“For A Nation Is Come Up Upon My Land”
“For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.” (Joel 1:6)
A Nation is Come Up Upon My Land
Joel 1:1-5 In Review:
1 – ¶The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
2 – Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?
3 – Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.
4 – That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.
5 – Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.
Weep and howl for the new wine is cut off from your lips! And how is it cut off? Verse six begins to explain.
Joel 1:6 – “For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.”
We will not elaborate on the many historical fulfillments involving God’s ancient land of Israel, since it is not the physical that God is teaching; it is the spiritual and everlasting outcome of these verses that we must study. If one understands all biblical passages and prophesies of Israel’s Old Testament history, one will still be in a lost state apart from understanding God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, which is interwoven throughout Genesis to Revelation. God is not teaching us the earthly history of ancient Israel. No indeed, He is teaching us Jesus Christ – The Word of God – as it is foreshadowed through the physical existence of Old Testament Israel. Ancient Israel and its Jewish Law is our schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24); therefore we must realize that our advancing in the scriptures is partially accomplished by understanding how God uses ancient Israel in portraying His church and its eternal truths. This is the key to understanding higher levels of biblical interpretation. This is the key that leads us from the literal and historical fulfillments to the eternal, spiritual, and final fulfillments of God’s Word.
Israel’s History of Wars
Israel’s long history of battling its foes (invaders) prefigures God’s eternal Israel (true believers in Christ; the wheat) as they battle the continual dark forces of the kingdom of Satan. It is true that other nations have histories of battling invaders; however God has chosen ancient Israel as a vehicle in which to portray His church. Unto ancient Israel were “committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). Today, Israel as a whole, along with all nations in general has rejected Christ the Messiah. While there are multitudes of Christians throughout all nations, the fact remains that there is no nation today whose government confesses Christ Jesus as being the only way to salvation. We must not elevate any nation as Christian or Godly, including the nation of Israel.
The rule of Israelites in the land of Israel began with the conquests of Joshua (ca. 1250 BC). The period from 1000-587 BC is known as the “Period of the Kings”. The most noteworthy kings were King David (1010-970 BC), who made Jerusalem the Capital of Israel, and his son Solomon (970-931 BC), who built the first Temple in Jerusalem as prescribed in the Old Testament.
In 587 BC, Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar’s army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon. The year 587 BC marked a turning point in the history of the region. From that year onwards, the region was ruled or controlled by a succession of superpower empires of their time in the following order: Babylonian, Persian, Greek Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Empires, Islamic and “Christian” crusaders, Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire.
God truly has used physical Israel in teaching eternal truths of God’s Gospel. Israel as a literal nation will not come to Christ, nor will any other nation. The New Testament tells us that there in only one holy nation, and that nation is a spiritual nation. What nation are we speaking of? We are speaking of every true born-again believer, past, present, and future who make up the eternal Israel of God’s chosen people. Yes, the true Church of Jesus Christ is God’s Holy Nation.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:9)
When scripture proclaims that “a nation is come up upon my land” in Joel 1:6 we must first realize that in all probability this was an earthly prophesy predicting a literal invasion from the Assyrians. No doubt it is also teaching God’s judgment upon the Jewish people for their rebellious and sinful ways. God chastises the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament for their evil ways and likewise today’s corporate church is in no way any different than Israel of old.
Many Bible scholars endeavour to identify the approximate dates in which Joel penned these passages. They also debate among themselves as to what foreigners or kingdom was in view in Joel’s prophecy. They seek out these bits of information as if it is necessary in understanding Joel’s words. These are worldly and historic events lost in history but not lost in God’s way of teaching. We are not to dwell on the historic events of ancient Israel; rather we are to study with opened eyes what God is teaching in the spiritual realm of Old Testament Israel – being a mirror of the New Testament church.
“For a nation is come up upon my land…” (Joel 1:6). This nation or kingdom was fulfilled in the literal realm of things by the invasion from the Assyrians. They (as foretold in the previous verses of Joel) ravished the land of Judah and the Jewish people to such an extent that Joel likens them to locusts: palmerworms, caterpillars, and cankerworms. They devoured the vines in such a way that the literal wine from these vines would be no more. Whether God is teaching that literal locusts devoured the livelihood of the Jewish people (no doubt as God’s judgment for their unbelief) or whether God is likening the Assyrian army to locust – we can’t be certain. It does appear more likely that God is symbolizing the Assyrian invaders as locusts due to their fierceness and vast numbers. Either way, we must NOW look at the final spiritual interpretation of these events and compare them with the entire context of scripture as a whole.
“A nation is come up upon my land.”
The invasion from the Assyrians is merely a partial glimpse of unseen truth that runs as a thread through Holy Scripture. We find many occurrences in the Old Testament that speak of invaders coming down upon the Jewish people to take a spoil. We must understand that these seemingly “unimportant” events are not merely historical accounts that are no longer relevant for us today. God’s Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the Bible tells us. The Old Testament is a large portion of God’s Word for us today; therefore it is still relevant – no doubt. Ancient Israel of Old Testament days gives us many eternal insights that are priceless bits of spiritual gold. We are to study them closely as New Testament verses confirm.
The invasions of Israel and Judah by their enemies symbolize the many facets of spiritual warfare that God’s true and spiritual Israel will have to endeavour. This appears to be the higher teaching behind these historic events. In our study of verse six the first thing we read is “a nation is come up upon my land.” We find many similar passages throughout the Old Testament. For example, consider the following verses:
Deuteronomy 28:33 – The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:
Deuteronomy 28:36 – The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.
Deuteronomy 28:49 – The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;
Deuteronomy 28:50 – A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:
Deuteronomy 32:28 – For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
Jeremiah 5:15 – Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the LORD: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.
Amos 6:14 – But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.
The above verses speak to different nations that sought to destroy ancient Judah and Israel. This is merely a sampling of the many nations or kingdoms that warred against Israel. In studying these Old Testament prophesies we know that in the final analyses these nations all represent the unsaved world and its opposition to Christ and His eternal Word. In sampling some of the characteristics of these nations the conclusions will be obvious. For example, look at Deuteronomy 32:28 – “For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.” That description indeed encompasses the entire unsaved world. Why would God have this verse in scripture if it had no meaning for us today? We must seek out these Old Testament passages and examine the characteristics of those nations that battled against Israel. In so doing we will discover much insight into the unsaved nature of not only those ancient nations, but the unsaved nature of man himself, even up to this day in time. Man is the same in his wickedness whether he lived thousands of years ago or today. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
The nation that Joel speaks of, in the final fulfillment of these verses, appears more than likely to represent all of unsaved humanity throughout the Gospel Age and culminating at the height of their rebellion at the very end of time. This is what Revelation speaks of in the twelfth chapter.
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” Revelation 12:17.
“Strong and without Number”
God tells us that a nation is come upon my land, strong and without number. These are the descriptions and characteristics of those nations that sought to destroy Israel many years ago. “Strong and without number” is also a term that signifies those who oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us look at an Old Testament passage that speaks of the Midianite oppression against Israel:
Judges 6:4-6 –
4 – And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
<The Midian oppression of ancient Israel has many spiritual symbols and overtones. When we read that the Midianites “encamped against them” we reason that this is not merely an ancient and isolated event. The Midianites (in their minor Old Testament role) most probably symbolize the unsaved of the world (as many Old Testament nations do) as they encamp against spiritual Israel (the Israel of God; Galatians 6:16). This brings Revelation 20:9 to mind: “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” This verse speaks of all those who oppose Christ as “compassing” or surrounding the elect of God (true Christians), symbolized by the many Old Testament nations that opposed and attacked ancient Israel.>
5 – For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
<Again God uses the analogy of grasshoppers to portray the vast numbers of those who battled against Israel. It is the same today; those enemies of God who oppose and attack the Gospel of Christ are seen through spiritual eyes as locusts without number! This appears to be what God is showing us from all of the Old Testament battles. In our study we are reading of the nation that is to invade Israel; a nation without number in its vastness and likened to hordes of locusts in number. Yes, God is teaching the spiritual cutting off of Christ’s Gospel by the hordes of unsaved man. Those who oppose the precious truth and sacrifice that God has given through His only Begotten Son are in essence … A NATION TO ITSELF. This, in the final analysis, is the nation (the kingdom of Satan) that is set on destroying the Christ child, i.e. the Word of God. “For a NATION is come up upon my land…” Joel 1:6.>
6 – And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
“…Whose teeth are the teeth of a lion…”
All those (the nation) that comes against God’s “land” (God’s elect; Christ’s bride) is viewed in scripture allegorically as having teeth, even teeth of a lion.
“There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men,” (Proverbs 30:14).
<The poor and the needy are terms used in sections of scripture to denote Christians. An in-depth study of the New Testament “poor” would be required to present this idea adequately. As for now, a few examples are as follows:
Psalms 40:17 – But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
Psalms 70:5 – But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.
Psalms 72:13 – He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
Psalms 74:21 – O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.
Psalms 82:4 – Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.>
Joel 1:6 speaks of this invading army as having teeth of a lion. Scripture utilizes this symbolical term “teeth” to emphasis the point of devouring. Of course this is in the non-physical sense of devouring. We see this spiritual devouring being accomplished today throughout the organized churches. Basic Christian doctrines are without doubt being devoured right and left within the corporate churches.
The latter day plagues of Revelation chapter nine have much to say concerning invading locusts (false doctrines; false prophets, ministers, teachers, elders, deacons, laypeople, etc.) These unchristian hordes are given numerous symbolical descriptions, one of which is as follows:
“And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions,” Revelation 9:8.
And what does Joel 1:6 reveal?
“For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion,” Joel 1:6.
We see now that Old Testament terminology is ultimately fulfilled in a spiritual way. These aren’t literal locusts in the latter days, nor were they literal (in all probability) during the historical period that Joel speaks of. No doubt Joel’s vision was ultimately targeted for the latter years of the Gospel Age. Again, this is not to say that the occurrence did not transpire in Old Testament days; it surely must have, but the final teaching for us today is in the higher spiritual understanding of the Book of Joel.
False Christians or enemies of God are described in various ways throughout scripture. Their sharp teeth is one symbolical characteristic.
Job 4:7-10 –
7 – ¶Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
8 – Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
9 – By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.
10 – The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.
<This appears to be strong biblical evidence to support the idea that false Christians or non-believers are indeed seen by God as lions with sharp teeth. Their teeth are used allegorically to denote the devouring of Christ’s Gospel. In much the same fashion locusts are used to denote the eating away of God’s Word – His vineyard. But why a lion, we may wonder? The lion is the most ferocious of wild beasts and therefore is singled out in certain sections of scripture as typifying those who would ravish the Gospel of Christ.>
“There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof,” Ezekiel 22:25.
“And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority,” Revelation 13:2.
Paul used an Allegorical Term
In studying the biblical term “lion” as it is used in association with those who oppose the Gospel of Christ, we have a most eye-opening account in the fourth chapter of II Timothy.
II Timothy 4:14-18 –
14 – Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
<Clearly the evil that Alexander the coppersmith did was evil involving the words of the Gospel. We know this for a fact since Paul states in the following verse that Alexander “greatly withstood [opposed or resisted] our words.”>
15 – Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.
<The words that Paul is concerned with are of course the words of Christ. Alexander greatly withstood those words.>
16 – ¶At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
17 – Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
<Was Paul literally delivered out of the mouth of a living and breathing lion? No. Once again this “lion’s mouth” is a term that God is using to denote those who preach contrary to the Word of Christ. Paul stood opposed by many as he ministered. For some reason, of which we do not know the circumstances, Alexander the coppersmith is singled out by Paul as having done him much harm in the Gospel. Alexander was more than likely an outspoken critic of the Gospel who might have attracted a large crowd to oppose Paul and his preaching of Christ. The interesting aspect to this incident is that Paul refers to his overcoming the verbal opposition of the Gospel by Alexander the coppersmith as having been “delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” How remarkable is that? We shouldn’t be surprised that Paul used Old Testament terminology to symbolize those who oppose Christ. In this case he used the term “lion’s mouth.”>
18 – And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
One final footnote to this account: In the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den, we must interpret it in accordance to how it is written. We must not dismiss that account as symbolic in nature simply because there was a lion involved. The story of Daniel and the lion’s den was an actual occurrence in the physical realm with much heavenly meaning involved.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8)