Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. 19 The LORD will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations. 20 But I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern sea and his back toward the western sea; his stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things.” 21 Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things! 22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; for the open pastures are springing up, and the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you– the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then 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 2:18-27)
The Great Transition in the Book of Joel
A transition in the book of Joel occurs with one small word in Joel 2:18, “Then.” Joel says, “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and pity His people.” In other words, when the people gather in solemn assemblies to cry out to God, then the Lord will be zealous for the land, and will have compassion on His people. Joel had just spoken of the “perhaps of God” saying that God may relent and leave a blessing behind if His people cried out to Him.
God’s zeal is aroused in response to prayer. The first half of the book of Joel is about crisis and the need for wholeheartedness in seeking to receive God’s mercy. The second half of Joel begins with this word, “then.” It goes on to give details about God’s blessing and salvation for those who live in relationship with Him and cry out to Him.
The primary themes in the second half of the book are about Israel’s salvation, victory, and triumph over their enemies. God vindicates those who come before Him with a whole heart in fasting and prayer. The Lord loves to vindicate His people. When He does so, He also vindicates the truthfulness of His name and covenant-keeping nature.
Joel describes God’s deliverance to Israel. Remember the principle of “like kind, but lesser degree.” He does not have to speak about Kansas City, Johannesburg, Berlin, or Melbourne to convey His zeal for believers everywhere. He has given Israel as a witness of the power and grace that He wants to express all over the earth (Isa. 43:10). What is written of Israel’s story in the Scriptures is for our example (1 Cor. 10:11). The wisdom, power, and kindness shown in the way God leads this one nation is a picture of how He leads all the nations. What happens to Israel in the end times and millennial kingdom, both in terms of blessing and judgment, will also happen to other nations “in like kind, but lesser degree.” Regardless of the fact that the rest of the nations will experience a lesser degree, both of revival and judgment, it will still be substantial.
God’s Zeal for the Land of Israel: Manifesting His Sovereignty
Then the LORD will be zealous for His land and pity [have compassion on] His people. (Joel 2:18). God describes Himself as zealous for His land. Jesus chose where He would be born, live, and die. He chose where He would make His grand entrance as King at His return, and from what place He would govern the millennial earth.
God’s zeal for the land of Israel is a new idea to many Gentile believers. Thus says the LORD: “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal.” (Zech. 1:14). Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her.’ (Zech. 8:2)
The land of Israel is important to God. He has zeal for it. He has deep emotion for this little piece of land. The whole earth is the Lord’s, yet Israel is His particular geographic inheritance. He chose Jerusalem as the place He would rule the millennial earth (Zech. 14:4, 16; Ps. 48). It is the city of the great King. He chose it from the beginning and established world history around it.
Jerusalem … is the city of the great King. (Mt. 5:35)
For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place. (Ps. 132:13)
Israel is the center of the earth where three continents join. Europe, Asia, and Africa meet at this strategic place. Civilization itself was born and came forth from this region.
Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst [center, NIV, NAS] of the nations and the countries all around her.’ (Ezek. 5:5)
Satan also wants to rule Israel. Satan knows that Jesus has “backed Himself into a corner” so to speak, by promising not to return to earth until the leadership of Israel proclaims to Him, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt. 23:39). Throughout history, Satan has sought to destroy the Jewish people. Before Christ came, Satan tried to destroy the nation to prevent the birth of the Messiah (Rev. 12:1-5). Now he seeks to prevent the return of Christ by eliminating the people who must welcome Him back.
God’s zeal for the land of Israel is rooted in zeal for His own glory as He displays His sovereignty in the process of winning the Jewish people and ruling the earth from Jerusalem.
His glory will be displayed in the fact that God chose a city before history began and then showed His sovereign power and patient love in bringing His purposes to pass in that city.
Anyone who treats the land of Israel with injustice, whether Jew or Gentile, is in trouble with God.
A dramatic reversal of history through supernatural intervention is coming to the nation of Israel; she will experience triumph over all her enemies by supernatural interventions—a drastic contrast! God will release supernatural blessing on Israel. He will take this weak nation and make it the leader of all the nations, displaying His own power in the process.
God’s Compassion Manifested in Healing the Land
The LORD will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain, new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.” (Joel 2:19)
God has great compassion for His people. One of the ways that He will manifest that compassion is through healing the land. God will heal the physical land of Israel by supernaturally blessing the agriculture.
From God’s point of view, Israel stretches from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River (Gen. 15). The majority of this land that God promised Abraham is a barren desert, yet it will be healed by God. He will cause the agriculture to grow in a supernatural way. During the millennium, God will provide rain on Israel in an unprecedented way. From the beginning, the Lord set up a drama around the rain cycles in Israel to cause them to be dependent on God for it. Israel has rain in relation to their relationship to God. In contrast, the Nile River supplies Egypt with water providing fertile valleys without the same need for rain as Israel has. Israel possesses no such water supply as the Nile. If it does not rain, Israel will starve.
Israel has known many droughts through the years, and much barrenness in the land. God has promised a great turnaround. He will be zealous to transform their barren land into abundant food provision. Isaiah spoke of this dramatic healing of the land. The desert will experience an agricultural miracle and become plush with life, flourishing with growth just like the garden of Eden (Isa. 51:3). The whole earth will be amazed at God’s work there.
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad … the desert shall … blossom as the rose; 2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice … the glory of Lebanon shall be given to it. (Isa. 35:1-2)
The fullness of this agricultural blessing will occur after Jesus returns. The fruit of His righteous government will be manifest in the agriculture, the atmosphere, and the livestock.
Though the blessing described here comes to fullness after the Lord’s return, the principles of God’s kingdom never change. Whatever the Lord will do in the hour of full blessing, He will do now in part. The concept of God healing the land is a very important truth. The days are coming when blessed agriculture will be an issue of life and death in the Great Tribulation. We must know what is in God’s heart related to agriculture and prayer and obedience.
Political and Military Blessing
“I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations. But I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land … His stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things.” (Joel 2:19, 20)
God not only promises to answer His people in terms of agricultural blessing, He has promised to give Israel political and military victory over all their enemies. They will triumph over the hostile nations as God makes them the head of the nations. The nation with the most reproach in history will lead all the nations in the millennial kingdom because the Lord has chosen it.
At that time [in the millennial kingdom] Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. (Jer. 3:17)
When Jesus brings this history-defying revolution, all the nations of the earth will be amazed. Jesus will shock the nations by doing the impossible and taking the weakest, most reproached nation in history and causing them to rule the earth with humility. The leadership of Jesus will be startling as “kings shut their mouths at Him.” (Isa. 52:15).
All nations will stand against Israel (Joel 3:2, 12; Zech. 12:3; 14:2; Zeph. 3:8; Ezek. 38:4). Satan will gather a great army to destroy Israel (Rev. 16:13-14; 19:19). There will be no chance of her deliverance and salvation from a natural point of view. Then suddenly Jesus will demonstrate His power and deliver Israel.
The powerful kings of the earth will choose the oil of the Middle East over Israel. God set up the end-time drama by putting the oil in the Middle East, to test all nations.
Joel highlighted an important detail of the end-time drama by prophesying that God would remove the northern army from Israel by driving them into a barren and desolate land.
I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern sea and his back toward the western sea; his stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things. (Joel 2:20)
Joel was prophesying of a literal army that will come from the north in Joel’s day (Babylon) and of another army that would come at the end of the age (Antichrist’s kingdom). The defeat of the people from the north is a prominent theme of end-time prophecy (Ezek. 38-39).
This end-time northern army of the Antichrist will be made up of a coalition of nations who attack Israel.
Israel will have no military at this time, due to a peace treaty that this cunning, global leader will have made with her (Dan. 9:27; Ezek. 38:10-16). Suddenly, when her defenses are down, all her towns will be broken down and plundered. Israel will have no help from other nations. The biggest army in history, with the best weapons, the largest numbers, the most money, and the strongest coalition of nations, will come against weak Israel. After God gives them time to exercise their strength against Israel, Jesus will drive the northern army into a barren and desolate land, into the desert regions surrounding Israel. Israel’s great military victory over the northern army will occur when Jesus returns.
The Antichrist will do monstrous things to Israel. Jesus will defeat him and his army so completely that the stench of his dead army will arise (Joel 2:20). This will happen literally. Ezekiel prophesied that it would take Israel seven months to bury the multitudes of the slain soldiers from all the nations who come against them (Ezek. 39:12; Isa. 34:2-3). The stench and foul odor will arise from the rotting bodies of the slain army and will pollute the land.
Be Glad and Rejoice
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done marvelous things! (Joel 2:21)
Jesus will begin a process of political and agricultural blessing when He returns. He will progressively develop Israel over the next 1,000 years (Rev. 20). Under Jesus’ leadership, the agriculture, the atmosphere, and the animals will be blessed in an unprecedented way.
After describing Israel’s triumph over the northern army, Israel’s greatest enemy of all time, Joel cried out to the land and its inhabitants, “Fear not and be glad and rejoice!” Joel exhorted Israel to rejoice in the Lord and to not fear even before the victory was manifest—even while the hostile nations still surrounded them. Undoubtedly, this will be the last thing that Israel will want to hear as they endure the difficulties in the Great Tribulation! Glad? The Lord’s message to Israel is that He is totally in control. He will bring a sudden reversal, and therefore, they should rejoice, ahead of time. God called Israel as a barren woman to sing for joy ahead of time, before she bears her children (Isa. 54:1).
Once again, though the Lord is speaking directly to Israel, He gives this message to all the nations of the earth. We who live in the Americas, Asia, or Africa, etc. must receive the same message. The same applies to us. We too will see God’s works when the Antichrist goes forth causing terror across the nations. The Lord wants us also to rejoice in His provision and direction because we trust Him. Just as He is in control in Israel, He is in control in every place on earth.
The Lord even speaks to the beasts of the field about the renewal He will bring at His coming.
Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; for the open pastures are springing up, and the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their strength. (Joel 2:22)
The Scripture describes severe worldwide famine during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 6:5-8). There will be droughts, earthquakes, and other severe disturbances in weather patterns, along with terrifying military invasions. All of these will contribute to famine. Yet, the Lord calls His people to be glad as they trust Him before the food is seen.
The two main emotions in the earth will be fear and gladness. Jesus said that in that day, the nations of the earth would faint from fear (Lk. 21:26). Yet gladness and rejoicing will fill the whole Body of Christ (Isa. 24:14-16).
Men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Lk. 21:26)
They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; for the majesty of the LORD they shall cry aloud from the sea. 15 Therefore glorify the LORD in the dawning light … 16 From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: “Glory to the righteous!” (Isa. 24:14-16)
The Body of Christ will be in a worldwide worship movement, filled with praises even before the victory is manifest. We will live in a spirit of faith with gladness and rejoicing.
Joel continues to exhort, saying, “Be glad children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord because He will faithfully give you rain.”
Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you—the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. (Joel 2:23)
The former rains are the autumn rains that come in October and November. They are the heaviest rains. They prepare the ground for plowing and sowing. After these former rains, it rains more lightly and more periodically from December to April. Then the latter rains come, or the spring rains, just before the harvest. These rains would bring the crop to maturity.
Even when Jesus is on earth after the second coming, He will give rain as His people worship and pray (Zech. 10:1). He will refuse to give rain to those who do not worship with gladness. For example, the nations who refuse to worship Him will not receive rain on their land (Zech. 14:18).
The Lord promises to restore to Israel the years that the swarming locust has eaten and to cause people to eat in plenty and be satisfied (Joel 2:25-26).
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then 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 2:25-27)
He will give Israel double for all that was taken and lost (Isa. 40:2). The fullness of the promise will occur in the millennial kingdom. This reveals God’s nature to answer His people with extravagance as we call on His name!
In the Millennium, God will do wondrous things for His people (Joel 2:26). This is in contrast to the Antichrist who will do monstrous things against them (Joel 2:20). The wondrous and marvelous work of God will far surpass the monstrous work of the evil one.
Joel goes on to say that by these extravagant actions of wonder and marvel, His people and the nations of the earth will know that He is the Lord (Joel 2:27). His ultimate goal is always and forever about intimacy. He wants His people to know and recognize that He is in their midst.
Joel prophesied, “My people shall never be put to shame!” This “never” has not yet happened in history; Israel has nearly always been put to shame, if not in one season, then in the next. Yet there is coming a day when Israel will never again be put to shame. The weakest of all the nations will be ruler over all the earth that God might forever display His sovereignty!