The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
The prophet here informs us that the Word of the Lord came to him, and that it had reference to the most alarming calamities which could possibly happen to a nation. The messages of God sometimes come in a loud voice, and have in them more of judgment than of mercy.
I. THAT THE WORD OF GOD TO A SINFUL NATION IS COMMUNICATED THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF ONE MAN. "The Word of the Lord that came to Joel." Here we learn that it is the ordinary way of God to communicate with the race through human instrumentality. The Divine Being did not present Himself to the wicked people of Judah and threaten woe; they could not have endured the brightness of His presence; they would have fled from before the majesty of His voice. He did not send an angel to convey His message; an angel would not have gained the confidence required. And so it is the way of God to speak by man to men, that He may dim His infinite glory by wrapping it in human vesture, and thus adapt it to human vision; but the word thus spoken is none the less Divine, and none the less worthy of regard. Christ was incarnate that He might utter the unfathomable Word of God, and that Word is still prolonged by human lips.
1. This one man was Divinely selected. The prophet Joel was selected by God to convey the message of woe and the need of repentance to the people of Judah. But who was Joel? Was he a man of social reputation, of advanced scholarship, of eminent talent? We know not. Nothing of his history is written; simply the name of his father is given. He was anxious to be known only as the servant of God. And we find that God often chooses modest agencies, unknown to fame, to speak His Word to mankind; He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the mighty. Thus the word uttered derives emphasis from the absence of human greatness in the speaker. Fame is not a condition of ministerial success. A man must be chosen by God before he has any right to preach the Word to the nations.
2. This one man was greatly honoured. The Word of the Lord which came to Joel imparted to him the highest dignity. It honoured him by coming to his soul, even as the presence of a king confers renown upon those who are favoured therewith. He was the chosen of God out of a vast nation, and was entrusted with prophetic communications. New abilities were awakened within him, and his life, which had hitherto been solitary and of little influence, was to become the centre of a nation's life. Manhood can have no greater honour conferred upon it than to be sent with the Word of God to men.
3. This one man was supremely trusted. Joel was entrusted with a great position. He was selected as one man out of a vast people to receive and make known the Word of the Lord. This might have led him to assume false claims and empty titles; he might have been tempted to use the moral authority thus given to him for secular ends. A minister holds his unique position in society as a sacred trust, and betrays it if he uses it for any other purpose than the moral welfare of those around him. Joel was also entrusted with a valuable deposit, even with the Word of the Lord. This he was not to conceal, but to declare. This he was not to adulterate, but to defend. This he was bravely to announce to a sinful people, unawed by numbers or results.
4. This one man was arduously worked. To Joel was committed the task of effecting a moral reformation in the national life of Judah. He stood almost alone with a great work to accomplish, lie had to proclaim great calamities to which few would listen. And the true minister has arduous work before him; he has oft, single-handed, to contend with a degenerate crowd; he has to preach great doctrines rejected and despised; he cannot guarantee success.
II. THAT THE DIVINE WORD TO A SINFUL NATION REQUIRES THE EARNEST ATTENTION OF ALL CLASSES OF INDIVIDUALS (vers. 2, 3).
1. It should awaken the attention of the aged. The old men in the land of Judah were to listen to the prediction of Joel, and say whether anything so calamitous had ever occurred before. They could remember the past, and hence were competent to speak concerning it. Attention to the truth is the first condition of a renewed and sober life; even old men, who ought to be wiser, are sometimes heedless concerning it, and need to be reminded of its importance.
2. It should awaken the attention of the general multitude. All the inhabitants of the land of Judah were called upon to hear the message of Joel. It not only concerned the wise, but also the ignorant; not only the rulers, but those under them. It would not be the fault of the prophet if any did not feel the importance of his communication. The common multitude arc not generally observant of the judgments of God occurring around them, they need some one to unveil their inner and solemn meaning.
3. It should awaken the attention of remote posterity. The calamity predicted by Joel was to be handed down to a remote posterity. Not only are the memories of Divine mercy to be preserved, but also of Divine judgment, that they may in future deter from evil. Children must be instructed in the historical revelation which God has made concerning Himself, that they may see the wisdom of piety demonstrated in the facts of life. We should ever remember that the ages are mysteriously linked together, and that we are transmitting moral influences and instruction which the future must inherit. Let us heed the teaching of the past.
III. THAT THE DIVINE WORD TO A SINFUL NATION SOMETIMES HAS REFERENCE TO THE MOST AWFUL CALAMITIES (ver. 4).
1. It was a calamity occasioned by a wondrous increase of useful creatures. God can turn the existing arrangements of the universe into an army of eternal justice. He has no need to create new agencies to rebuke sin; there are myriads awaiting His command. Locusts will execute His judgments. The Divine resource of retribution is beyond human imagination.
2. It was a calamity which employed the weakest agencies to execute its purpose. God's weak things are strong enough to work mischief to the wicked. Man is soon smitten down by little creatures.
3. It was a calamity which for continuous destruction was unequalled in the national history. One agency of ruin was succeeded by another, until the effect of the whole was utter desolation of resource and joy. Lessons —
1. That men must give themselves to the work which God appoints them.
2. That men should heed the Word of the Lord before the hour of retribution comes.
3. That sin is sure to be followed by the most awful calamities.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.