27 January 2017

Joel 2:28-32

“Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” (vv. 28-29)

Psalm: Psalm 94:14-23


The verses before these have promised restoration to God's land and people following the devastation wreaked by a locust plague; now a second stage of blessing is promised which goes beyond restoring the way things used to be, bringing about a whole new era as God's Spirit is outpoured on all God's people.

In earlier parts of Scripture we learn that the spirit inspires creation (Genesis 1:2, where 'spirit' is the same word as wind'), artistic craftsmanship (Exodus 35:31), and acts of power and courage (Judges 14:6). Prophecy too is understood to be inspired by the Spirit (Micah 3:8), and prophecy is the theme here. In the past it was individuals who were specially inspired by God's Spirit; here it is emphasised that all of God's people will prophesy as a result of the Spirit's outpouring, fulfilling a hope Moses had long ago expressed (Numbers 11:29). Prophecy in the Bible has little to do with foretelling the future, which is what today's English word often suggests, but is about understanding and declaring the mind and will of God. So the promise here is of close fellowship and communication with God, with the emphasis placed on the 'all included' aspect, quite remarkable at that time.

The awe-inspiring portents of verses 30-31 are a poetic expression of the fact that it will be universally acknowledged that God is at work in establishing this age of the spirit. It combines imagery from the great plagues God sent on Egypt prior to the Exodus and from the Exodus itself (see Exodus 7:17; 9:24; 19:18 for the "blood and fire and columns of smoke" (v. 30)) with the fresh memories of the darkening of the sun and reddening of the moon caused by the locust plague and also familiar from the dust storms in times of battle. As in the first part of the chapter (Joel 2:1-17) the terror of judgement is combined with the promise of salvation, again with the emphasis that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (meaning who worships and obeys God) will be saved.

To Ponder

  • On the day of Pentecost (in Acts 2:17-21) the apostle Peter quoted this whole passage as descriptive of the events of that day. In what ways do you think the Holy Spirit enables Christians to have dreams and visions today, and to what effect?
  • Today is Holocaust Memorial Day when we recall that millions of God's people who 'alled on the name of the Lord" were nevertheless taken to the gas chambers. What does this terrible truth have to say to us?
  • Is 'poured out' the way you would describe the relationship of God's Spirit to you, or how alternatively would you describe it? Could you ask for something more? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.