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Joel 2:28-29 1

28 “And afterward, 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. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Background

The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible and our Christian Old Testament. He is one of twelve prophetic books known as the Twelve Minor Prophets. His name, Joel, is mentioned by name only once in the Old Testament, in the introduction to that book, as the son of Pethuel (Joel 1:1). The name Joel combines the covenant name of God, YHWH (or Yahweh), and El (god), and has been translated as “one to whom YHWH is God,” that is, a worshiper of God. He is believed to have lived in the 9th century BC but the dating of his book is still debated.  Some date his writings to 400 BC. Joel is one of the prophets to prophesy the coming of Christ. Joel’s statement 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” was used Peter in his sermon at Pentecost to the events of that day (Acts 2:16-21). Joel’s prophecy was for the coming of Christ. 

To understand these verses, we need to step back and look at what was going on in Israel at that time. First is the years and years of a plague of locusts .You need to imagine the effects of hordes of locusts lasting several years upon people.  In Joel 1:1-2:11, he describes it vividly. Everything, all crops, all food sources were utterly devastated. Food sources disappeared. Livestock together with the entire nation of Israel were on the edge of utter annihilation. Joel urges the people to return to the LORD, to fast, to repent, and to call upon the LORD to spare them (2:12-17). The sin that led to God’s wrath is never specified, but clearly something had gone horribly wrong.

Israel’s problem was the threat of starvation and the lack of those things which make life possible. The question for the modern Christian is what are the resources that keep us alive but might be threatened by one metaphorical locust after another? What would cause our anxious ceaseless worry and fear? What is it that in an instant, the few joys and satisfaction enjoyed by us might be snatched away?  We are no doubt a society that consumes. We acquire. We support political policies and leaders that promise to perpetuate our lifestyle and that promise to do nothing that will force us to reevaluate the consequences of that consumptive lifestyle. The real question at hand is why the people of this world have lost faith in a LORD who promises to provide?

In response to worry about scarcity, the LORD our God promises abundance. Joel says that this is God who gives “rain for your vindication.”  And not just rain!  “Abundant rain the early and later rain” that leads to a superabundance of grain and to vats overflowing with wine and oil. The verses leading up to our study material (Joel 2:25-27) make it clear that the promised abundance is still on the way. Eating, praise, and satisfaction are all promises of the wonders to come, as is the twice repeated promise that “my people shall never again be put to shame” (verses 26, 27). The foolishness of faith will be repaid by God’s generous provision and, more importantly, by God’s presence in the midst of God’s people. In an era like ours, it is difficult to live lives that are  free of anxiety about the future. Nevertheless, believers can and do live freely, hopefully, and generously because we know a secret: the God of abundance has promised to care for us at the “hungry feast” until our longings, and those of the world, are fully and forever satisfied.

Now for our verses. The passage lives today because it was cited by Peter on the first Pentecost. It lives in our New Testament as an interpretation of the work of the Spirit (Acts 2:14-21) and because of the breadth of God’s very own promise:

God’s Spirit is poured upon all flesh, unfettered by considerations of gender, age, or social rank.

This is good news for all who believe themselves to be unqualified somehow. That promise is still ours today.  Of course, as all good prophets do, Joel adds the catch, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” While  God’s loving kindness is available for all in ways we often cannot imagine or even anticipate, we need to ask our God, to call out to Him, as a person, as a people, as a nation, as a world. This offer by God is also available to everyone, to all people equally. We know this because of the Apostle Paul’s claim in Romans 10:11-15. Paul insists that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile for “the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call upon him (Romans 10:12). But how,  Paul asks, will the people hear without someone to proclaim the good news to them? Joel declares that those calling upon the LORD are, in turn, called upon by the LORD (Joel 2:32). Regardless of our status, we are to be “inspired” (in the literal meaning of that word) and  are summoned by God to be the tellers of the good news story of God’s love.

The promise began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and it was continued in the converting grace and miraculous gifts given to both Jews and Gentiles. The judgments of God upon a sinful world will only  come in the last day. For us, calling on God means we have knowledge of Him, faith in Him, a desire for Him,  a dependence on Him, and, as evidence of  our sincerity of all of this, we obey Him. For us, we have the knowledge of His Love for us and that makes all of the difference.

John 14:15-19

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

Background

These words from Christ come during the Last Supper, and represents Christ’s attempt to prepare the disciples for what is coming. He leads off this chapter in John by emphasizing belief (14:1-14) and then shifts to an emphasis on love (14:15-24).  This is the prophesy of Joel coming alive.  Christ ties love and obedience together. This may very well be the problem in society today. We love, we obey but not loving each other as Christ has commanded us to do. It is always tempting to talk about God’s love without mentioning our duty to obey God.  Christ then promises not to leave us as “orphans.” He promises to give us the Holy Spirit, who will become God’s presence with us on a daily basis in this world. Again we get to see the key connection to love, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word” (v. 23) and “He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words” (v. 24), the mirror. 

By tying love to obedience, our obedience is a sign of our love. In this Gospel, faithfulness to Christ’s words is the defining mark of discipleship. The commandments to love (13:34-35) and to believe (14:1) are open-ended, in contrast to most Torah laws, which are very specific. It is easy to judge whether we have been faithful to the Torah laws, but how can we know whether we have fulfilled the demands of love or the demands of faith? Christ’s’ commandments require us to allow Him to reshape our lives. Remember, He states “Because I live, you also will live.” Our Lord is not a historical figure but our living Savior, ready to interact with each of us. We must never forget that point! And now for the bonus: We are told by Christ, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever” Simply stated, each of us who have faith, who obey God will have the benefit of our Savior’s prayers on our behalf, His intersession, along with the Holy Spirit.

Items for Discussion

  • What would cause you to be anxious and to have ceaseless worry and fear?
  • What type of evidence would it take for you to know for sure, to have no doubts, that God has even those fears under control?
  • How would you describe today’s modern metaphors for locusts? What would they be?
  • If we look at the study title, “Promise Fulfilled,” what are God’s promises that He already fulfilled? 
  • Even in Joel’s time, God’s message of love needed sharing — What events, beliefs, behaviors are chipping away at our ability to share the Good News?
    • What should the Christian Church be doing about those things?
  • What makes God’s promises so hard to accept, to embrace? For you, for the world?
  • How should our nation “return to the LORD?” In other words, what behaviors would you like to see changed right away?
  • If you were to share what “God’s Love” is with someone, what would you tell them?
  • What would you tell a young person today about fear and their future?
  • If God has fulfilled His promise by sending us Christ and the Holy Spirit, why do you think so many people are still anxious?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we teach each other God’s good news story of His love?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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