Movie goers in the late 20th century and certainly now have seen films dominated by computer-generated graphics (CGI). Myriads of warriors can be depicted moving with synchronicity against the enemy. Similarly, Joel does his best to describe a past scourge of locusts, the coming Assyrian invasion, and the promised arrival of God’s celestial army on “that glorious day.”
They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like soldiers; and they each march in line, nor do they deviate from their paths. Joel 2:7
As you study Joel, you can remain confused, or you can understand that the book is both historic and prophetic, possibly at the same time. Telescopically, Joel can be referring to the looming threat from an army to the north, such as that led by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, or the triumphant future coming of the King of Kings. Both will be frightening undertakings, and those on the wrong side will be struck with unshakable fear.
Before them the people are in anguish; all faces turn pale. Joel 2:6
So what person does not have to worry about the approaching armies of man, or God? There are a few hints in Joel 2. Here’s the first, the obedient.
For strong is he who carries out His word. 2:11
Can there be anything but success, as God would define it, carrying out “His word?” As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the person who puts God’s word into action will do so with the unlimited might of the Lord.
Without question obeying God’s word is synonymous with doing his will. The Hebrew word here to “carry out” is “asah,” used generically hundreds of times in the Old Testament. It’s primarily translated “to do” or “to make,” but it’s also translated “to accomplish, administer, commit, perform, offer, and prepare,” to name a few. In every realm of life, in every aspect, in every way, the word of God applies, and should be “carried out.” James has some important things to say about this “doing.”
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22–25
If you make the decision to apply God’s word in your life, you will be empowered to do so. As Christians, this power resides within, and it is the Holy Spirit. This passage in Joel was quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first filled the early believers (Acts 2:17-21).
It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28–29
It is not the approaching armies that should cause us to tremble, but not carrying out the words in scripture, from the prophets in the Old and New Testaments, and Jesus himself.
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20–21
Obedience is an affair of the heart. So the contrite have nothing to worry about as danger approaches…
And rend your heart and not your garments.” 2:13
…for when we act out of obedience to God’s word, the Lord looks favorably upon us.
“But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:2
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17
“Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. 2 Chronicles 34:27
And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered. 2:32
When besieged, the reliant pour out their hearts before the Lord for deliverance. The model here is King Hezekiah of Judah, who, when looking down the Assyrian king’s barrel, literally laid out his ultimatum in the form of a letter, before the Lord, and prayed for deliverance.
14 Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 19 Now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God.” 2 Kings 19:14-19
5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. 2 Kings 18:5-6
Hezekiah is described as Judah’s greatest king, because he did what was right in God’s eyes, that is, whatever He said to do. As such, Hezekiah “was strong because he carried out His word.”
As a result, no Assyrian arrow was shot into Jerusalem.
32 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, “He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,”’ declares the Lord. 34 ‘For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’” 2 Kings 19:32