By: Samuel Hood
The day of the Lord is the predominant theme of the book of Joel. It is primarily used in reference to a coming judgment of God. Verses 2:15-11 are the first instance of the day of the Lord. Unrepentant Judah has God’s just judgment coming on them for their sin. God even tells the people that no one can endure its coming (2:11). This day of the Lord never comes into fulfillment, for the Lord was gracious and spared the people (2:18).
Chapter 3 has the final reference to the day of the Lord in the book of Joel, found in verse 14. The surrounding context suggests that Joel has been speaking of the day of the Lord since the beginning of the chapter (the language of “in those days and at the time” [3:1] connects this idea). The Lord is to gather the nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This is symbolic, for Valley of Jehoshaphat literally means, “the valley where Yahweh judged.” Multitudes in the valley of decision (3:14), calls for preparation of holy war being made (3:9), and the Lord roaring from Zion (3:16) all play into a New Testament understanding of the end.
The Lord’s sovereignty (Valley of Jehoshaphat) and human responsibility (valley of decision) are reconciled in the end. For we see in the New Testament a separating of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25). When the day of the Lord shall come the sickle will be swung (3:13) separating the people in the valley. The sheep are those called and chosen by the Lord and at the same time those whom have chosen to believe in the Lord. Joel 3:16b says: “But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the Israelites.” The sheep now have a refuge found in Christ. The refuge will be needed for a war is coming.
The nations are commanded to prepare for a coming war. This is much more a spiritual battle than it is a physical battle. The nations hold contempt against God, for in essence, they do not desire to worship God. This is idolatry, the basic root of all sin. Since the Fall in Genesis 3, all sin can be traced back to idolatry. Nations have rejected the idea of worshipping God and are justly condemned. God will not lose this fight either, rather he will trample the nations under his judgment (3:13).
The Lord roaring from Zion is seen as Christ the Lord in the New Testament. Before Christ came to the earth, Yahweh was commonly referred to as Lord. Understanding Jesus as the Son of God, he has become the Lord of the Church. When he comes roaring, he will do two things. The first, gather his people for himself. The second, gather the nations for their judgment. This is what is referred to as the Eschaton. Sheep and goats will be separated with the goats being trampled under the judgment of God, and the sheep will be with their shepherd Jesus Christ.
The day of the Lord is near (3:14). A proper response to the gospel of Jesus Christ is warranted. For those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ will have their bloodguilt pardoned (3:21). Believers will know that the Lord is their God (3:17) and will dwell with him in Zion (3:21).