By Justin Borger with assistance from Generous Giving staff
Joel’s prophecy was occasioned by a huge plague of locust that covered the land of Israel and devoured its resources. According to the prophet, this economic disaster foreshadowed the “day of the Lord,” a label applied by Old Testament believers to decisive events in time (including the final judgment) when God acted both in salvation and judgment. During this crucial period of financial vulnerability, the prophet spoke up, calling God’s people to repentance after which the plague subsided and the land was restored to its former prosperity. Joel also spoke of a time in the future when God would pour out his Spirit upon all people (which occurred at Pentecost, Acts 2:17) and bring the hardened enemy nations under judgment.
Our study of Joel consists of two parts. In the first section, readers will find our stewardship study notes. These notes analyze, in a passage-by-passage fashion, the implications of the book’s teaching for Christian generosity and related issues. The second section consists of short essays describing the book’s major stewardship themes. These notes and essays are not intended to be comprehensive explanations of the author’s goals in writing this book, nor do they exhaust the book’s possible applications in matters related to stewardship and generosity.
While Generous Giving’s Bible study material will aid anyone who is searching the Scriptures for guidance, they may prove especially useful as sermon helps for pastors and as a resource for teachers, advisors and lay leaders interested in obeying and teaching the message of Scripture in matters of generosity and stewardship. We readily acknowledge our fallibility in writing these study notes, for they are the work of humans, not God. Please search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) as you read this material critically, carefully and prayerfully. May God bless you in your studies.
Passage-by-Passage Study Notes
Joel 1:1-2:17 (Key Passage) — Economic Disaster and the Day of the Lord: The prophet Joel’s message revolves around an economic disaster of unprecedented proportions (Joel 1:2). The land had been struck by a plague of locusts which devoured all of the earth’s resources—from the grass of the fields to the bark on the trees (Joel 1:4, 7, 12, 19-20). Even the livestock and wild animals moaned and panted for lack of nourishment (Joel 1:18, 20). But what did it all mean? According to the prophet, the plague of grasshoppers foreshadowed “the day of the Lord” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 28-32), which Old Testament believers understood to be a time when God would work both to save and to destroy. Of course, to a greater or lesser degree, isn’t this is true of all financial difficulties? When we lose our jobs or the budget gets tight, don’t we tend to either to move either (1) closer toward or (2) farther away from the Lord? For the faithful, financial crises work together for our salvation (cf. Joel 2:32). As the apostle James said, “God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom” (James 2:5; compare with the response of the faithful in Joel 2:12-14). But for those who trust in their own resources, financial difficulties and the day of the Lord will be a time of pure judgment (cf. Proverbs 11:4).