thoughtful books cannot bestow it; organisation cannot impart it. This is the testimony of Scripture; this is in conformity with human experience, and with the moral inability of man to originate good. Hence we must go to God for it. We must wait His time. We must comply with the moral conditions necessary to its reception. We must give Him the praise and glory of its advent in any measure. All true spiritual emotion is from above.
3. The extent. "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh" The Divine Spirit was to be poured out without distinction of age, sex, country, or genius. It should be given to universal man. It would not be confined to the covenant nation. The poor, the slave, the unlearned — all should receive this gift. It would be poured out; not drop by drop, but as a mighty shower; even as copiously as the rain after the prayer of Elijah. The gift of the Spirit is not limited by any restraint upon the Divine ability to give. It is not limited by time. Sin cannot stay it, for grace abounds much more than sin. Then why is not spiritual influence more potently with us?
4. The effect. "And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." This does not limit the universal application of the promise, but simply gives examples of those who shall realise it, and the effect it will have upon them. In the early ages of the church, the miraculous gifts of the spirit were imparted; but they have ceased, and, instead, we have illuminatio of soul, a beauteous insight into the truth of God, bright visions of destiny: for these are the things which now accompany and evince the presence of the Holy Ghost.
II. THAT THE NEW GOSPEL ERA WOULD BE CHARACTERISED BY THE MOST ALARMING TEMPORAL COMMOTIONS. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke," etc. God gives successive revelations of Himself; revelations of the spirit of mercy, and also of the spirit of judgment. The phenomena here named are physical in their nature, but have a deep moral significance. The great events of Christianity have been signalised by phenomena in the material universe. The guiding of the star at the birth of Christ. The darkness of the sun at the Crucifixion. The wind and fire at Pentecost. Nature is in sympathy with the great plans of God. The progress of truth occasions many wondrous phenomena. It darkens many suns. It turns many moons into blood. It is in conflict with dark prejudice, with wilful error, with the carnal mind, with sinful passion, with old custom, with proud philosophy; hence the moral commotion intimated in the text, and illustrated by the history of Christ. But all these commotions will be penetrated and mitigated by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, will yield ultimate quietude when the voice of God shall be heard, and the peace of the Divine reign finally established.
III. THAT THE NEW GOSPEL ERA WOULD BE CHARACTERISED BY A MERCIFUL ARRANGEMENT FOR THE SALVATION OF ALL EARNEST SUPPLIANTS. "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered," etc.
1. Salvation in the time of peril. The Gospel era shall provide safety for human souls amidst the awful calamities which shall then befall the world.
2. Salvation in the time of despair.
3. Salvation on easy conditions. There might be mystery in the darkened sun, but not about the salvation to be had. It is to be had from God by prayer.Lessons: —
1. That God is the author of all true reviving influence.
2. That the gift of the Holy Spirit is co-extensive with the range of universal life.
3. That in the Gospel era the Divine Spirit is richly manifest.
4. That while we must anticipate times of moral commotion, we must also expect times when the redemptive purpose shall be more fully manifest.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: