(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Joel, in very obvious ways, carries foreword the logical, theological structure of the redemptive story. It is organized very clearly in that bad news-good news structure.
You see, the gospel is the worst news ever because the gospel puts before us the harsh reality of sin, and that sin is not just a matter of our environment, it's more prominently a matter of our heart. That's why that bad news devastates me because I can run from a situation, I can run from a location, I can run from a relationship; but I can't run from me. I’ve found that whenever I try to run from me, I show up with me at the end of the run. So, it doesn't work.
And so, I’ve got to accept the bad news before the good news is ever going to be interesting to me because it's only when I say, “I can't find the solution here, and I can’t actually find a solution here,” that I begin to look for the solution here. And so, you have in Joel a theme of the bad news, the judgment of the Law of God, and the theme of the good news, the rescuing grace of God.
Without the Law, there's no need for grace. But you cannot ask the Law to do what only grace can accomplish. The Law does a brilliant job of exposing our sin; the Law is a wonderful guide for our lives, but it has no capacity whatsoever to rescue and restore our hearts. So, you have to have both of those themes, Law and grace, bad news, good new; that's the gospel. You drop either one of those themes, you either have no hope or you have false hope. It's important in a culture, Joel is important in our culture that has abandoned the category of sin, to remind us again that we need that category in order to seek and celebrate God's grace.
Two really wonderful gospel themes that are here. First of all, is the promise of the Spirit. It's in Joel that we hear, “I will pour out My Spirit on these people.” Now, we see that promise in its fulfillment in Acts, chapter 2, as Peter says, “This is happening now in your presence; God has poured out His Spirit into the hearts of His people; God now dwelling in His people; His people now becoming His Temple.”
And then I love this message in Joel; I’ll say it this way because it's the exact words. God says, “You repent, and I’ll repent too.” You say, “Well, wait a minute, what does that mean?” God says, “You repent, and I will turn, I will turn from My judgment, and I will turn towards you in grace.”
What a beautiful picture of God who repents! He doesn’t repent of sin because He has none, but He repents from that move of judgment and replaces judgment with mercy. “You turn and I'll turn too!” That's the beautiful promise there in Joel, chapter 2, “You come!”
Joel even says, “You bring words with you, you make confession, and I will gladly turn.” And, then he says this, “And I will bring a blessing.” Isn’t that beautiful? Not physical blessing, but the blessing of His love, the blessing of His grace, the blessing of His indwelling Spirit. I love Joel! I love the honesty of the bad news, but I love the good news so much more!