My two-year effort to read through the bible (I always aim for one year, but slow down because it’s so good!) found me in the book of Joel today. Joel is a 3 chapter gem tucked away in the minor prophets. Rarely do I think of it, but today I was reminded of how much I love it.
In particular I love how much it affirms God’s unconditional love for his people, namely Israel. While I’m not Jewish, I find comfort that the same God who loves Israel unconditionally has also chosen to love me and has grafted me into His plan of redemption. (See Romans 11:16-24)
Here are some thoughts from Joel:
Then [after Israel's repentance and restoration] you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the LORD your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2:27
“My people shall never be put to shame.” God has an unconditional love for Israel and has laid down unconditional promises to protect them and reveal Himself through them. Scripture shows over and over again that a remnant will repent and return to the Lord and He will reveal His faithfulness to them.
I’m saddened by the errors of replacement theology that dismiss God’s wonderful plan for Israel. Instead of wonderful promises, the books of prophecy must be read only as spiritual allegories for the Church. This robs God of the glory He receives through Israel (their entire history is a miracle) and robs Christians of the joy found in His faithfulness. I’m not saying we can’t find applications for the New Testament church in these pages–all scripture is profitable–I’m just saying that we can’t lose sight of the promises… promises made to Israel.
And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions… Joel 2:28
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved… Joel 2:32
How often do we expect the supernatural? While these verses point primarily to a future event, Peter makes it clear in Acts 2:17-21 that they are partially fulfilled through the New Testament church. The Holy Spirit has been “poured out” on every believer… shouldn’t we expect that to mean something? Now, I’m not talking ultra-charismatic utterances and visions. I’m talking about your average Christian spending time alone, praying and reading scripture. I feel like we miss what the Lord is saying because we simply don’t expect to hear it.
The second part of that section shows the reason God’s Spirit has been poured out: “That whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” How wonderful that in a message written to the Jewish people we see that God’s salvation is to be offered to “whoever”–that means me!
I will also gather all nations,
And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
And I will enter into judgment with them there
On account of My people, My heritage Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
They have also divided up My land. Joel 3:2
If you dismiss the importance of Israel, then chapter 3 is nothing but a list of empty threats left undone. Why? Because it’s full of God’s promise to judge the nations based on how they’ve treated Israel. I’m not sure exactly what that means or what that judgment looks like. What I am convinced of is that standing by Israel is good national policy. Scripture seems to indicate a time in the future when the entire world will be turned against Israel–and we see those trends in today’s world–but in the meantime I’m glad America has been supportive of God’s chosen nation even against great odds.
I encourage you to read Joel today and be reminded of God’s great love. He loves Israel and He loves you!