Intro: Could it ever be the same again? I remember entertaining the question back in August of1992 after Hurricane Andrew came roaring through south Florida. It was complete devastation everywhere you looked – building leveled. Houses gone, even the bark on the trees that remained was stripped off. Later I remember asking the question again when Charlie (hurricane Charlie) came to SW Florida. Would it ever be the same? In most places you have to look hard to see the evidence it even happened. God’ creation recovers well.
- As we noticed earlier, Joel describes the total devastation of a locust plague (chapter 1) and then predicts the coming judgment of God on the nation of Judah (2:1-11). Who can endure it?
- Last week we studied Joel’s answer to his own question: Repent; Turn; perhaps God will relent and show pity.
- But even if there is genuine repentance, and God relents, in view of such a dark picture, could things ever be good again? Let’s return again to Joel’s book and read: Joel 2:18-32
- Burton Coffman calls these words of Joel, “one of the most important sections of the O.T.” There are several reasons for believing this is so:
I. God’s Plan for Renewal: Joel depicts God’s eternal purpose for His people: He will be zealous for the land, and pity His people. – Although His people have sinned, and face the judgment of their sin, God has pity, and will restore what they have lost.
A. This restoration is viewed by Joel in recovery of the land after the locust plague. Things that were lost will be recovered (rains will come and the crops will produce the grain for the threshing floors, so that everything that the locust had eaten would be restored (v. 23-25)
1. He tells the land and the beasts of the field to not be afraid (v. 21-22); He tells the people to rejoice. (v. 23) because the Lord has done marvelous things (v. 21) and His people would not be put to shame (v. 26) Have you ever been impressed with the resiliency of the earth to recover from natural disasters?
B. But the most impressive and marvelous works of God were yet to come.
1. Joel 2:28-29 – “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. Joel’s prophecy looked forward to a day that would come after his own, when God would pour out His Spirit on all nations. This is God’s ultimate recovery plan for His people. But what was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that was to come afterwards?
II. The Pouring Out of the Holy Spirit: We do not have to speculate about when Joel’s words would begin to be fulfilled. We are familiar with the events recorded in Acts 2. Jesus’ apostles were gathered together. There was a sound like a rushing wind, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The apostles began speaking in foreign languages, so that each person heard them speak in their own tongue (v.11) The charge was made that the apostles were drunk, but Peter cleared the air beginning in v. 14 – Read Acts 2:14-21
A. Notice that what Joel described as afterwards, Peter calls the “last days”. This helps us understand that this does not refer to some future period immediately before Jesus’ return, but rather to the time of the Messiah (the days of Peter and the Acts 2). The Holy Spirit was ushering in the last dispensation; the last period of God’s revelation to men.
1. Many times the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that Peter declares was taking place (as prophesied in Joel) is interpreted to be the miraculous activity here (speaking in tongues) as well as in the future. But I am convinced that this is a shallow interpretation of what Joel, and the other prophets had prophesied would take place. What did the Jews expect when they anticipated the pouring out of God’s Spirit, as Joel predicted? What began at Pentecost?
B. The Promise of the Holy Spirit in the O.T. – It is a serious mistake to try to interpret the work of the Holy Spirit without considering what the O.T. teaches. We need to understand the O.T. prophecies about the Holy Spirit to know what the Jews were expecting and how it was fulfilled. Look at 4 representative texts that help us understand what the pouring out of God’s Spirit would be…
1. In a similar text to Joel 2, Isaiah is describing the plight of God’s people in their punishment. Isaiah 32:14-18 – Because the palaces will be forsaken, The bustling city will be deserted. The forts and towers will become lairs forever, A joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks — 15 Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, And the fruitful field is counted as a forest. 16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, And righteousness remain in the fruitful field. 17 The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. 18 My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,
a. The land is barren and deserted (a place of animals only) “until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high” (v. 15) When the Spirit arrives there will be peace and righteousness and safety. Nothing in this prophecy suggests or even hints at a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the prophecy about miraculous gifts or spiritual gifts. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit, in this context, simply meant the restoration of the nation of Israel and the blessings of God being restored to the people.
2. Isaiah 44:3-5 – For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring; 4 They will spring up among the grass Like willows by the watercourses.’ 5 One will say, ‘I am the Lord’s’; Another will call himself by the name of Jacob; Another will write with his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ And name himself by the name of Israel.
a. This is a similar picture of God’s blessings returning to the people of Israel. The pouring out of the Spirit is depicted as water to the thirsty; a flood of water in dry ground. This may be connected with the promise that Jesus makes in John 7:37-39 37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. But the result of the arrival of God’s Spirit is the restoration of God’s blessings to His people. The thirsty & dry land becomes fertile.
3. Ezekiel 37:13-14 – 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.'”
a. This prophecy is the vision of the valley of dry bones. Again the context of this prophecy of the coming Spirit is the renewal of the nation of Israel. The vision pictures Israel as a skeleton without any signs of life, but God brings the body back to life (with new flesh and muscles) by putting His Spirit within it. Later Jesus would declare that it is the Spirit that gives life, (Jn. 6:63) and that one must be born of the Spirit to enter into the kingdom. (Jn. 3:5)
4. Ezekiel 39:27-29 – When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, 28 then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. 29 And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.”
a. The pouring out of the Spirit is described as God no longer hiding His face from the people. The relationship will be restored again, and the people will have God’s favor and God’s blessings again. Notice that in none of these previous prophecies of the pouring out of God’s Spirit is there any mention of miraculous activity or a personal indwelling.
5. Now return to Joel 2:28-3:1. 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls. God Judges the Nations 3 “For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,
a. This is the first prophecy that mentions the pouring out of God’s Spirit that references miraculous activity. When aligned with the other prophets, it seems that Joel is prophesying about how Israel would know when the Spirit had been poured out. The sign that the nation/kingdom had been restored and God’s blessings were being offered to the people was through the miracles that would be performed. The point is clearer in Joel 3:1, where Joel says it is at the time of these miraculous signs that the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem will be restored. These signs were to be a warning to the people that the “great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord” was about to come. Notice also the dual picture of restoration and judgment; blessing and punishment. The pouring out of the Spirit certainly included the miraculous activity beginning at Pentecost, but it was much more.
b. God was going to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. This is more than just a promise that the power of miracles would be shared by many different people. It cannot mean that everyone would perform miracles, because all did not, and Paul said not everyone was given a miraculous gift. The promise relates to the universal appeal of the gospel, and the erasure of national or political divisions in the spiritual kingdom of God. When God poured out His Spirit it would benefit all nations, not just Israel. Consider the conclusion of Peter at the house of Cornelius when he witnessed a similar miracle as that on Pentecost – Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. – Later in Acts 11:17-18 Peter said God had given the Gentiles “the same gift” and granted them “repentance to life.”
c. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit was also associated with two other events in Joel 2.
- The offer of salvation to everyone would respond in faith. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” This also gives us insight into how the outpouring of the Spirit will restore God’s blessings upon His people. The Holy Spirit will provide words whereby men can be saved (Acts 11:14). Faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)
- The judgment of evil on the “great and awesome day of the Lord” There are different views as to when these verses were or are to be fulfilled. Some say the words of Joel point backwards to the events of the crucifixion, others to the destruction of Jerusalem (some 40 years in the future), and others suggest that they point to the final judgment that is yet to come.
d. What was the pouring out of the Spirit that Joel prophesied about?
- God poured out His Spirit to restore His kingdom (nation) through Christ;
- and restore what had been lost to the curse of sin.
- It was the restoration of the covenant relationship that had been lost. It was, even as Joel described it, a divinely empowered renewal.
Conclusion: Tonight we will look more closely at the NT reference to Joel’s prophecy – The events of Acts 2. Our study will focus on the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the promise of God that follows.
- The prophets promised the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The prophets declared the restoration of the kingdom which had been destroyed because of the people’s sins. The prophets preached that the blessings of God would return, though they had fallen out of God’s favor because of their wickedness. The hope of Israel was that the covenant relationship with God would one day be restored at the coming of the Messiah. These are the ideas that the prophets captured in the phrase, “the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.” What a blessing it is to live in the last days, after God has poured out His Spirit. The words of the Spirit have been revealed and confirmed, and we have the opportunity to repent and reap benefits of God’s renewal.
- Have you sinned against God and wonder if things could ever be made good again? Titus 3:3-7 – For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
- Peter’s first gospel sermon: Acts 2:38-39 – “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
Peter’s second gospel sermon: Acts 3:18-19 – But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,