By Rick Phipps
Today’s Reading: Joel 1:1-2:11
Whereas Hosea (He is my love who is forever faithful) was prophecy to the Northern Kingdom also known as Israel. Joel (He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit) was given prophecy by God for the Southern Kingdom also known as Judah. But, as with all prophecy, it is always also directed to any of God’s people anywhere and anytime. God’s word is always relevant no matter the peoples or eras in which one is living. Oh, yeah just in case you were wondering, the ‘parenthesis’ words are a short sentence summation of the book’s contents that was given to me by author unknown but which I find kind of a good way to think about the underlying subject of the book as I read it.
Why is Joel sent to prophecy to Judah? A biblical commentator writes: “The people of Judah had become prosperous and complacent taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centeredness, idolatry, and sin. Joel (was given the task by God to) warn that this lifestyle would inevitably bring down God’s judgment.” His time frame was approximately 835 to 796 B.C.
Joel 1:1 – 2:11
Joel starts by describing an invasion by locusts. Locusts are a grasshopper like creature that can fly with a good wind a distance of over a 100 miles at a time before landing. They are 2-3 inches long and are on the move their whole lives which its only seemingly purpose is to search for food, eat and reproduce. Their main nourishment is vegetation…generally any kind of plant life. So how are a few little grasshoppers a threat? Well they have this tendency to swarm, joining together in a group, forming an insect army and moving and working together. Their swarms can number in the millions of the flying, eating, mating creatures. One swarm, as documented in World Book by the Red Sea, was believed to have covered an area of 2,000 square miles! That’s a lot of bugs!! So when Joel warns in verses 2-4 of the devastation so great the tale will be told for generations…it’s bad. Three separate swarms attack the crops and plants of Judah as told in verse 4. This locust plague was as devastating as an invading army. How could there be any green living thing left? Reading on, we find out there wasn’t anything left.
Read the description of how it affects and is felt by the people. Verses 5-7 describes it like an attacking army laying waste to the land. Verses 8-12 starts with the feeling “mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth,” which describes how devastating this event is to one’s mental state as to the loss of one’s love that was to be their life mate. The description continues…priests not able to minister the sacrifices…farmers not able to bring in any kind of crop to feed or make a living for their families. So devastating is this on the people that in verse 12 it says, “Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.”
Verse 13-14 calls for the putting on of sackcloth which was usually worn when mourning…but at that time they were called to mourn for their sin. Sackcloth…mourn…wail…declare a holy fast…call a sacred assembly…cry out to the Lord. Their sin brought about judgment…the judgment demands an action of repentance; a sincere heart cleansing repentance. Why? Verse 15 says, “Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty”.
How fearful is the day of the Lord? Read verses 16-20 and yet judgment on ‘the day of the Lord’ is far worse! Chapter 2:1-11 speaks of such a terrible invading force, which is like a swarm of locusts, but in verse 11… “The Lord thunders at the head of His army; His forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey His command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?”
So a swarm of locusts in threefold attack cannot measure up to the terror of God’s wrath. The locust swarm is just a picture of what lays in store if sin isn’t repented, lives and hearts aren’t changed, and action is not taken to clean up one’s life. And yet how many ‘locust swarms’ have we endured and in our pride thought if we endured this we can endure anything. The warning was there, the chance was given. So what choice do we leave God but to face ‘the day of the Lord’. I pray that you nor I never allow ourselves to love ourselves so much that we would have to face a ‘locust swarm’ but, if we do, then have the sense and faith enough to repent before we have to face God’s dreadful judgment.
Today’s writing is entry #5 of our Minor Prophet series. Join with our study throughout the week, and as we gather on Sundays at 9:15 at The VINE at Chapel Rock to unpack the truth of God’s word together. This week’s study is focusing on the writing of the Prophet Joel.