Sometimes people will come to me saying that they have a message for me, I tell them, "If it's a good message...make it long, but if it's a bad message then make it really short." Joel's message was short! Joel's name means "The Lord is God".
Great swarms of locusts had fallen upon the land and had stripped it of everything that was green. There was also a great drought. All of this natural disaster was sent by God because of Judah's wickedness...they had fallen far away from God's holy standards. As God's spokesman Joel appeals to the elders of Judah to pay attention to what God is trying to tell His people. He begins his prophecy with these words:
Verse 1:2: "Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?"
In verse 3 he says: "Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.""
The plague of locusts was devastating. It was an unimaginable horror. The land had been stripped bare of any plant life.
Verse 4 tells us: "What the locust swarm has left...the great locusts have eaten; What the great locusts have left, the young locusts have eaten; What the young locusts have left, other locusts have eaten."
- The plague of locusts was unimaginable . . . the horror was total devastation;
- The people had no grapes to make wine;
- The farmers had no harvest to provide their livelihood;
- The priests had no grain or drink offerings for their temple worship;
- The fields were wasted;
- The corn was wasted;
- The oil was gone.
It is at this time that we would normally expect the prophet to end his speech with some news of encouragement, some news of hope. We would like to hear him say, "But despite everything that has happened, I still have some good news." Or perhaps, "Cheer up! Things will get better." Or, "Think positive . . . every cloud has a silver lining!"
But, Joel does exactly the opposite. He tells them that the worst is still yet to come! He tells them: if you think this is bad, it's going to get really bad! He tells them that it will be nothing compared to a future event coming known as the Day of the Lord!
Verse 1:15: "Alas for that day! For the Day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty."
The invasion of locusts is only a taste of future devastations to come upon Judah. In all there would be four major invasions that would come upon Judah which, like locusts, would devour the land. The first invasion came with the Babylonians in 586 BC, followed by Medo-Persia, then the Greco-Macedonia invasion and finally in 70 AD the Romans totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.
Joel is warning the people of future devastations but he also warns them of an even greater event which will surpass all of these devastating invasions. God is warning His people so that they THE DAY OF THE LORD might prepare themselves for the great final storm that is about to come upon the nation.
The Day of the Lord is a term used to designate the future judgment of God that will come upon the whole earth. It will be the final great holocaust. It will be a time of great tribulation which will precede the second coming of Jesus to the earth. Jesus said it will be a time of trouble like never before since the beginning of the world.
The purpose of Joel's prophecy is obvious: He is calling the people to repent of their wicked ways. Verse 2:12: "Even now," declares the Lord, "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."
When Joel speaks about repentance, he is not referring to shallow religious acts like going to church or singing in the choir. He is not talking about outward actions, but about a real heart change. Verse 2:13: "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity." Joel is calling the entire nation to repent by declaring a period of holy fasting and crying out to the Lord. In verses 2:15-17 God says, "Gather the elders, the children, those nursing. Let the bride and bridegroom leave their chamber. Let the priests, weep, let them say: 'Spare your people, O Lord'." Joel tells them the motive to cry out to God is to seek the grace of God while they are able.
Martin Luther, the great reformer once wrote: "True repentance is not reached by merely meditating upon sin and its consequences. But rather it is to see our ingratitude towards the wounds of Jesus and upon our detestable sin which He took upon Himself."
Joel 2:22-27 then tells us what the benefits will be if the nation does repent: "The fig tree and the vine tree will yield its riches. God will send the spring and autumn rains. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. God will restore the years that the locusts have eaten. The people will have plenty to eat, until they are full. God's people will never again be ashamed, because everyone will know that Israel's God is Lord."
And finally the greatest promise of all, verses 28-29: "God will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh." According to the apostle Peter in Acts 2, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy: "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days."
In Matthew 24:29 Jesus quotes the warnings of Joel: "I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."
Today, we are already living in the last days while we wait for the coming of Jesus. The Church was not created to be self serving, but it was designed to be channels through which the blessings of God's Spirit can flow upon all peoples. Today as disaster after dreadful disaster troubles our world, we must not despair. The door of God's grace is still open... Joel's prophecy ends with this promise from God for those who place their trust in Jesus for their salvation.
God says: "I will pardon. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls." What a great word of comfort for everyone who has placed their faith in the blood of Jesus shed at Calvary's cross 2000 years ago.
Let us keep praying for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit!