The God who Empowers
When God Empowers
“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
Where do we find hope in our daily struggles? We all know the pain and struggle with sin. We do things that harm others and ourselves, yet we seem powerless in the face of the struggle. We want to do right. We want to always respond with grace. We want to live free from addictions and temptations. We want to honor God and please him. Yet we struggle. Daily the words of Paul resonate with us, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death.” Yet, for all our resolve and commitment to do what is right and not do what is wrong, we still fail continually. We still say things that hurt the people we love. We still feel guilt when we act in ways we know to be wrong. So how do we find the remedy?
The answer is not found in ourselves or our resolve but in the transformation of our lives. We do not need just a change of attitude or action; we need a change in our whole being. Throughout the history of Israel, we find over and over again the cycle of obedience, compromise, disobedience, and judgment. No matter how much God forgave their sin and displayed his love and power in delivering them from their crisis, they still reverted to the cycle. In Joel 2, we find the answer. What they needed was a new heart. They needed the power of God working through them to change not just their circumstances but to change them.
In Joel 2, we find God responding to the people's repentance. First, God will pour out his blessing and restoration of the productivity of the land. In chapter 1, God’s judgment brought the destruction of the crops. But in chapter 2, God promises to send rain so that their threshing floors will be full of grain (vs. 23-24). In the end, they will praise God for he has dealt wondrously with them (vs. 26). But this transformation will not just be in their fortunes, but in their relationship with God. They will know he is their God and there are no others (vs. 27). The second blessing is the promise of the future outpouring of the Spirit of God. This anticipates the eschatological age when God will deliver all who call upon him. The outpouring of the Spirit would bring the internal change they desperately needed. Previously only the prophets and priests were given dreams and visions. Only the prophets and priests had the direct experience of God working in them and through them.
However, the time will come when the Holy Spirit will be poured out universally to all the people of God. What is remarkable in this promise is the scope of the promise. It will erase all the previous distinctions people make: gender, age, ethnicity, economic and social status. This would be radically different from the world of the Ancient Near East, where men (not women), the old (not the young), and the landowner (not the slave) ruled society. God’s spirit will be upon all people, whether Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free (Gal. 3:28).
In Acts 2:17, Peter quoted this passage to affirm that this prophecy was fulfilled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the New Testament believers. The eschatological time began with the early church and will culminate in the second coming of Christ (see Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:3). When we accept Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower us so that we now have victory over sin. We are recipients of the blessing so that now we can have victory over sin. When we surrender to God, he empowers us through the work of the Holy Spirit to become what he wants to be: People who walk in righteousness and obedience to God.