I have always appreciated the powerful promise of Joel 2:26-29:
“”And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”
Joel 2:28 ESV (http://bible.com/59/jol.2.28.ESV)
I have often preached to churches that God loves to pour his Spirit on all people all kinds of people.
But today, I read the whole chapter, and the context gives much more complexity than a simple “God loves everybody.” In fact, Joel 2 is a key “Day of the Lord” oracle in which the prophet warns about the devastation which the Lord is sending.
The flow of the chapter looks a little like this this:
Warning that God’s arrival will bring devastation (verses 1-11)
Plea for readers to escape devastation through repentance and giving themselves to the Lord (12-27)
Promise of the Spirit for those who have returned to the Lord (28-29)
Recaptulation of earlier themes (30-32)
Taken in it’s context, then, Joel 2 is not a blanket promise that God gives his Spirit on all people. What we see, rather, is a promise conditioned upon our repentance.
So when we preach this passage, we do a disservice if we leave listeners with an encouragement that God loves them whether they are male or female, poor or rich. Instead, we need to issue a call to wholeheartedly giveing ourselves to God.
As we give ourselves to God, God gives the Spirit to us, and we become ministers to those suffering devastation.