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“God’s Restoring Love”
Joel 2:12-13, 18-19, 28-32
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. As always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Lesson Text: Joel 2:12-13, 18-19, 28-32
12) “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
13) And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
18) Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
19) Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:
28) And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29) And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30) And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31) The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.
32) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures, or at least that what it seems like sometimes. Nudges, urgings, and hints don’t seem to work as well on some folk. Commanding and laying down the law for some can go in one ear and right out the other. For some to get the point, it appears measures beyond what normally would account for a good talking to or what have you, is what it will take to grab their attention, stop them in their tracks, and turn their life around.
But, for God’s people in the Old Testament, prophets had been sent out. Warnings have been blared. Every measure possible had been taken to garner the people’s attention; to issue a wake-up call in the souls and hearts of the people. God, still seeking a unified and devoted relationship with His people, wanted them to turn from their wicked ways and come back to Him.
Refusing to heed the call to make that spiritual U-turn in their lives, God, through the prophet Joel, lets them know the circumstances they were currently facing was not just a force of nature, but a force of God. God was using an extreme insect infestation and its devastation on the land to change the people’s spiritual direction. So extreme was this that the people were forced to contemplate this question: “Has anything like this happened in your days Or in your fathers’ days?” (Joel 1:2; NASB). It was a talked about event whose effects would not soon pass. All for one purpose, God wanted more than an outward display of religiosity from His people; He wanted true hearts that are bowed before Him with a spirit of true repentance.
Often times we hear people reference a low point in theirs or someone else’s life as rock bottom. Rock bottom gives the impression that they are so down, they can’t go any lower; their circumstances are so horrific, there’s nowhere else to look but up.
When the destruction of the locust came in and destroyed everything, I am sure God’s people thought life couldn’t get any worse. After all, with the crops being corrupted now that meant food supply, finances, and everything in between were also corrupted and good for nothing. Everything their life depended on for sustenance was gone. Famine and desperation took over where plenty and joy once were. An increase of sorrow and heartache took over the land and the people. Their way of life was turned topsy-turvy and the people were feeling the heaviness of the burdens before them.
Life was hard and they had experienced a “day of the LORD” moment right now (see Joel 1:15) in their current circumstances. But, if they didn’t get their act together; if they didn’t turn their life around and start making better choices regarding their love and worship toward God, things were going to get worse. There is the ultimate “day of the LORD” coming in the future that will bring judgment on the unrepentant heart.
The “day of the LORD” moment that cut off food supply and caused an outpouring of desolation in the land was nothing compared to the “day of the LORD” that is to come that will cause the whole land to tremble (see Joel 2:1). One extreme circumstance served as a warning and a real life visual example of what can and will happen in the future. In some of the verses prior to today’s text describes that day as being filled with “darkness and gloominess” (Joel 2:2) and it has been called “great and very terrible” with a question that asks, “who can abide it?” (Joel 2:11).
Reaching the point where today’s lesson picks up, Joel opens this section with a call to repentance. His focus audience was on the southern part of the kingdom known as Judah. It is there he urges the people to examine their ways, behaviors, and lifestyle. He prophesied the word of the LORD to them, saying, “Turn ye even to me, with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.”
A word to pay attention to in that verse is “turn.” “Turn” gives the order of action God desires to see from His people. The people had lapsed in their devotion to God and God desired a spiritual about-face. This changing He was looking for was to go beyond superficial surface worship; or as we dub it today, “going through the motions.” God wanted, and still wants from His people, real worship that includes “all your heart.” When your heart is in it, you, as an individual, are fully engaged in it. When your heart is in it, it is a priority in your life. When your heart is in it, it is the focus of your devotion. And, that is the place where God wanted to be, and always wants to be in the lives of His people.
God was going for a heart transformation. David, in the Psalms, knew the importance of this when he cried out in desperation from his sin, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10). A heart that is devoted to God; a heart that is renewed in Him; a heart that cradles and nurtures His Word in it is the heart of those who “shall be my people,” (Jeremiah 31:33; see also Psalms 37:31; 119:11).
In addition to turning, Joel called the people to show the sincerity of their hearts through “fasting, weeping, and mourning.” Now, it is possible to do all of these things without true sincerity (just note how Jesus responded to the hypocritical fasting of the Pharisees in Matthew 6:16) which is why they were instructed to first have true devotion toward God with engaged hearts. “Fasting, weeping, and mourning” are all outward signs of sorrow, but if the inner workings of the soul/heart are not actively involved, then the people would be merely putting on a show with no real love toward God.
Which, I believe, is why the next verse supports and pushes this one so well, telling them and us, to “rend your hearts, and not your garment, and turn unto the LORD your God.” It is so easy to make the appearance of remorse and sorrow show outwardly without any real change inwardly taking place. God says this will not do. There are enough actors in the world. He wants true people that are sold out for Him. He wants people who will leave the way of the world to follow the course He has laid out. He wants people who will turn from wicked ways and don themselves in His righteousness. He wants people’s hearts that are pricked (compare Acts 2:37) when truth stands before them. God didn’t want the outward tearing of clothes to represent their sorrow, He wanted people to have real change of hearts (inward rending) when the call to repentance goes forth.
And, with those changed hearts he calls for them to “turn unto the LORD your God.” Why? Because as the prodigal son found out with his father (see the story in Luke 15:11-24), God is there waiting. He is described here as being, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil,” (compare to Psalm 145:8).
A few lessons back really examined the subject “God is love.” True to His love nature, His first course of action is not to seek punishment, but restoration. Thus, we see Him described with the wonderful characteristics noted above. In that we see His “grace” working in our lives as an undeserved gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). His “mercy” is renewed daily (Lamentations 3:22-23). With Him being “slow to anger,” (also known as longsuffering) it shows that He is holding off final judgment for a time, deliberately giving man a chance to change (2 Peter 3:9). His “great kindness” could speak of His compassionate and abundant love while the phrase, “repententh of evil” shows that He is ready to turn from judgment to life to the true soul that comes before Him with true repentance. As the prodigal son’s father, God wants to welcome the turning soul home.
“Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” God stands ready to shower mercy on those who will turn to Him. God’s love for His people wants to bless them and restore good to them. God has always been faithful to His people. His covenant with them has always been sure, but a heart of true repentance is a prerequisite.
With repentance in place, restoration is soon to follow. “Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith.” Words of hope come in and usher forth the promise of blessings to the people who turn to the Lord. What was stripped away and destroyed by the locusts, God was going to make fruitful once more. God’s response would be to turn back the enemy whom the locusts eventually came to represent and give the picture of an invading army (see Joel 2:20). God’s reaction to their repentant hearts would be to see the fields flourish and the rains come down once more (see Joel 2:22-23). God’s answer to hearts that turn to Him is this: “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten . . . and ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed,” (Joel 2:2-26).
With the promise of the presence of God in the midst of His people (see Joel 2:27) for that day, Joel prophesies of an even greater day when God’s people will experience future blessings. There will come a time of spiritual overflow; a time when the outpouring of God’s best for His people will not be looked at through the eyes of physical needs being satisfied through grain and oil, but when God sends the power of His Holy Spirit in abundance.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.” Believers would experience God in a new and intimate and personal way. In the Old Testament, certain individuals were endowed with God’s Spirit to perform a particular task or mission. Here, there would be no exclusions among the people of God. If you were for God, His Spirit would reside with the believer as never before. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in as a sound like a mighty rushing wind where the apostles and those with them were gathered on one accord (Acts 2:1-6). Stunned by what they were witnessing, the other people present were “amazed and marveled,” (Acts 2:7).
Peter stood up during that time and declared, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel,” (Acts 2:16), referring to the outpouring of God’s Spirit “upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). Everyone that is in Christ Jesus will experience God in this intimate way, be them “sons, daughters, old men, young men, servants, handmaids.”
With this prophesy pointing also beyond the events surrounding the day of Pentecost into the last days, Joel expressed to them things or signs that would be happening with the “heavens and in the earth.” He talked about changes regarding the “sun and moon” and described those future events as being “before the great and terrible day of the LORD come.” This is similar to the language Jesus used to describe events that would take place in Revelation after the tribulation (see Matthew 24:29-31 and compare to Revelation 6:12-14).
These prophesies of the “the day of the LORD” told by Joel, taught by Jesus, rehearsed by Peter, and fulfilled in Revelation are all with the purpose of reiterating the need for a repentant heart that will turn to God’s restoring love that their souls would be saved in that coming day of judgment.
After the “wonders” are proclaimed, so is the promise. There will be “deliverance” to them that “shall call on the name of the LORD.” God’s ears have always been opened, are opened now, and will be opened for the truly seeking heart. Here’s the thing about that. Don’t let it be said, “Too late.” Isaiah urges us in his book, “Seek the LORD while He May be found; Call upon Him while He is near,” (Isaiah 55:6). Salvation is God’s gift of ultimate love if we will just accept it. Judgment day is coming and those who are not found in Jesus Christ will fall (Revelation 20:15).
Today’s lesson migrates from an actual locust infestation in monumental proportions, to locusts being compared to an invading army, and then to end time predictions. It shows warnings placed, current consequences, and future repercussions if people don’t heed the prophet’s call to repent. God wants to restore His people.
Restored. Is there a word more beautiful? It represents something that was broken and torn apart being put back together again. A spiritual Humpty Dumpty, if you will. Instead of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men trying to piece together a broken egg, here God, the ultimate King, is offering a chance for the repentant heart to seek Him and be delivered from a life of sin. God’s love stands ready to restore any truly seeking soul.
Standard Print PDF: God’s Restoring Love Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Large Print PDF: God’s Restoring Love Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print
Below are Activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: God’s Restoring Love Draw the Scene
How Many Words?: God’s Restoring Love How Many Words
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Lesson – Joel” (Includes a wonderful activity that shows students how to make a book that will bring out all the key points of the book of Joel. Enjoy!)
“The Prophet Joel” (With links to several resources and coloring pages to bring out the gist of this week’s lesson. Enjoy!)
“The Prophet Joel” (With activities including games such as “Locust Wars” and “Sackcloth Relay” along with activities such as “Prophets Traffic Light.” Enjoy!)
“What is a Prophet?” (Scroll down to visual that says “What is a Prophet?” I think this is a neat way to explain these Bible characters to young students. Enjoy!)
“Big Ideas in Joel” (A quick visual to teach students what this little book is all about. Enjoy!)
“Locust Paper Bag Lunch Craft” (Taken from the 10 plagues in Egypt, this easy locust craft puppet can easily be adapted to this week’s lesson. Enjoy!)
In the conclusion of this lesson, I referenced the idea of Humpty Dumpty and compared it to restoration. If you would prefer to approach the lesson from this angle, here are some choices for you. Enjoy!
“Humpty Dumpty Bags” from Pre-Kpages.com (With this idea you can make the bag as shown. Then, my addition would be to get a print out of eggs such as the ones from Milliande and write praises or thanks to God for restoration. You can also write a memory verse on the back.
“Humpty Dumpty Egg Puzzle” from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas. This really brings out the putting back together (restoring) aspect. Their cute idea, putting Humpty together again with colored band-aids. Enjoy!
“Paper Plate Humpty” from Nursery Rhyme Activities. This is very easy to do with hardly any effort. Simply write or add a memory verse to the back to help them remember the lesson. Enjoy!
“Stuffed Humpty Dumpty” from Mrs. Kilburn’s Kiddos (Very cute idea. Use the same concept as above and add a memory verse to the back. Enjoy!)
Text Free Photo Credit: Pixabay