Last week I posted on the message of Joel the prophet here, and I promised to add some thoughts about how Joel impacts our understanding of the New Testament. I have three texts / topics in mind.
First, I think Joel’s understanding of pagan armies helps us understand Romans 13, where Paul tells the Jesus-followers in Rome to “submit to the governing authorities because they have been put in their place by God,” etc, etc. People have read this as indicating God’s support of this or that nation or government, with the implication that what nations do is good and godly. Today I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with the application points, but what we often miss is that for Paul, Romans 13 has everything to do with the way God works through pagan nations in the prophets. According to them, especially in texts like Isaiah 10 and here in Joel, pagan armies are both (a) tools accomplishing God’s purposes, and (b) enemies of God awaiting eventual judgment. The key thing is that God can use nations for his purposes, and he can call his people to submit to their rule, without them having his approval or blessing. This was certainly true of the Roman Empire of Paul’s day. Continue reading