Joel 2:13,23,26,27 The Former Rain and the Latter Rain 4/21/2002
#1. A Call to Repentance (Joel 2:12-17)
#2. The LORD Will Pity His People (Joel 2:18-22, Gal 4:25)
#3. Praise the Name of the LORD Your God (Joel 2:26, Rev 19:13)
Please open your Bibles to the Prophecy of Joel, chapter 2. You find Joel right after Daniel and Hosea. Why are we going to Joel? I want to clear up the confusion about the Latter Rain. This is an expression, which occurs seven times in the Bible. Today we are going to look at only one of those seven passages. For the past two years you have been hearing on the radio a great deal about the meaning of the Latter Rain. One principle is sure: If we want to explain the meaning of an expression, or a verse, or a passage in the Bible, we should not be looking at phenomena in the world, and guess what this expression, or verse, or passage means. Instead, we must be looking only in the Bible to explain what the Bible says about that expression, or verse, or passage. We must let the Bible explain what the Bible says, and especially notice: It must fit the context. Keep these principles in mind when you want to claim: Thus says the Lord. Let me first talk about "The Prophecy of Joel".
Joel prophesied in the land of Judah. Joel's Prophecy in chapter 1 tells us about a terrible plague of locusts. What are locusts? Locusts are a sort of grasshoppers. John the Baptist ate them for breakfast (Mark 1:6). We played with them when I was a child. One or two locusts may be cute. But a few billion locusts all at once is a terrible plague, because so many locusts will have eaten every plant in sight in a half an hour or less. You have to keep the doors of your house closed, or else they will also eat the food that you have stored in your house. But after a couple hours they will be hungry again, so they fly away to another green area, and there they eat every plant in sight. And so on.
We read in Deut 28 that God sends destroying locusts as a penalty for disobedience to Him. But we read also in Deut 28 that God can send armies of enemy nations to destroy the land as a penalty for disobeying Him. In Joel chapter 1:6 God calls the locusts an enemy army, and in chapter 1:15 the destruction by the army of locusts is called "The Day of the Lord". But that is Judgment Day!
Joel chapter 2 reaches into the future describing the armies of the Babylonians who shall destroy the land of Judah. And there in chapter 2:1,11 God tells us that this destruction of Judah is also called "The Day of the Lord". Therefore, the plague of locusts was only a picture of the coming destruction by the Babylonians, and the actual destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the nation of Babylon in 587 BC is a picture of the end of the world. Therefore, in chapter 2 beginning in verse 12 God calls the nation to repentance. But from the N.T. we know that it is God who gives repentance. Therefore, beginning in verse 18 "the Lord will pity His people". But who are His people? (N.T.) And in verse 23 God says: "Be glad then ye children of Zion". But who are the children of Zion? (N.T.) Then, because God brings the former rain and the latter rain there is an abundant harvest. But what is the harvest that God aims for? (N.T.) And then beginning in verse 28 God describes that harvest: It is the harvest of Pentecost. Peter quoted these verses on the Day of Pentecost to give us the meaning of verses 28 through 32. Therefore the previous verses take on a whole new meaning. The context of verses 18-27 dictate that we must interpret these verses spiritually. The N.T. Day of Pentecost demands it.
Now that we have an overview of this sermon, let us begin to look at:
#1. A Call to Repentance (Joel 2:12-17). Please turn to Joel 2:12,
Joel 2:12 ¶ Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Joel 2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Joel 2:14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
Joel 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
Joel 2:16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
Joel 2:17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
What is the purpose of this call to repentance? Answer: Who knows if the Lord will repent and turn away His wrath from us? The same sequence happened when Jonah preached in Nineveh. Jonah said: "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown". But the people of Nineveh believed God, and they repented in sackcloth and ashes. Then God had mercy on Nineveh. God did not overthrow it.
Likewise here in Jerusalem. Is it possible that they also would turn to God with all their heart, and repent in sackcloth and ashes? Who knows if God might have mercy on Jerusalem as He did on Nineveh? As you know, the people of Jerusalem and Judah did not repent before the destruction of the city by Babylon. However, they did repent after they had been decimated, and the remnant was carried to Babylon. Then they repented that they had been worshipping idols, and had not been worshipping Jehovah of the Bible. And then the Lord did pity His people. We read in verse 13,
Joel 2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
When people in O.T. days were grieving they often tore their garments as an outward sign of grief. But God says: Tear your heart, and not your garments. The grieving for sins is to occur first of all inside the man, in his soul. O Yes! Outward signs of grieving are also expected. God said in the previous verse: "with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning". But the outward signs of grieving and repenting of sins must not be just an outward show. God sees the heart, and God said in the previous verse: "turn ye to me with all your heart", meaning "with all your soul". If we have not repented in our soul, then we are hypocrites. And God hates hypocrites. But God also says in Psalm 51: "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise".
Why should we rend our heart? Why should we repent? Well, consider the disaster of the locusts that God has brought on the nation of Judah, and the promise of the Babylonian armies God was going to bring in the future, all because of the sin of idolatry. Similar disasters are awaiting us in a spiritual sense, if we do not recognize our sins of idolatry and we do not repent of them. But it is God who gives repentance. How does God work to bring us to repentance? By taking us through horrible experiences, such as: He takes away our job, which would be equivalent to the plague of locusts. Or He takes away our health, or He takes away our family through divorce, or He takes away our church, which would be equivalent to being decimated by the Babylonians. We are so hardheaded that God has to draw our attention by dragging us through horrible experiences. For example, God says in
Haggai 2:17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.
If after all this we have not turned to Christ with a repentant heart, it means that we have a hard heart. When we stand at the Judgment throne, we cannot say: "Lord, you did not draw my attention".
Are we in danger of worshipping idols? Just open a newspaper and see what the people of our world are interested in. ET and Star Wars and prominent movie actors are in the limelight. UCLA and USC are given much coverage in the papers, not for their academic programs, but for their sports teams. Everyone in show business is getting first place attention. There is where our children learn who our idols are. Is it then any wonder if they too are drawn to those same idols?
God says: "rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God". Your idols cannot do anything for you. But God can! Our God is "gracious". What does that mean, God is Gracious? It means that God gives grace, or God bestows favor on whomsoever He wants to bestow favor. What is this grace or favor that God gives to man? It is the grace unto salvation. God's grace is His unmerited favor, it is God's gift which we do not deserve. The Bible also says that: God's grace is irresistable. God gives His grace on whomsoever God has mercy. God says in Joel 2:13:
What does that mean, God is merciful? It means that God has mercy on unrepentant sinners. Yes, you heard me right. God has mercy on unrepentant sinners. Thanks to Adam's rebellion, we all came into the world as sinners in rebellion against God. We all deserved to go to Hell. We all at one time were unrepentant sinners. None of us wanted the salvation of the Bible. But God says i Rom 9:15-16
Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Rom 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
God bestows mercy on whomsoever He will. Salvation is not something that we appropriate to ourselves. Salvation is something that God gives, through His grace, which is a gift that we do not deserve, and His mercy, which is a withholding of that which we do deserve.
When you see that word mercy, dwell on it a little. What is God withholding that we do deserve? Hell! That is what God is withholding. But God cannot pardon our sins by just some hand waving. God cannot pardon the sins of millions of people by letting a perfect human being, Jesus, bleed on the cross for six hours. O No! That would be a mere token of the penalty required.
The primary reason we were condemned to Hell was that God's righteousness demanded that we be sent to Hell, as the just payment for our sins. God's righteousness can only be satisfied if we would spend an eternity in Hell. Therefore, how can God pardon our sins? We must first spend an eternity in Hell. But eternity is forever. Therefore we will never be able to pay the full price.
Now we have come to the point where we can understand what salvation is. God announced in Gen 3:15 that He allowed the principle of substitution. God provided the Lord Jesus Christ to be our Substitute. God sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to take upon Himself the guilt of all the sins of all those whom God intended to save. At that time we all were still unrepentant sinners, undeserving of this salvation. Moreover, God placed all those people whom God intended to save in Christ. Just like we all were bodily present in the loins of Adam when he sinned, so God placed all those whom God intended to save in Christ. You find that in Rom 5. When Christ was crucified, we were crucified with Him. When Christ endured the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, we endured with Him. When Christ died, we died with Him. When Christ was buried, we were buried with Him. When Christ rose from the tomb, we rose with Him. When Christ ascended into heaven, we ascended with Him, so that we now are legally citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem. God cannot send us to Hell again, because we have already gone through Hell, in Christ, and have come out the other end of Hell, in Christ. Therefore, God swore to Himself that He would at some time in our life apply that payment that Christ had made for our sins on the cross in 33 AD.
Since we came into the world as unrepentant sinners, in rebellion against God, because we were made in the likeness of our father Adam, therefore at a certain point in our life God had to make us "born again", to give us a new soul, so that God could give us repentance and faith. Usually, that point in time coincides with some traumatic event in our life, through which God draws us to Himself.
All this is implied when God when God says in Joel 2:13:
Joel 2:13 Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Then we read in verse 18,
#2. The LORD Will Pity His People (Joel 2:18-22, Gal 4:25). Let's continue to read in Joel 2:18,
Joel 2:18 ¶ Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
Joel 2:19 Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, "Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:
Joel 2:20 But I will remove far off from you the northern (army), and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.
Joel 2:21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.
Joel 2:22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.
The Lord will pity His people. Who are His people? Are the descendants of Jacob His people? Were Judas Iscariot, or Annas and Caiaphas also of His people? Were the Jews who were trying to lynch the Apostle Paul also His people? Are the present-day-Jews also His people? How then shall we explain Gal 4:25, which says that "Jerusalem which now is, is in bondage with her children"? You see, the only harmonious interpretation of "His people" is that this represents the saints for whom Christ died. This includes Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Joshua, and David, and Peter, James and John, and Martin Luther, and John Calvin, and US. We are His people.
The call to repent went out through the entire world. God has given a new soul to His people, which are those for whom Christ died, and God has given them repentance and faith. Now, in Joel 2:18, God pities His people because they suffered under His chastening hand. The Lord will be jealous for His land. Does God care for real estate? No! The land symbolizes the Kingdom of God here on earth. Before the cross the Kingdom of God was the nation of Judah and Israel. After the cross the Kingdom of God are the N.T. churches throughout the world. First God is eliminating the destroying army of locusts that He has sent. There was another army mentioned in chapter 2, but that is a future prophecy of the apostasy in the last of the Last Days. But now God is ready to send them:
Joel 2:23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately (Lit: according to righteousness), and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first (month).
Who are the children of Zion? Zion is the place where God resides. The children of Zion are those for whom Christ died. They are the only ones who have any hope for the future. They are the only ones who can rejoice in the LORD their God. Now God writes through the pen of the prophet Joel that God already "has given them the former rain moderately". This word "moderately" has in all 156 other places been translated: righteousness, or justice, or right, or righteous acts. To translate this word as "moderately" is just moderately improper. The author of my Interlinear Bible translates it as "according to righteousness", which is probably a good choice. But the fact that God chose "righteousness" with regard to "rain" is a tip-off that we need to look for the spiritual meaning of this "rain". What does water represent in the spiritual dimension? It is the water of the Gospel, the Word of God unto salvation. At the time God wrote this prophecy through the pen of Joel, God had already given much Gospel information through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and through Moses, Joshua and the Judges. The Word of God has really been raining down during the years of David, Solomon, Elijah and Elisha. Joel preached after them. With this history behind them, indeed God has already given them the former rain according to righteousness. Now God also promised to cause to come down in the future both "the former rain and the latter rain at the first". It is significant that the word "month" was not in the original manuscripts. If it was in the original, then the promised "former rain and the latter rain" had to come down in the months of March or April. That is the first month of the Hebrew calendar.
But when is that latter rain? We must keep an eye on the context. In verse 28 begins the announcement of Pentecost in the year 33 AD. That really was the watershed that initiated the N.T. church, and then the entire N.T. began to rain down on the faithful children of God. That is the latter rain, which did not come down in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, but two months later, in the first month of the birth of the N.T. church. Both the former rain and the latter rain were pouring down, like verse 23 says, because during the first century the only acknowledged Word of God was the O.T.
God brings the former rain and the latter rain when people have become saved. Remember the sequence: in Joel chapter 2 first God calls people to repentance, then the Lord pities His people, then He drives away the enemy and then He brings the former rain and especially the latter rain. As a result there is an abundant harvest. What harvest does God aim for? Saved people! Now verse 24,
Joel 2:24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
The wheat, the wine and the oil are a reference to verse 19, where God promised: "And I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen". There is no possibility that this could refer to the descendants of Jacob. They were very much a reproach after the Jewish revolt of 70 AD. Now V. 25,
Joel 2:25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
God reminds us of the years that we have been unfruitful, and we "were by nature the children of wrath, even as others". But then, God saved us. He gave us a new soul, because Christ has suffered and died for us on the cross. And God will restore unto us the years that the locust has eaten, meaning that God will make good on the years in which we have been under the wrath of God.
Tell your children what God has done for you. Tell your children that before Christ came into your life, your life was empty, unfruitful, and you were constantly under attack by people and things sent by God to harass you. Tell your children the meaning of these words from Joel 1:3-4,
Joel 1:3 Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
Joel 1:4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.
That was an ugly army, but all things work together for our own good, because God loved us.
Tell your children how God saved you and drove you to repentance. Tell your children how close you were to Hell. And when you heard the words of chapter 1:15 that was really a wakeup call:
Joel 1:15 Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand (near), and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
Like the locusts were unstoppable, and devouring the Kingdom of God, so the false gospels in the last days will be like the Babylonian armies devastating the Kingdom of God. Tell your children what they can expect to see in their lifetime. Tell them how God gave you the discernment to recognize the true Gospel, and tell them that God can be trusted. If we hang on to the Bible only and trust that the grace of God will guide us through His word, then we will know how to conduct ourselves in this world, which is the Bottomless Pit, the place where Satan is the prince of the power of the air.
Also give assistance to other people's children when you see them go astray. God commanded us to help our neighbor's donkey if it has fallen into a ditch. Then most certainly we should help other people's children when they have gone astray, or when they are in need of a correction. I know this is not a custom in this country, but it certainly is in God's Kingdom. You mothers and fathers, look after your own children, but also give assistance to other children in this congregation. Therefore:
#3. Praise the Name of the LORD Your God (Joel 2:26, Rev 19:13). We read in Joel 2:26,
Joel 2:26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.
Literally the last words in this verse are: "And my people shall not be ashamed forever". Forever means for all eternity future. Therefore this is a salvation verse. This verse refers to the salvation of God's people, those whom He chose to be saved through Christ on the cross. Sure we shall eat in plenty, but physical food is not in view. There have been many saints who have died in prison. But as we read and study the Word of God, we eat of the spiritual food for our souls. There will be plenty. There will be more than we can take in, and we shall be satisfied. A characteristic of saints is that we shall praise the Name of Jehovah our God who has dealt wondrously with us.
When you see printed "the LORD" with all four letters capitalized, in the original that stood for Jehovah. Who is Jehovah? God the Father is Jehovah. God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah. God the Holy Spirit is Jehovah. All three persons are Jehovah, because there is only One God. This is what the Bible teaches, and this is what we believe.
Why would we praise the Name of Jehovah our God and why would we not praise Jehovah Himself? When we praise the Name of our God we give glory to God, we give honor to His reputation, we give Him the credit for all His gifts, and we worship Him. But there is more:
What is the Name of God? God does not have a name to distinguish Him from other gods, because there are no other gods. But we read in Rev 19:13 concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, "And His name is called The Word of God". But what is the Word of God? It is the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. All that is in this Book is implied in the Name of our God. When we read that we must believe on His Name, it means that we must believe all that is in the Bible. When we read that we should praise His Name, it means that we praise Him for all those things that we read in the Bible: We praise God for all the nice promises, and we praise Him just as well for all the Judgments that we find in the Bible, because all that is in the Bible is there to glorify God.
The saints praise God who has dealt wondrously with them. God could have passed us by. But God had mercy on us. Therefore He sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to save us, dirty rotten, unrepentant sinners, and God gave us repentance, and God gave us a new soul, and God gave us faith to believe His Word, and God gave us a desire to hear His Word and to know His Word and to obey His Word, and God gave us a desire to know His congregation and to be with His congregation and to belong to His family. Let us go on to the next verse. God says:
Joel 2:27 And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
This is the second time God says, "My people shall never be ashamed"? It means that we shall not be ashamed when Judgment Day rolls around. It means that we shall not stand naked before God with all our sins exposed. It means that we have been listening to what God says in the Bible.
"And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel". God is not referring to the nation of Israel. After the cross every nation stands on the same footing before Christ. We are saved by grace alone, through Christ alone, and not by who our forefathers were. God is referring to the Israel of God, as He says in Gal 6:16, "Peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God". Only those who have been saved by Christ have received peace and mercy from God. We are the Israel of God. Like God says in Phil 3:3, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh". We have no confidence in the circumcision of the flesh, but we are confident that God has circumcised our heart. Then God said:
"And ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, and none else". What does that mean? It means that God is in our home. It means that we are aware that God says: "I Am Jehovah your God", and I will be God to you and to your children after you. God says: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call". It means that we know God according to who He is and what He is. God is not our buddy. God is the sovereign Lord of the universe. God is not the one with whom we have a contract. God is sovereign. That means God, with His infinite power and greatness and holiness and righteousness, chose to dwell with man, and God has honored us by desiring to dwell within our soul. Can we get some appreciation for this great honor from God?
Do we fear this great God? Fearing God is a dirty word these days. The Lord Jesus said in Matt:
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Here we have the straight command to fear God. What does it mean to fear God? It means that we love Him and honor Him as our sovereign Lord and we obey His commandments. How do we know His commandments? We must read our Bibles at home, and teach our children to read the Bibl.
Please turn to with me to Psalm 128. If we obey what God says in the Bible, then we must fear God, and it must show in the sphere of our home that we do fear God. In our homes our children must learn by our words and our examples what it means to fear God. How blessed is the home where God Almighty is feared. Psalm 128:1-2 says it so well:
Psalm 128:1 ¶ <<A Song of degrees.>> Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.
Psalm 128:2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Only the home where God is feared is truly a happy home. This is the home where the Lord Jesus Christ is King. Without the fear of God our homes will have on them only the wrath and displeasure of God. Notice what God says in Psalm 1:2 about the prosperity of our labors. Remember the locusts will come if we do not have the fear of God in our home. And when we have come to fear the Lord, "God will restore unto us the years that the locust has eaten". We must teach our children, and we must teach them according to the Scriptures. You know that God has written many things in the Bible how to raise our children. We are commanded to follow God's prescriptions and ignore Dr Spock's teachings. So let us seek God and His favor as the highest good and blessedness for our home.
How beautiful has this psalm been put to music. Listen to the words of the hymn we are going to sing, which is a versification of Psalm 128, and follow me through the reading of this Psalm:
"Blessed the man that fears Jehovah, walking ever in His ways;
By thy toil thou shalt be prospered and be happy all thy days.
In thy wife thou shalt have gladness, she shall fill thy home with good,
Happy in her loving service and the joys of motherhood.
Joyful children, sons and daughters, shall about thy table meet,
Olive plants, in strength and beauty, full of hope and promise sweet.
Lo on him that fears Jehovah shall this blessedness attend,
For Jehovah out of Zion shall to thee His blessing send.
Thou shalt see God's kingdom prosper all thy days, till life shall cease,
Thou shalt see thy children's children; on thy people, Lord, be peace." Amen.