Verse 11 makes it clear that the powerful enemy army described in the first verses of this chapter are an instrument of judgement by the LORD on His people. It is His voice, ít is His army, it is His camp and this is His great and terrible day of vengeance - no one can endure it.
This is the third time Joel has mentioned the Day of the LORD. "Who can endure it?" This is very much the same as Jesus said, "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:22).
Now the question is: What can a sinner do in a period like this? The LORD Himself gives the answer through His prophet: "Turn to Me with all your heart" God is saying to His people whose hearts are turned from Him, "Repent and come back to Me." The word turn means repent, to sincerely acknowledge the error of their ways and to desire to again serve and obey the LORD their God.
The sincerity of their repentance, "with all your heart", which only God can see, is manifested by an attitude of self-denial, "fasting", and deep regret, "weeping and mourning". It was not to be a showy outward gesture: "so rend your heart, and not your garments" (it was common in those days to tear one's garments as evidence of grief, but it was forbidden to the priests by the Mosaic Law).
Some of God's lovely attributes are mentioned here:
Gracious: He gives generously even to those who do not deserve it.
Merciful: He takes pity on those who owe Him.
Slow to anger: He withholds punishment allowing time for repentance.
Of great kindness: He provides the best things
He relents from doing harm: read what follows.
The original word for relenting, also translated as repentance in both the Old and New Testaments, primarily means a change of mind. But another of the attributes of God, not mentioned here, is that He is immutable, which means that He never changes. There is no reason why He should: after all, He is eternal, He knows the future from the beginning of time and He is carrying out His eternal will.
Attributing repentance to God is one of the anthropomorphic terms found in the Word of God: human physical and emotional traits are ascribed to God for us to better understand Him.
God is Spirit and doesn't have a limited physical body like we do, but we are told, for example, that ". . . the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth …" (2 Chronicles 16:9), so we can understand that God is aware of everything. The Bible says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1); handiwork means finger work, which requires less strain than "And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1), on the subject of God's salvation. We can then understand that it cost God more effort to redeem man than it did for Him to create a universe.
God is given psychological attributes, for example, "… so the anger oí the LORD was kindled against Moses" (Exodus 4:14), and "…the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people…" (Numbers 11:33) as if He were subject to sudden changes of mood. In reality God is angry with the disobedient all the time: it isn't the peevish or petulant anger we are used to, but it is a permanent anger at all wickedness and sin.
Scripture also tells us that God is love, that God loves us, and He forgives the repentant sinner who turns to Him for mercy. When it says that God repents, it does not mean that He had been making some mistake. He gives people options: they may continue sinning, and God will then carry out His judgement, called anger or wrath; or they may confess their sins and ask for forgiveness, in which case God will "relent", in His love ceasing His anger and sparing them judgement (justice being satisfied by the vicarious sacrifice of Christ on the cross). When His Word is rejected, people are lost. But when they turn to Him, He will always save them, regardless of who they are.
God never changes: He is always gracious, always merciful, always slow to anger, always ready to forgive the repentant sinner who asks for mercy. When a sinner repents and turns to Him, God says in effect, "You were under My judgement, and I was going to judge you, but now that you have turned to Me, I will not judge you. The punishment has already been taken for you."
Verse 14 begins with the question "Who knows?", reminding us that nobody can twist God's arm and say "I have done my part now You do Yours!" We are not in a position to claim anything at all from God. as some people mistakenly seem to think today. We must trust Him to do His good will and we should gratefully receive any blessings which He graciously concedes to us.
If the people repented and turned to God, maybe God would not only save them from destruction by the oncoming army, but also less them again in the field and in the vineyard, so that they would have a drink offering and a meat offering to bring to Him.
At the beginning of this chapter there was a command to blow the trumpet to sound the alarm because of the approaching army. Now another command was given to blow the trumpet, this time to declare a holy fast and to call an assembly of all the people. They were to fast in repentance and to come before God in a solemn assembly in order to be consecrated, or dedicated to the LORD their God as His people.
The word for preaching/evangelising/heralding is a word that means to blow the trumpet. The trumpet call of the New Testament is the gospel message to the world, a warning of danger, repentance, salvation and consecration. The congregation is now the church of Christ, made up of all believers in Him since the time of the apostles.
All the people were to come, from the eldest to the youngest. Babies as well, probably so that their mothers could also be present. Also couples on their honeymoon: when a man was married in Israel, he was excused from going to war for one year so he could dedicate himself to his new wife. They were now required to leave each other and to join the rest of the people, dedicating themselves to the LORD in the first place.
The priests, who ministered before the LORD, and whose duty it was to mediate and intercede for the people, were now required to carry out this obligation with renewed vigour. They were to weep, showing their concern not so much for themselves as for the people they served.
They were to pray, "Spare Your people, 0 LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" Since shortly after this prophecy was written, Israel has been scattered throughout the world to this day.
Although they now have a territory and a government and a flag, they are still very much subject to the nations of the world. They continue to be the subject of reproach by virtually all the peoples, with few friends, a clear indication that this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.
The LORD God of Israel was Who gave His only Son to be a Saviour, not only of Jews but of the whole world. He was born of a Jewish woman, a descendant of King David. Through faith in Him, millions of Gentiles now acknowledge the God of Israel as the true God and serve Him.
But the Jews as a nation have rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, and so have refused to accept the peace with God which He brought to the world. Without a temple and priesthood they are deprived of the means to serve Him even in the manner ordained through Moses. They are far from their God.
Only through a revival of their faith by means of acknowledging their error and receiving Jesus Christ can they again be reconciled with God. This is foreseen to happen after the rapture of the church of Christ when the full number oí the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:26), so much so that Jewish missionaries will take the Gospel to the far ends of the earth (Revelation 7).
By miraculously saving the Jews from their enemies God will once again show the world that He is indeed true, that they are His people, and that He is powerful to save them.
11 The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?
12 "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him - a grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly;
16 gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, "Spare Your people, o LORD, and do not give your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "