The Promise Of The Eternal And Universal Spirit
At the close of a message, a man approached Dr. Len G. Boughton and said, “As you preached, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear and told me to ask you for fifty dollars which I badly need.” Dr. Broughton answered, that’s strange that the Holy Spirit would tell you to ask me for fifty dollars, because I don’t have fifty dollars.”
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).
There are twelve other figures in the Old Testament who bear the name Joel, but the Prophet Joel cannot be identified with any of them. His father, Pethuel is also unknown. Apart from the books of Joel and Acts (Acts 2:16) Joel is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. There is no precise date for the book of Joel. There is no historical event of great significance, which can help us to trace the dating of the prophetic ministry of Joel.
Nevertheless, Joel’s concern for Judah and Jerusalem has led some to conclude that the book was written in 9 B. C. Some also think that the book was written during the post-exilic period—the time when the Israelites returned to Israel from Babylonian captivity
The good thing is that the obscurity of the prophet and the uncertainty of the dating of the book do not affect the content of Joel’s message.
Joel’s theology is strong and comprehensive. Unlike some people today, Joel sees God’s hand in the totality of human experience. He shares the heart of God for every human action and inaction. Joel talks of God’s personal and direct involvement in all-human affairs. One interesting thing is that the Israel of Joel’s day was no less secularized than our own generation. Joel had the boldness and audacity to say that God was directly and personally involved in all human affairs. And not only that, but also that God alone had the answers to national crisis of the prophet’s time. Today, we have people who refuse to believe that God is personally involved in all human affairs. These persons’ God is too small to be sovereign.
I. THE PROMISE OF THE DIVINE OUTPOURING VV. 28-29
Verse 28 is a transition according to the use of the word afterward or after this. The question that you and I need to answer is, after what? After the judgment and the restoration that the prophet pronounces on the people in chapters 1 and 2. God says to the nation that the invasion of the locusts is His judgment upon the land. Remember that Israel at this point in time was an agrarian or agricultural society. Therefore, the invasion of the locusts spells out famine. The locusts are going to eat every plant that produces food and that would result in severe famine. I have shared with you that when God is going to judge a person, people, or a nation He gives a warning and also provides a way of escape. The way of escape for the children of Israel at this time is to rend their heart and not their garments. If they would do what God had prescribed then the judgment would not come upon them, but if they continued in their rebellion then they could be assured that the judgment of God would certainly come. When all these events have taken place then God says, “I will pour My Spirit on all flesh.” This is the promise of God and you can take it to the bank. Here God says, “My Spirit.” That means the Spirit is His. The Spirit that God will pour proceeds from Him. He is God’s own Spirit. This presupposes that there is a spirit in the world that does not come from God. That is why the Apostles Paul and John admonish us to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” Before you and I can apply this test to our contemporary situation, we have one foundational task. The foundational task is to ask the question, what did these words mean to Joel and his contemporaries? What did it mean to the people of Joel’s day when the prophet mentioned God’s Spirit? Here we are at a loss because of the uncertainty of the dating of the Book of Joel. However, in many of the OT books the Holy Spirit’s empowering and activities are mentioned. For Joel and his audience, there was an experience (in their past history), and also an expectation of the Spirit’s coming on individuals for some expression of leadership among the people of God. Two events may well provide an important background for Joel’s words here. The first is in the time of Moses and the second in the time of King Saul. The first is recorded in Numbers 11 and 12. During the forty years wanderings in the wilderness, Moses reached a point where he had had enough of leading such quarrelsome and hard to please people. There were many factors that contributed to such a highly explosive situation. I don’t have time to go into them with you. However, to make a long story short, God told Moses to gather seventy elders so that he would take some of His spirit which was upon Moses and put it upon them (Numb. 11:17). The chosen of the seventy elders lightened the load or burden of Moses.
The second scenario involved Saul, son of Kish and first king of Israel. Samuel the last judge and the first prophet of God in the OT, having privately anointed Saul for king, prophetically announced a number of events that would happen to Saul. One of these was that a band of prophets would meet Saul and the Spirit of the LORD would come upon him, and he would prophesy. This event happened as Samuel had predicted (1 Sam. 10:1-11)
Now, turning back to Joel, the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will take place “afterward.” It will happen after the judgment and the restoration of the land (2:19-27). The phrase pour out is significant. In the immediate context, it picks upon the earlier theme of rain (read v. 23). Just as rain is to a thirsty land so is God’s Spirit to a thirsty soul and a thirsty people. God promises that a time will come when He will pour out His Spirit. In the next sentence, God says, “And your sons and daughters will prophesy.” Why didn’t God say, and you will prophesy? God did not say that because the promise was not for Joel’s contemporaries. The promise was for the next generation, or certainly some subsequent generation, much later, but undated and undatable. Do you see why this promise is fantastic and dynamic? From the day of Moses up to the time of Joel God had selected individuals and put His Spirit on them, but in this promise, God is going to do more than that. God portrays something lavish, exuberant, abundant, almost wasteful, or extravagant. There is no limitation, nor is there anything for anyone to do to enjoy it except to be there when the Spirit is poured out. Glory be to God. You and I don’t have to toil in order to enjoy the pouring out of God’s Spirit. Even the disciples of Jesus did not perform any task to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All that they had to do was to wait in Jerusalem. Today you and I do not have to wait for the reception of the Holy Spirit. The moment you open your heart to Jesus the Spirit comes in to stay. The Holy Spirit does not come in to sojourn as He did in the OT times; He comes in to stay. The pouring out of the Spirit is not drizzle, but a downpour. It is not a sprinkle but shower. It is a spiritual baptism—you are immersed in the Spirit. Hallelujah. Isn’t God good to us? That is why it is folly for a Christian to play with sin. The other prophets of old anticipated the outpouring of the Spirit of God. See Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Zechariah 12:10. This outpouring of the Spirit of God will fall on all flesh. This outpouring is not limited to Israelites, but Gentiles as well. This outpouring of the Spirit will clearly have a dramatic impact on the community life of the people of God. As each individual person is affected, so social and other distinctions will be tone down and less determinative. There will be no discrimination as far as the activity of the Spirit is concerned, in terms of age, sex, or status. The Holy Spirit will breakdown every social, racial, gender, and relational barrier (v. 28b-29).
Older people have always enjoyed respect in Israel. In this passage there is an indication of a leveling-out of the age gaps in this regard, as young men feel the impact and show the evidence of God’s Spirit in their lives. This will also affect the positions enjoyed by men and women in the society. The Old Testament time was a male-dominated society. In the OT there were probably only three prophetesses, Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah. But according to this prophecy the situation will change when the Spirit of God is poured out. Menservants and maidservants were nobody in those days, but God says, He will turn the old order upside down. Slaves and slave-girls would be on the receiving end as much as anyone else. In those days, the Jewish male used to pray, “I thank You, God, that I was not born a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” As far as God was concerned a time would come that no Jewish male could pray that prayer again.
True to the word of God on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples. When some of the people were mocking the disciples that they were drunk early in the morning, Peter rejected the accusation and referred them to this text (Acts 2:16-21). The disciples consisted of both men and women who spoke with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. That day three thousand people were ushered into the kingdom of God. Peter said that what Joel prophesied was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. Therefore, the outpouring of the Spirit is the messianic period. Now get this, the gift of the Spirit was not to be for personal satisfaction, or even for national recovery and stability. It is to empower you and me to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.
II. THE SIGN OF THE DIVINE HOLINESS
AND APPROACHING JUDGMENT VV. 30-31
What signifies blood, fire, and columns of smoke? All of these have their counterparts in the Exodus narrative. The blood of the Passover lamb secured and protected the Israelites from the LORD’S holy judgment upon the Egyptians (Exod. 11:1-12:32). A pillar of fire led the people by night through the wilderness (Exod. 13:21-22). The mountain was filled with smoke as the LORD descended at Sinai to speak with Moses (Exod. 19:16-18). All three symbols express the overwhelming reality of a holy God who is present with His people, protecting, preserving, providing, proclaiming, and thereby calling us to attention and the watching world to account.
The first part of Joel’s prophecy has been fulfilled. God has poured out His Spirit on His people. The Gospel is now being proclaimed all over the world. The Holy Spirit did not come so that you can feel good. The Holy Spirit was given so that you can prophesy. What is prophecy? Prophecy is the ability to receive a direct divine revelation and convey it to others. The Bible is God’s divine word for you and me. If you want to know the will of God go to the Bible. Therefore, don’t just sit down and bask in the sunshine of the Holy Spirit. Share the good news with someone who has not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Share with others who are still groping in the darkness. Before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes, there will be another demonstration of God’s all-consuming holiness. The sun shall turn to darkness, and the moon to blood (v. 31). Jesus spoke of a similar reality concerning His second coming (Matt. 24:27-31). The outpouring of the Spirit of God in the context of Joel signified divine intervention in readiness for the great day of judgment. Ladies and gentlemen, the outpouring of God’s Spirit in these last days is God’s divine intervention to prepare us for the day of judgment. Therefore, your assignment and mine are crucial for the rescue of the dying world as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. That is why the first century church was a witnessing church that took the gospel to all people.
III. THE PRESCRIPTION FOR THE UNSAVED V. 32
“All who call upon the name of the LORD and those whom the LORD calls,” are the two sides of the same coin. God takes the initiative in making His call clear; it is your responsibility to hear and respond to the LORD by calling on His name. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” It does not say some selected few, some elite, Jews, Gentiles, whites alone, blacks, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Asians, Australians, etc. The Bible says, “everyone,” in other words, God is not a respecter of persons. God does not play favoritism. Everyone means everyone. The emphasis is on the name of the LORD that results in salvation. It is not ALLAH, who is transcendent and far removed from His creation. It is not Krishna, it is not Buddha; it is not Mohammed; it is not Socrates; it is not Joseph Smith; it is not Herod or Caesar, but the name of the LORD—the covenant keeping God.
If you are here and you are not saved your work is cut out for you. Why because you cannot save yourself. No amount of good work or self-effort can save you; only the LORD can save you. What does it mean to be saved? It means you are delivered from the wrath of God’s judgment. It means you are no longer at enmity with God. It means there is no longer any condemnation against you. To be saved means that you are drowning in sin and Jesus throws out a lifeline to you and you grab it, and He pulls you to safety. That is what Jesus has done for us on the cross. All of us were drowning in the sea of sin and Jesus came to rescue us. He came and died on the cross for you and me. Jesus came to reconcile us to God, and He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. How can the unsaved call on the name of the LORD they have not heard? We are to tell them.
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