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Barbs, Arrows and Balms Ch 23
which it replaces in this revision and extension
INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER 11
The teacher of righteousness is seen in Joel, in a way that Keil in his Old Testament Commentaries (with Delitzsch) presents, and more is given to confirm this, which makes a marvellous medley of coherence.
This in Joel 2:23 is one which moreover has a parallel in Habakkuk 3:12-13 and Psalm 2, where the divine Messiah is seen in the midst of the judgments (as also in Revelation 19). Parallel is Joel 3:14ff.,which has the Lord working as seen in Habakkuk 3:12-13, with "His Messiah" with whom He is working, as indeed in Psalm 2:8ff.. Further, Joel 3:16 like John 3:16 and Joel 2:28ff., gives a medley of compassion and protection, so that with looming judgment and depredation, there is salvation available on the freest of terms. It is rather like a gardener, who having offered to entirely transform your premises with beauty and loveliness and peace, is followed up by the government, dispossessing and turning the forsaken and recalcitrant alien piece into devastation.
You say, But surely the council should mind its own business! Indeed; but the Lord is not a council, but the Creator, and His offer is not improvement, beautification alone, but deliverance from that sin, that alienation from Him who made you for good, that the good and not its abhorrent mutilation, degradation and mischief should be avoided.
The teacher of righteousness, the Messiah, is thus seen in His two roles: saviour and judge in both. In Psalm 22, you see the former in its ghastly grace, for His own execration, curse is the cure for His people, everyone who believes in Him, corrected and regenerated through faith. In Psalm 2,110, you see the latter, the judgment. There is no more room; all is done: it is like the wedding of the parable of Jesus in Matthew 22:1ff.. If you do not come, or come without being covered in Christ's garment of grace, the cover wrought by His sacrifice for sin, then of course there is no other way, so that .... ? The result is that the disease of sin brings a species of spiritual decease, which is shame undying.
There is an irrepressible combination of judgment and mercy, and even in the judgment a it moves on THIS earth, there is that latent sense of mercy for man, as indeed in Isaiah 4:6 with 32:1ff., where the sense of fellowship and salvation is intense, as that salvation finds itself secure in Man for man: God as man becoming man, secures the help His compassion constantly calls for, which none else can give, and into the very fires of judgment He moves, to rescue, to redeem.
There is therefore no frustration in God. His INTENSE yearnings and INTEGRAL desires where His emotions are vast and spectacular is moving with His desire to redeem and to save: for the yearnings do not loom like the thoughts of a poet in a garret. Rather as a conqueror, yet in kindness, He comes, the teacher of righteousness, the incarnate, whose kingdom shall know no end, who gives to the history of this world its come-uppance. While this proceeds, yet in the very midst of it, just as incarnate He actually WAS in the midst of it, He is yet offering mercy.
You see it right up to Revelation 22:17, where a mere 5 verses from the end of the Book of the Lord, the Bible, you see the offer: THIRSTY ? then DRINK!
It is not some absconding deity, but one incarnate; it is not some merely emotional deity, but a warrior for truth, a worker for salvation, a denizen of this earth in the Messiah who before there is any thought of judgment brings knowledge of righteousness; and this, it is wrought (Isaiah 50 specialises here), not in a dignified mission of majesty, but in a gross defilement by mockery and assault, leading to the very death in substitution. The trinity is not at a loss: HE expresses His thoughts but also sends them in Man to suffer; and more than that, He sends as His only begotten SON, this His eternal Word, present in the beginning as in Proverbs 8, John 1, 8:58, and so He seals salvation in His own name, the body He has wrought for Himself as man being used to secure the desires of deity.
You CANNOT well become more empathetic than in incarnation. To us, it is not available; but to God who made us, it is not only available for those made in His image: like D-Day in World War II, it is a work wrought.
It is then in view of the Teacher of Righteousness that the Lord is sending such abundant blessedness, in terms of Joel 2:23; for He is the criterion of mercy, and in Him there are prevenient mercies, moving on to the meaning latent in calling on the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32).
Thus after Joel 2:23, the text moves to this outpouring which Peter sited from Joel 2:28ff., that at Pentecost, as seen in Acts 2:16ff., which moves on to the very end of the Gospel Age, the apostle putting all things in place. Thus the basis of the Gospel is found in the Messiah, here seen as the Teacher of Righteousness, whose other aspects are piercingly presented in a multitude of other sites. These include Isaiah 11, 40, 61 in the beauty of His many deliverances.
With Joel's words, the prophet moves on to 2:28, where that outpouring of the Spirit to which Peter referred and which Pentecost provided, is now seen on its due basis, the Christ, noted some 5 verses earlier.
Indeed, in Joel 2:23-27, there is emphasis on the entire proceeding moving to three outcomes. 'My people shall never be put to shame', 'then shall you know that I am in the midst of Israel', and that "I am the LORD your God and there is no other.' To say no more, this is a perfect outcome from His placing the Teacher of Righteousness as the topmost sprig in their midst; and thus does it lead at ONCE into that outpouring of the Spirit, so notable at Pentecost, when given citation by Peter as what is occurring (that is, Joel 2:28ff.), it allows those both hearing then and seeing now, to look ahead to what is NEXT to be.
Christ thus as Peter expounds Joel 2, has ALREADY come, and the movement with the apostle through Joel to that showing of wonders in heaven and earth, and to that pillar of vapour which Nagasaki and Hiroshima so well exhibited in the context of such wonders, and in such amazing detail indeed, to the day of the Lord. Salvation is through calling on the name of the Lord, and not in crawling into holes (as in Micah 7:15ff., where some of the Lord's coming rebuke to the nations is exposed).
TRINITY CHAPTER ELEVEN
THE TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Joel deals with a tough time. It is like the present in this, that the stabilities of righteousness are departing, the country was asking for doom, and though God waited a long time with some of the most tender appeals, at times leading to a truculence which would awaken almost the dead, then with prodigious offers of mercy: it came. Yes the end came. It came first for Israel in the North, with its frankly appalling idols meaningful put in place of the true worship, in order to deter people from simply going down south again to Judah and the temple. Witless follies of "survival" routinely blight those who instead of losing their lives for the Lord, slavishly in servile immorality of heart or head, seek to save them (Matthew 16:25).
Meanwhile the perfectly extraordinary plague of locusts had been a disaster in advance, a parable in insects, an enactment in entomology, enough to alert the most "canny" casuists as they led their wilful ways in hoped for oblivion from any Lord or God. Joel showed the relentless foraging of these all-devouring insects in terms of a blight deserved, a ground of reminder to seek the Lord, "Call a sacred assembly, gather the elders" - Joel 1:14.
He proceeds to the spiritual
end of things - a day of judgment, darkness and gloominess. Flickering like
flames here and there, from the temporal to the spiritual, from the present to
the future, from the fact that this is already a judgment in insects to the
thrust of divine judgment itself undeterrable and coming without stopping when
the time is ripe, to the coming consummation of this terminus to mercy on the
endlessly sinning souls of men who will not respond, the prophet appeals and
In 2:10-11 we thus move from the present cloud as it were over the sun to the shaking of the very heavens (Hebrews 12:25-28, Haggai 2:5-7, Joel 3:16, Psalm 102:16), when He who executes His word shall act.
"The LORD gives voice before His army,
For His camp is very great;
For strong is the One who executes His word.
For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible;
Who can endure it?" - cf. Malachi 3:2, 4:1-3*1.
"Rend," He says, "your heart and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
Who knows if He will turn and relent..."
"Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly,
Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes...
Let the priests, who minister to the LORD,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, "Spare your people O LORD..."
Thus in this temporary
acuteness there is help to be found... 2:18-23.
It is not help given to the
recalcitrant in this case, but a blessed help to a people envisaged in their
restoration with much gladness of heart. Here is a complete contrast to the
impending judgments, and it is naturally in the name of the Messiah whose
wonders are to come like shafts of sunlight into the midst of darkness.
Thus this comes in the midst of scorching judgments for the scornful as outlined in Joel 2:1-11, with the exhortation to "Turn to Me with all your heart ... so rend your heart and not your garmeatns; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful..." (Joel 2:13).
It is THEN that the Lord reveals His mercies, both near and far. It moves to 2:23 where the cause and centrepiece of this transformation is seen as so often, as in Isaiah 61, where to humbling comes holiness, to imprisonment comes release and to judgment comes mercy, not in some oddity of alteration, but in the wonder of the Messiah whose own work is traced often enough in such sites as Psalm 16, 22, 40, Isaiah 35, 40,42,49-55, 61, Micah 5, Psalm 102, Zechariah 6, 11-14.
Thus, with a sudden change from the horrors in their midst, we see a relief and the ground of it to come, and the results of that ground in 2:28 following 2:23. The judgments presaged, prescribed, are indicated for their time; but the relief is presented for its time, and the result which came after its grounding in Christ in His coming, in the outpouring of Pentecost where the power of God in the Gospel of salvation is shown in amazing ways, as in Acts 2, at the birthday of the New Testament Church.
Thus in Joel, the scope goes from the temporary to the final, from storm-clouds of devouring locusts, to a strange release, from judgment to mercy, from plague to peace, from wrath to the Messiah, from Him to the outpouring of His grace. It is indeed a later episode which is to transform many in Israel in JUST THE SAME BASIS (Zechariah 12:10-13:1). Then they actually "look on Me whom they have pierced", and this similarly goes to a follow-on, namely this, that in this day they will be washing in Jerusalem. Where ? Why in "a fountain" which "shall be opened for thehouse of David an for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness."
That ? It is that notable case, where once more Jerusalem will be inhabited (Zechariah 12:6). It even stresses the point: Jerusalem will be inhabited IN JERUSALEM. This is not idle repetition but instructive emphasis, and clarificatory insistence.
In Zechariah 12, the wars are specific enough in the land, and the Gentile rebuke. Now is the application of the sort of wonder at Pentecost brought home to Israel, just as Paul makes so very clear in Romans 11:25ff..
Returning then to Joel 2, following the dire judgment announcement, we move first to the actions of the Lord, "the Just One" (Acts 3:14), the Teacher of Righteousness (Joel 2:23), and then proceed to the spiritual activation (2:28). This latter is on the basis of His being "pierced" as in Zechariah 12, and "struck on the cheek" as in Micah 5:1ff., and indeed, smitten on the back as in Isaiah 50, becoming sin-bearer as in Isaiah 53:4-11, these other references giving other features of the cost for this result. It is then that we move to the dynamic outcome in life-changing work of the Holy Spirit on just that basis, in 2:28ff., and on to the deletion of the universe which is here indicated and in Isaiah confirmed.
As Joel 2 ends, then, in 2:30ff., we are led at length to that convulsion of the whole universe predicted in Isaiah 24, and its eventual removal dramatically, as seen in Isaiah 51:6 and II Peter 3:9ff.. Christ stated the same forcibly and directly as seen in Matthew 24:35. (See Joel 2:10-11, 3:2,11-17, cf. Habakkuk 3:3-16 and p. 164 supra.)
THIS is that day of the Lord. As Keil puts it in his Old Testament Commentary,
THE day of the Lord is often indicated, but only once will it reach as it were, terminal velocity.
examine the text a little more now.
Meanwhile, there is a need. It is of faithfulness, loyalty, stability, earnestness, sincerity.
In Joel 2:23 we read of the former and the latter rain being sent, and the Teacher of Righteousness who beyond all the words of Joel, will Himself produce that final warning, ultimate rescue system, total salvation which is so needed.
As Keil translates this verse:
The temporary judgment is removed, the final court of appeal is preceded by the arrival of the Judge Himself, strangely however robed in teaching toga, to deliver His people before the end so strongly indicated in the preceding vastness of THE DAY OF THE LORD, in its finality. We are reminded here not only of the heart-penetrating parables, but of the Sermon on the Mount and the correction of the obscurations of the Pharisees and scribes as seen for example in Luke 11, Matthew 22.
As to the actual 'teacher of righteousness' word in Joel, let us then ponder it.
There is of course a play on words. The term for the rain and for teacher, in Hebrew, are such that the translation can look at these as options. However, the rain for righteousness would be a strange procedure when the people had forfeited all but the ground for judgment. A rain in mercy, surely, would seem apt and even appropriate; but a rain in righteousness to come when the DESERTS were deserts, this will not do. It is as noted above, moreover, a rain in the midst of rejoicing and deliverance.
Hence the TEACHER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, the call, the need, the base for reform and redemption, this is the way. As Keil says, speaking of the Hebrew and parallel text underlying the translation into English: most of the rabbis and early commentators have followed the Chaldee and Vulgate, and taken 'moreh' (the word in view) in the sense of "teacher". He notes that later people often did not, but proceeds "although moreh is unquestionably used in the last clause of this verse in the sense of early rain; in every other instance this is called yoreh (Deut.xi.14; Jer.v.24)." In fact, we may add, in this very verse, 'moreh', THE TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS APPEARS with the definite article, while the use for rain, later in this same verse, lacks it. As we shall see, this omission is what is found for the rain usage.
Thus, right here, both the early rain and the latter rain, one of them the SAME word, appear according to idiom, WITHOUT the article, as normal. The earlier use in the same VERSE, appears by CONTRAST, with it. That is precisely the sort of warning for a pun, accompanied by the usage of no article for this rain...
Keil, then, notes that it thus seems most reasonable to take it that the word moreh in the last clause was selected there, precisely to echo the previous occurrence in this sentence of moreh meaning 'teacher'. In other words, it would be a strange rarity to introduce this term without ground for the rain; but not at all strange if its use were conditioned on an intentional play on words, just as the article similarly would be strange. TEACHER first, and THEN RAIN. This is exactly what many teachers do both to alert their (sleepy ?) students and to help them remember. To the student mind, this can act rather like a pneumatic drill, and quite often this may be what is needed!
In particular, Keil stresses that the definite article "the" is placed before the term translated as "teacher" whereas this is never found for the 'rain' meaning, and as he indicates, "no reason can be discovered why moreh should be defined by the article here if it signified early rain." It is however "decisively confirmed" by the phrase 'for righteousness' which follow the term rendered 'teacher '. This, he states, is "quite inapplicable to early rain," since it cannot mean either 'in just measure' or 'at the proper time', or 'in becoming manner' as 'righteousness', in the term here chosen, is never scripturally used in the physical sense. Indeed, in the state of Israel without the grounds of grace, this would be devastating, not deliverance!
To 'the teacher' however the concept of 'righteousness' is eminently applicable. His as in Isaiah 41-42 and Isaiah 51:18ff., is a unique righteousness which nothing can distress, which in the innocence of pure offering for sin, fears nothing and even overcomes death! (as in Hosea 13:14, Psalm 16).
But why would a pun be used at such a point ? Surely it would be to link the teacher and the rain, just as is done in Psalm 72, where of the Messiah, the son of David to come, it is said:
"He will bring justice to the poor of the people:
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.
They shall fear you,
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more."
(Cf. Item 16, esp. pp. 92ff. above.)
The pun then would be perspicuous, granted it is indicated: it applies, is apt, follows an earlier usage concerning the Messiah in His righteousness in practical things.
Further, our verse in Joel is in a vein of exultancy (Joel 2:21-23):
"Fear not, O land:
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvellous things!...
Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the Lord your God:
For He has given you the teacher of righteousness,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you,
The former rain and the latter rain ..."
It then proceeds, exactly as in Psalm 72 to specify the emblems of flourishing.
In the approach to 2:23, in 2:21 of Joel, there is indeed a vast and demonstrative rejoicing, an exultation. The so-called prophetic perfect is in use, as is very often the case: what does it say ? It is this: the Lord "HAS DONE" marvellous things. While this is in fact to come, it is seen in His mindful eye as present, and placed before the prophet thus graphically, vividly, as if here now. That is just what you find, in prophetic style, in Isaiah 53, for example, parallel to this.
The 'marvellous things' remind one of Isaiah 29:14 (cf. SMR p. 788), which Paul refers to the coming of the Gospel: it is a passage showing the work the Lord will do to open the blind eyes. It is quite parallel to the preceding passage in 28:14-16, which ends with the laying of
"a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone,
a sure foundation",
"whoever believes will not act hastily."
Indeed, in that context, Isaiah proceeds (29:17ff.) from the foundation stone, to the detailing of the specific functions in healing body and spirit, to be performed by the Messiah:
"In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book,
And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.
The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord,
And the poor among men shall rejoice
In the Holy One of Israel."
This then is the phase of marvellous work, and it corresponds like Psalm 72, precisely with our present passage in its similar exultancy.
Just as Isaiah 28 brings us to the Messiah in 28:16, the sure foundation, and declares an "awesome work" in 28:21, expanded in Isaiah 29:14 to "a marvellous work and a wonder" so that the wise lose their knowledgeable pretensions in the face of it, and hypocrisy is exposed (as in Matthew 23!), so here in Joel, we have this same exultation in terms of "marvellous things" which the Lord is exhibiting.
As in Isaiah, so here also, this comes right into the midst of those who draw near with their lips, who face judgment, their hearts still obdurate. The Messiah is first seen, in this case the teacher of righteousness, and this is MARVELLOUS just as His very name is "wonderful" in Isaiah 9:6, and great things are done (as in Isaiah 29:18 cf. Isaiah 35). Some of these, in the consequential realm are seen in Joel 2:25-26. There is to be deliverance not only for one, but towards all who rend their hearts and not their garments, repent and seek the Lord and find Him where HE MAY BE FOUND, in the Messiah. So too is the Spirit is poured out of from on high, a grand and a wonderful thing indeed: Joel 2:28 cf. Isaiah 29:19, 32:15. It is well to remember in the case of Isaiah 32:15, that this is the very Chapter which features the Messiah in its opening verses, and dwells on this extensively.
Thus there is perfect and indeed intimate parallelism of presentation of Isaiah and Joel, in word, phrase and substance.
Further, the intense emphasis on the wonder of things in the sequence is more than merely verbal (signal as this is): it shouts from both contexts (as in Joel 2:21,28ff.) and its vibrant echoes bear into the heart, as one reads the various throbbing and impactive attestations of the world-shattering, spirit exposing, evil-rebuking freedom and power with which the Lord in astonishing fashion, is to act.
In those predictive days of Joel, through judgments they could look to what God was leading up, in due course, even to the coming of the Messiah, who as Christ Himself emphasised at Nazareth, was coming to release the prisoners and institute spiritually the wonderful relief which the year of jubilee betokened.
Everything is a turning upside of established sin patterns, a subduing of specialised follies with a liberality of love and splendour of mercy, that moves from Isaiah's Messiah-child who is to be called "wonderful" (Isaiah 9) to Joel's "wonders in the heavens and in the earth" and "marvellous things" that surround the events of such substantial ultimacy. Paul captures and expounds further, from the Lord, in I Corinthians 1.
What is part of the apostle's message there ? It is this. The philosophers and spokesmen of innate human wisdom, imagined perception, these will be, as Isaiah foretold, brought to nothing, and the Gospel, the power of God to salvation, will occupy the place of humbling the wise, for instead of diverse ideas about 'reaching' God, or even avoiding Him, now comes God's plan and His action to find His people. Concerning His being and nature, it is obvious as Paul declares in Romans 1:17ff., the problem being that man is trying to hold down the obvious truth. When it comes to the Gospel, however, there is no way it can be found except by revelation, and this, it is based in Christ, the wisdom and the power of God, lowly in method, Lord in fact.
This rendering in Joel, "teacher of righteousness", moreover prevents a four-fold reference to rain, which otherwise occurs in Joel 2:23. It likewise means that "the teacher of righteousness" with the idiom appropriate is used, followed by the generic reference to rain, and then the division of rains into former and latter. The consequences of these facts fit spiritually, contextually, thematically, and leave no problems, right down to the not so unusual phenomenon*2 of the pun (as in Matthew 28:16). The force of that pun was delightfully exhibited in this, that immediately afterwards, Peter was found so far astray as to seek to persuade Christ to abandon the cross! and Satan who had tricked him, was roundly rebuked at once by Christ Himself! (Matthew 16:23).
Thus the translation 'teacher of righteousness' in Joel 2:23 balances and all is thus explained; but not otherwise. Moreover, it not only fits every connection, it adds to them and is in the very thrust and manner of them.
The pun, let us stress, is explained; for it is a large part of the script that the bounty is mercy, the Messiah is the ground and the result is in blessing. Rain is emblematic of His reign; and free righteousness is a basic of His salvation (as in Psalm 71, 32, Isaiah 53). The link is didactic, educational, inspiring, and ... needful. It is not some flick of feeling, but a well-grounded mercy which proceeds at enormous cost, that of the Messiah, as elsewhere so often shown; and here, as to emphasis, with wonderful input of real righteousness, the enduring and close relation of exuberant joy in the mercies of God.
Let us however return to Keil's own point to the effect that there was no way that this rain would be a rain of righteousness, if that rendering were given. It would not fit; indeed its non-fit would be quite as conspicuous as the fit when it is rendered teacher of righteousness becomes "THE RAIN FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS" ... In the national context, judgment is the theme, intervention is the final deliverance, and ground for it is found only in the Lord Himself. It is not in giving some rain that He so intervenes, or in this water that the deliverance is found; it is not this which is a marvellous work or an astounding action of the Almighty. He does not water the sour grapes, or assist the land which had called for devastation by meteorological muscle. There is a core, a centre always found, and just as this fits, so its imagined absence is like Big Ben without the chimes.
Further, the people were seeking compassion not righteousness, and to render the rain as for righteousness when drought would be the proper assessment, would invade mercy and cloud the whole doctrine of scripture. It is not in STABILITY and FAITHFULNESS despite sin that the rain comes; it is in mercy to cover sin that it is sent. Repentance is not merely to be called for; but found; and righteousness is not only to be sought, but received.
Righteousness in national performance, then, is NOT the point. The fact as vastly elaborated in Joel, it is contrary to it, and evacuates it! For the TEACHER however it is His intrinsic nature, and their absolute need. Thus negatively and positively, idiomatically and contextually, grammatically and intensively in the sentence itself, we find one thing.
We conclude on these many grounds, then, that it is a ... TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE STRONG TRADITION OF RABBIS HELD, and not doubtless in this case without reason; and as the Chaldee and Vulgate present. Is it however A TEACHER of righteousness which is noted by Joel ? Far from it, and the point is essential. It is not "as" teacher but "THE" TEACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The results will be proportionate!
What then do we learn from this Messianic marvel: the arrival of this teacher?
That this is part of the apparatus of mercy, and a large part. We have moved from the preliminary judgment to the final one in Joel 2, and we move similarly to the first advent of the Messiah in 2:23 to the second one in Joel 3:12ff., in parallel with Habakkuk 3:13, and Isaiah 59:19-20, making yet one more parallel.
Moreover, Messiah, HOW spectacularly HE teaches, yet not sensationalistically at all: Isaiah 11:2-4, 32:1-3. Indeed, it will be the sort of speech with strength and savour, unique and splendid, which though filled with mercy, holds scent of judgment to come (Isaiah 11:4, cf. John 7:46ff., Matthew 23, Luke 19:41ff.) And it holds rest, a resting place fascinating and profound, on which souls may rest from the tempest (Isaiah 11:10, 4:1-6, 32:1-4), the rest which comes from imputed righteousness (Psalm 32:1-4), which comes from the purchase of all time (Isaiah 53:4-11).
We now proceed to what
follows in the text. Now it comes with the force of relish. The Messiah having
come, there is naturally a profoundly powerful consequence, and this theme, the
vital force of the New Covenant proceeds just as it does so often in the Old
Testament (cf. Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 54-55). Thus Jeremiah has the Messiah in
31:22 before the New Covenant in 31:31ff.. In Isaiah the work of salvation by
the Messiah in 52-53, precedes its application in spiritual freedom to find it
without cost (55), and eternity of joy in its presence, from Him who gave it
(54). The Messiah first, and
then the fruits that extend like showers that water the earth. What then do we
PREPARATION FOR JUDGMENT
"Afterward" (Joel 2:28-32), there is what came to be quoted at Pentecost, that description of dream and vision, power and wonder. It was then that the simple calling upon the name of the Lord was made so direct and mandatory without any encumbrance of symbolism; and the rapid approach of the final crisis and juncture with judgment itself the proceeds. It is in the sequence: salvation free, repudiation costly, judgment then sure. Joel 2:23, the Saviour, 2:28ff., the application, this moving on then to the judgment on the entire earth. From this, those so calling on the name of the Lord will be saved.
There is here what we realise to be the whole reign of the church age in the New Testament format following the incarnation.
The meaning is clear. What then in Joel 2:28 ? It comes afterwards. After what ? After what had been traced before it. After all this, as seen earlier in Joel's prophecy, first the removal of temporary judgment and then the coming and work of the Lord who Himself provides what is true righteousness. As He declared, Except your righteousness EXCEEDS that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you do not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is a GIVEN righteousness, a gracious commitment and crediting to us who believe, that of Christ Himself (as in Romans 5:17).
Thus, taken all together, just as Christ, the Messiah, the crucified, mourned for in due time as shown in Zechariah 12:10, there is to be an epochal wonder leading on to the end of the entire Age, SO comes the outpouring of His Spirit at Pentecost, and the development of the terminal phases of the Age of 2:30ff., in Joel.
What then do we find ? It is thus that there come sthe outpouring of the Spirit of which Joel speaks in terms of such scale, in 2:29. They are epochal in three dimensions: 1) the power 2) the revelation and 3) the judgment looking down at the end, coming precipately as the Age comes to its closure, without further ado. It is post-Messianic, pre-judgment. Let us look further at this Age.
The Lord does indeed send His rain on the just and on the unjust, but on the unjust, it is IN MERCY. Moreover, it is not amid rejoicing and assurance. If the unjust get it, it does not in itself transform then. It is the Messiah whose righteousness exceeds mere form, and who insists that ours must do likewise, ours gained from Him, His given to us, if we are to enter, as His people do, the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 5:20, 23:28). Thus Joel 3 goes on to its tempestuous ending, reminiscent greatly of Habakkuk 3. War is dramatically indicated (3:10-11) in an irony not without pity, as the foolish fastheads amongst men do their utmost to be their own salvation, so being in vain subjected to slaughtering inordinately in their falsity, and flashly bungling.
How grand to find the LORD Himself a "shelter to His people" at such a time (Joel 3:16).
The Lord, we learn , will "utter His voice from Jerusalem"; and indeed, will "roar from Zion". It is time people began to realise that He means it, and that Jerusalem the burdensome stone par excellence since the 1947 UN folly of trying to internationalise it (Zechariah 12; SMR Ch.9), is not for that dire insult to God and trying to imagine that He really does not know, or does not care (Psalm 50:21-23, Malachi 3:13-15, Psalm 73:11).
More than locusts will come in the trepidatious onslaught, but as to the drama of the former things, leading to the ecclesiastical hyperactivity in the slaughter of the Lord - in human form as Jesus Christ, as it were by mistake.... along with the sacrifices intended to show worship! - it will be reaped in an ultimate which is worthy of its preliminaries. There have been so many preliminaries; and there will be so many consequences. The case is drastic. The means are no less, but tempered with that patience which is not indulgence, but grace. There is a set of believers (Isaiah 53:1), and there are kept.
says the Lord in Joel 2:27. Thus is the gift of the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 28:16). He who trusts in Him shall NOT be ashamed.
come to the Book of Acts.
This now produces a lively and marvellously straightforward scenario.
1) The temporary judgment on Israel comes complete with dashing locusts, set in so heightened a form as to constitute an allegory (Joel 2:1-9); and
2) this early judgment rises in a crescendo of vision to the ultimate judgment also spoken of in Isaiah 24, where the earth and heavens are indeed shaken (Joel 2:10-11) cf. Hebrews 12:26, and Haggai 2:6), and
3) This is followed by a call to repentance, followed by the exposure of the Messiah as Teacher for Righteousness - His is the role on behalf of righteousness, in righteousness and for it, "I am the Truth", as He said, and "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth ..." (Joel 2:12-23, John 8:40)
His role is emphasised in its mercy by the pun-mode impact in the Hebrew language here (Joel 2:23), of relating Him, as differently He is related in Psalm 72, to showers of mercy, of rain, heightening content, productivity and gentle.
4) This exposure of the face of grace in the Messiah is aptly followed by the exultant glorying in the splendid acts of the Lord, "For the Lord has done marvellous things" (Joel 2:26), in entire accord with the similar procedure in Isaiah, when he is revealing the similar acts of mercy an interposition, of the Messiah.He will rainHis resplendent mercies (Psalm 72:6, Hosea 6:1-4),
So do they wait for Him (Proverbs 8:34), and find Him, for now He has shown Himself in heightened form, once for all time. THEN COME THE SHOWERS TO START AND TO BRING THE SPIRITUAL CROPS TO FRUITION (Joel 2:24), for with them comes a shower of a far greater power than the meteorological, the Messiah, teacher of righteousness and deliverer to those who seeing they cannot reach it, find its real meat and meaning in Him, as Saviour who, granting salvation, enables by grace, the movement within which transforming all, becomes a base and basis for His work in us as in II Corinthians 3:18.
Thus and then indeed, God will
This poignant and deep challenge to the heart shows, following the great call to repentance and the manifestation of the Messiah (v.23), the Lord's willingness set aside sin as far as the East is from the West, so that
to use the New Covenant terminology (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Hebrews 8)... For now the "new man" is "put on", even the one who "after God is created in righteousness and true holiness", and the "old man" is "put off", for they are 'renewed in the spirit of your mind' (Ephesians 4:23-24).
5) Now those many Jews, such as the apostles - and indeed others "not of this fold" (John 10) - who are called by the Messiah, and who come, receive the summit blessing, as the vision moves through the open window of what then is actually present, to the consequences in the Messiah (cf. Colossians 1:27), whose people shall NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME (Joel 2:27).
I am the Lord your God, and there is no other,
My people shall never be put to shame" - Joel 2:27.
Thus Joel 2:27 leads into the wonders of widespread revelation shown in Joel 2:28ff.. Now AFTER the Teacher of Righteousness, the Messiah of such blessing as shown in other scriptures in the figure of rain, now there is to come something also quite epochal. It is the aftermath of the Messianic mission.
Precisely as, in Isaiah 28:16, the Messiah as foundation is first revealed, with attendant blessings, in the ultimate sense, and then vast consequences accrue. So NOW the believing Jews and their brethren (cf. Isaiah 32:1-4, 33:17, 42, 49, 50-57, 60-61, 66) are involved in the most prodigious restoration to the heavenly Jerusalem, through the Gospel, and are a tide of salty water to the shores of the land, with many fish.
Foundation, it comes first (as in I Corinthians 3:11). The rest follows.
Now there will be the monumental revelation of the Lord.
Here, heaven's heart has already opened (2:23) and shown its love in the massacred Messiah, arisen and triumphant. Now we find the heart of believers is set to receive of that glory by understanding within, as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" makes His wonderful presence felt (Joel 2:28-32). The revelation and the foundation, with the inspiration which provided the stable Scriptures (Isaiah 59:21, 53-55, 34, II Timothy 3:16, I Cor. 2:9-13, Psalm 12,111), meet in beautiful harmony in the lives given to the Lord, Jew or Gentile in this period.
6) Thus the story sweeps on to the fuller consequences of the Messiah (Joel 2:28ff.). There is the outpouring of the Spirit, there are the prophetic extensions on His now solid base (Isaiah 28:16, 32:15-17), in that new situation, a freedom mounting surely, with the solidity and stability of the base ( cf. I Cor. 3:10-11).
Now the call is to all, there is no limit:
This Gospel call proceeds on the coming of the Messiah, the teacher of righteousness who NOT ONLY offered Himself as a sacrifice, but presented Himself as THE teacher (Matthew 23:8-10), to which in His place, none could be added! It was thus that He declared in the Great Commission before His departure to His Father from whom He came,
(from Matthew 28:18-20, caps. added, to indicate the point in view).
To Him, so incarnated, so come, so crucified, so raised, so ascended, and with such commands about His teaching which presents Him in the true light which came into the world, there is now this open door of ready access to all, for He has paid for the ease of the opening, and made Himself plain to all, that none need be hindered and all may be free.
7) That in turn surges on to the ultimate judgment already touched in the preliminary soaring from the pad of earlier trouble, a warning of the nature of the end to be for the whole earth. Here the meteorological and indeed astronomical happenings are exposed in more detail. So great will this convulsion be, that the (then) apt call comes to "Beat your plowshares into swords" comes! (Joel 3:10).
8) The multitudes in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14) are not, contrary to what Billy Graham has indicated, those involved in "making decisions for Christ" in such contrariety to the clear teaching of the Lord in John 15:16,1:3, but those being ravaged in devastating conflict (Joel 3:12,16) or "reaped" as in Matthew 13, when wheat and tares in the end were to be reaped. The "wheat' is already then gone (as in Matthew 24:30-31), and the residual reaping of weeds is woeful. When the Lord anoints this situation with His voice roaring, then actions happen, presumably as in Zechariah 14, and the investing of Jerusalem with its rightful king proceeds.
9) The position ought to be noted for the large bloc, the nation indeed as such, of the Jews who did NOT receive the Lord. For them, it was by Christ stated that they would not see Him again until they should say,
Where then do we find
nurture from this prophecy, for the soul, knowledge for the mind in its
reflections, stimulus to the spirit?
ARROWS THAT PIERCE TO AWARENESS
What then is the barb or
balm in all this, or what the arrow ?
It is this. MANY are the warnings we have all had; both personal and national, international and historic, as a race, as a people. Judgment indeed must first start at the house of God; for the churches are being corrupted in significant percentages of their totality, and many great edifices are failing and falling in this end of the Gentile Age, as they did in the end of the Jewish age, as the Old Testament waited for the New, and the due time awaited the Teacher of Righteousness who had to come (cf. Isaiah 11, Daniel 9).
Let us then rend our hearts and not our garments. It MUST be said that there is a strange seeming disinclination to do any rough stuff even with garments these days; and if harrowing hypocrisy is thereby reduced for the ostentation, the evidence of any realisation at all of the gravity of the world and its race of mankind is appalling recessive. Few will wake up.
They sleep, but not the sleep of the just, and many like the foolish virgins of Matthew 25, continue as if the form of godliness were the knowledge of God! Forms will not save; but the JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. Thus -
Rejoice in that, and being born of God, believing in Him whom you receive, rejoice in that acquittal and in the mercy that lies back of it, as in the Cross which procured it for those who believe (Romans 8:32, 5:1-11). Do not tarry, do not 'subside' into faithless instability and vagueness. The judgment is not vague, and truth is not vague, nor is your income tax. Be thankful and receive the gift (Romans 6:23), for it is fitting to thank God for His unspeakable gift ( I Cor.9:15), the gift of that speaking word, the Lord incarnate Jesus Christ, and coming to Him as a ship to harbour, live in Him, your eternal resource.
And further, consider HIS nature of whom it is said,
- II Cor. 8:9.
And those riches are these -
- Ephesians 3:8., Philippians 3:8).
There now, THAT is a teacher and THAT is righteousness, so abundant that it may be attributed vicariously to those whom it redeems.
How happy is the book of
Joel in its clarity, precision and power. Moving like a jet to its target, it
leaves a vapour-trail that lingers, and lingers until it points like an arrow at
the heart of this our day, and of those within it, who will be wise if in this
their day, they repent and seek the Lord, knowing that great is the day which
comes, and great is the Teacher of righteousness, whose teaching met the fiery
trials of the laboratory, and constituted that acme of all teaching, the
personal performance which not only stimulates, inspires and leads, but in this
and for Him, which opens the very doors of heaven by grace, to His very face
For more on allied areas:
See THE FLASHING FALLS OF FREEDOM, in A Spiritual Potpourri, and CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM in The Kingdom of Heaven... together with Ch.4, LOVE THAT PASSES KNOWLEDGE. See also SMR pp. 1174B ff., The Poor Environment, and pp. 1163A ff., The Suffering of Creation and the Longsuffering of God.
Malachi 3:1-2 Here is the coming of The Messenger of the Covenant, whereby the Lord shall "suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant , in whom you delight: behold, He shall come, says the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire, and like a fuller's soap."
So Christ, author of the New Covenant and crux of the everlasting covenant, indeed, "given ... for a Covenant" (Isaiah 42:6, cf. Matthew 26:28), purged the temple suddenly (Matthew 21:9-13) in form, as later will be met with this consuming fire, those who remain rebellious living temples in fact! (Malachi 4:1-2). The brilliance and shining cleanness appeared in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2-3).
What is to be found? In salvation, beauty, in judgment, burning (Malachi 4:1-2). The grace for those of the covenant covers judgment. Find then the place in His grace.
Some may perhaps feel that God would not use a pun; but the reasoning is obscure. If men often use puns lightly, that is because men are often light and fanciful, lacking in depth, or having fun in jollity. This is no limit to the use of puns however, and God can use either words or names to impress His message, for there is no wisdom in trying to limit the Holy One of Israel, as Psalm 78:41 indicates!
God, on occasion, uses puns with a severity which enables any trend to play to become a spur to sanctity. He did it with Peter as noted in Matthew 16; and He did something in a way quite similar in Micah, and that repetitively.
Solemn indeed are the eight puns which appear to be present in just 6 verses of Micah 1, namely 10-15. This is beautifully brought out by Keil in the remarkable Commentary on the Old Testament of the scholars Keil and Delitzsch, justly famous after so long a time. There is in the case just mentioned, where the Hebrew (naturally since puns involve sounds in words) is shown to possess just these pun-qualities. Judgment is in view not a little, and the very names of cities are deployed as testimonies so that instead of glorying in their names, or being puffed up or pleased about them, these too are brought into the line to impress on them that man has a character, cities like men have names, and that very fact, when things are astray, can be an indictment and not a glory, or a prelude to pain and not to profit.
Names can indicate character and character can indicate either good or bad, shame or excellence; and when shame is in view, then the very name of apparent solidity, can become but a pointer to pronouncement of warning or of evil.