We don’t know much about the prophet Joel. In the three short chapters of his chronicle all we really know is that Judah was a fertile, bountiful, abundant region of the Middle East…that is, until the locusts came. Wave after wave they ravaged everything! Even the bark was devoured off of the trees (Joel 1:1-12).
It was a Pearl Harbor/9-11 moment for the nation of Judah and Joel was at the right place at the right time.
What is the correct response to such calamity?
Fasting, sackcloth and ashes and mourning, crying out to the Lord (Joel 1:13-20). As you hear the thunder of the advancing swarms, best to prepare to meet your God as He brings judgment to bear on the sinful (Joel 2:1-11). Perhaps He will relent!?
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.
– Joel 2:12-14, NIV
It is in this context that Peter quotes directly from Joel. Though separated by 500 to 800 years of history they both share the joy of the Lord moving to rescue His people! And so, Peter reaches back to the book of Joel and talks about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, people–both men and women–prophesying, seeing visions and dreams as God moves Jewish history towards the nations and, finally, the day of judgment (Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:14-21).
It is a time of devastating repentance…and…hope…in light of the coming judgment.
The time has come. Peter drives the point of his sermon home: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, NIV, emphasis mine). Convicted by the Holy Spirit, just like Jesus said would happen (John 16:7-11), three thousand of them cry out: “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). You can almost hear the fear in their voice. What will our angry God do to us now?! What must we do?!
Of course, the answer begins with…repent!
It’s interesting to note the common thread of repentance that weaves its way through scripture. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;” said king David, “a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalms 51:17, NIV). When Jesus instructs His disciples about the beginning point for admittance into the kingdom of God the first beatitude hits at the heart of our pride: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:3).
Rudy Kalis discusses the challenge of Pride in the ‘I Am Second’ series. He says that in our lives we are either spending ourselves proving someone wrong or proving someone right. It is in humble trust we spend our lives proving God right as we admit our inability to save ourselves and, out of gratitude for what He has done for us–in spite of what we have done to Him–strive to please Him (Colossians 1:9-11).