1:1-2:17 – ‘Joel’ means ‘the Lord is God’. The Lord is our God. He is ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…’. Let us ‘return to the Lord our God’. Let us ‘return to Him with all our heart’. Let us look to Him for His ‘blessing’ (2:12-14). Alongside God’s promise of blessing for those who return to Him, there is His Word of warning for those who take no notice of Him and pay no attention to His Word: ‘The Day of the Lord is near. It will come like destruction from the Almighty… Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand – a Day of darkness and gloom…’(1:15; 2:1-2). God wants to bless us. Let us ‘cry out’ to Him for His blessing: ‘To You, O Lord, I call’ (1:14,19).
2:19-3:21 – Each of us is ‘in the valley of decision’. We must make sure that we are prepared for ‘the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord’. God has given us His promise: ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’ (2:31-32; 3:14). The Lord promises great blessing to those who call upon Him. He ‘will pour out His Spirit’ upon us. He will do ‘great things’ for us. He will be our ‘Refuge’ and ‘Stronghold’. He will fill us with ‘joy and gladness’. He will fill our hearts with ‘praise’ (2:20-21,23,26,28-29; 3:16). Make sure that you ‘call on the Name of the Lord’. Make sure that you do not miss out on the great blessings the Lord gives to those who call on His Name. Make your decision now – ‘I will call on the Name of the Lord’ (1 Kings 18:24).
1:1-2:16 – ‘The Lord roars’. ‘The Lord thunders’ (1:2). God’s Word comes to us from above – ‘The Lord will roar from on high’. He speaks to us from heaven – ‘He will thunder from His holy dwelling’. We dare not ignore the Word of the Lord. His Word comes to us as a Word of warning – ‘He will shout against all who live on the earth’ – and a Word of judgment – ‘He will bring judgment on all mankind’. God is calling for our attention: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth’. God speaks to us about His ‘fierce anger’. He calls us to turn from our sin. Let us return to the Lord and hear His Word of salvation: ‘I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 25:30-32,37; 31:34).
3:1-5:5 – ‘You only have I chosen… therefore I will punish you for all your sins’ (3:2). Along with the privilege of being ‘chosen’ to belong to the Lord comes the responsibility of living as the servants of the Lord. God’s Word is not to be taken lightly – ‘The lion has roared – who will not fear?’ (3:8). God speaks to us very directly about the way we are living – ‘You have not returned to Me’ (4:6,8-11). We must take Him seriously: ‘Prepare to meet your God’ (4:12). God calls us to ‘seek Him and live’: ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake His way and the evil man his thoughts, Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon’ (5:4; Isaiah 55:6-7).
5:6-6:14 – ‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil…’ (5:6,14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence – your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies… Away with your hymns of praise – they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’ (21,23). God is looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice – a torrent of doing good’ – ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (24). God speaks to us about our sins – ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’ – so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’ and ‘love good’ (5:12,15).
7:1-9:15 – ‘That’s enough, prophet! Go back to Judah and do your preaching there… Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more’ (7:12-13). Amos was a faithful preacher of God’s Word – but his hearers wanted to get rid of him! This was the beginning of a time of great darkness: ‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’ (8:11-12). There were dark times ahead – but God was looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’ (9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation…’ (Psalm 85:4-7).
3:1-4:11 – The people of Nineveh ‘believed God’ and ‘turned from their evil ways’. God had shown Himself to be ‘a gracious and compassionate God…’. How did Jonah react? Was he rejoicing in the Lord? No! He was complaining – ‘Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry’. Jonah was a proud Jew. He despised the Ninevites. He didn’t want them to be saved. That’s why he was ‘so quick to flee to Tarshish’ (3:5,10; 4:1-2). What does God’s Word say about Jonah’s attitude? – ‘You have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else’. We must not ‘show contempt for the riches of His kindness’. We must not say, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men’. We must pray, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Romans 2:1,4; Luke 18:11-14).
1:1-2:13 – Micah was a fearless preacher of God’s Word. His message was not popular: ‘Let the Lord God be a witness against you’. He was a forthright preacher of God’s Word. He knew that the people wouldn’t want to hear what he had to say to them. He demanded that they listen to him. This wasn’t only Micah’s word. It was the Word of the Lord. That’s why Micah said, ‘Hear, O peoples, all of you. Listen, O earth and all who are in it’ (2:2). We cannot afford to ignore the Word of the Lord. We must listen to His Word. He speaks His Word against us. He says, ‘You cannot save yourselves’ (2:3). He speaks His Word against us so that we might learn to rejoice in His Word of salvation: ‘I will bring you together like sheep returning to the fold’ (2:12).
3:1-5:1 – Micah speaks to those ‘who hate good and love evil’ (3:2). He calls upon them to change their way of living. He calls upon them to worship the Lord – ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’ – and walk with Him – ‘We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever’. How do we learn to ‘walk in His paths’? We come to His ‘House’. We listen to His ‘Word’. We pray that His Word will come to us ‘with power’. We ask Him to ‘teach us His ways’. We pray that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit of the Lord’ (4:2,5; 3:8). We worship the Lord in His House. Gathered in His House for worship, we ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us’. Through His power, we are equipped for witness: ‘you will be My witnesses…’ (Acts 1:8).
5:2-6:16 – In 5:2, we have a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’. This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’ (Luke 2:15,20). We also see Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord…’. He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us. He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us. He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). Jesus our ‘Shepherd’ gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (6:8).
7:1-20 – ‘Who is a God like You? You forgive sin… You love to be merciful.You will again have compassion on us… You will throw all our sins into the depths of the ocean!… You will bless us… You will set Your love upon us…’ (7:18-20) – ‘I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. He took my sins and my sorrows. He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone. When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see, ‘twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me. How marvellous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be: How marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s love for me!’ (Mission Praise, 296).
1:1-2:9 – ‘Fulfil your vows’ (1:15). God is calling us to be faithful to Him. We are to be faithful in worship. We are to be faithful in reading His Word. We are to be faithful in prayer. We are to be faithful in giving. We are to be faithful in witness. Our faith is to be real. Our faith is to make a difference. It’s to change the way we live. It’s not to be a case of ‘faith without works’. That kind of ‘faith’ is ‘dead’ (James 2:17). Our whole life is to be a life of faith. It is to be a life of ‘love’. We are to live ‘for the glory of God’ (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 16:14; 10:31). ‘Fill Thou our life, O Lord our God, in every part with praise… Not for the lip of praise alone, nor even the praising heart we ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part’ (Church Hymnary, 457).
2:10-3:19 – To those who refuse to live in obedience to Him, God speaks His Word of judgment: ‘I am against you’ (2:13; 3:5). Those who refuse to listen to God’s Word of salvation – ‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him’ – will hear a very different Word from the Lord. It will be a Word of judgment. God’s Word will come like ‘an overwhelming flood’: ‘He will pursue His foes into darkness’ (1:7-8). None of us needs to face this ‘overwhelming flood’ and hear the words, ‘I am against you’. Each of us can come to Christ and hear His Word of ‘overwhelming victory’: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?… Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:31,37-39).
1:1-2:14 – ‘How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?’ (1:2). There are times when it seems that God is not listening to us. What are we to do when we feel like this? Are we to give up on God? Are we to stop praying? No! We must wait patiently for the Lord’s answer – ‘I will look to see what He will say to me’. We must not forget His promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (2:1; Lamentations 3:25-26). ‘The vision awaits its time… If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay’. Let us ‘live by faith’, awaiting the Day when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’ (2:3-4,14).
2:15-3:19 – We are to ‘be silent’ before God. We are to ‘stand in awe’ of Him. In His holy presence, we become deeply conscious of our sin which separates us from Him: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’. Confessing our sin to God, we pray that ‘in wrath’ He will ‘remember mercy’. We pray that He will ‘renew’ us with His blessing. God answers our prayer. He sends His ‘glory’ into our lives. He fills our hearts with His ‘praise’: ‘I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Lord God is my Strength. He makes my feet like the feet of the deer. He enables me to go on the heights’. ‘Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles…’ (2:20; 3:2; 1:13; 3:18-19; Isaiah 40:31).
1:1-2:7 – ‘The great Day of the Lord is near – near and coming quickly… That Day will be a Day of wrath… I will bring distress upon the people… because they have sinned against the Lord’ (1:14-17). This is God’s Word of warning. He is calling us back to Himself: ‘Seek the Lord – before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the Day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you’. We are to seek the Lord in ‘righteousness’ and ‘humility’. This is the way of being ‘sheltered on the Day of the Lord’s anger’ (2:2-3). God is calling us to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’: ‘Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer’ (John 4:24; Romans 12:1).
2:8-3:20 – Here, we have a story of sin – Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ – and a story of salvation – ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy… The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (3:1-2,14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness – ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).
1:1-15 – ‘“Why is everyone saying it is not the right time for rebuilding My Temple?” asks the Lord’. His reply to them is this: ‘Is it then the right time for you to live in luxurious homes, when the Temple lies in ruins?’ (2-4). God’s people had forgotten about God. They were pleasing themselves – but they were not pleasing God! God is challenging us to think about our way of living – ‘Consider your way of life’ (5,7). We are to ‘obey the voice of the Lord our God’. We are to change our way of thinking – ‘the people feared the Lord’ – and living – ‘They came and began work on the House of the Lord Almighty, their God’. Let us obey God’s voice. Let us trust in His promise – ‘I am with you’(12-14).
2:1-23 – ‘“Be strong, all you people of the land”, declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you”, declares the Lord Almighty’ (4). We are to work for God. When we commit ourselves to serving Him, the Lord promises His blessing: ‘From this day on I will bless you’ (19). To His faithful servants, God promises great blessing: ‘I will fill this House with glory’ (7). ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that, in the Lord, your labour is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58). ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?… We are on the Lord’s side, Saviour, we are Thine… Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine’ (Church Hymnary, 479).
1:1-2:13 – God promises to bless His faithful people: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there My House will be rebuilt’ (16). God looks upon His House, and He sees His glory – ‘I will be the glory within it’ (2:5). He sees the glory of His presence – ‘I will live among you’ (2:10). We read here about the Temple at Jerusalem. We read about its glory. God’s Word speaks about another ‘temple’ and another ‘glory’. Through ‘faith’ in ‘Christ’, we have become ‘a holy temple in the Lord’ – ‘a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:21-22; 3:16-17). To every believer, God says, ‘Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you… Glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
1:1-2:17 – God looks upon us in our sin. What does He see? He sees ‘the Wicked Land. He sees ‘a people always under the wrath of the Lord’ (1:4). He looks at what Christ has done for us – ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’; ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’; ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3). God looks upon us in Christ – and everything is so very different: ‘God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). There, at the Cross of Christ, we hear God’s Word of love – ‘I have loved you’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (1:2; Jeremiah 31:3).
3:1-4:6 – God calls us to be His faithful people. He says, ‘Return to Me’. He promises to bless those who return to Him: ‘I will return to you’. God calls us to honour Him with our ‘tithes and offerings: ‘Bring the whole tithe (tenth) into the storehouse…’. When we honour the Lord, He has promised that He will honour us: ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour’. When we honour the Lord with our obedience, He promises that He will honour us with His blessing. He promises to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down for us an overflowing blessing’. Satan – ‘the devourer’ – will be defeated. We will ‘serve God’. He will take ‘delight’ in us. We will be His ‘treasured possession’ (3:8-12,17-19; 1 Samuel 2:30).