- Joel ch.1 - minor prophet, after major - not less important, but shorter. Easier to cover whole book and contain message for the time near the end.
- What if your whole income for a year was taken from you - how would you respond? This is the situation in Joel.
- Economy based on agriculture - hit by locust plague.
- Advantages of living on a farm, on the land - realize your dependence upon God more - closer to Him because you see His hand more clearly and directly.
- Judah, with its agricultural economy, had just lost a whole harvest to an enormous plague of locusts. There was absolutely nothing left ‑ nothing to eat, nothing to store, nothing for cattle food, nothing to offer God. A catastrophe like this would be remembered for generations.
- People ask where is God? Why does He allow it? Such disasters did not confuse Joel. He understood both the love and the demands of a holy God. The people had drifted away from him and now he had sent this to recall them to their senses and to himself. It was not the farmers who had sinned but the whole community. Today it is the same the whole world community has sinned, ourselves included. Joel's call to his times should be a call to ours also ‑ repent.
- This is the situation in Joel - God was speaking to them through, so called, “natural events” - locust plague. one of the instruments of Divine judgment mentioned by Moses (Deuteronomy 28:38,39 You shall bring out much seed to the field but you will gather in little, for the locust will consume it. You shall plant and cultivate vineyards, but you will neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm will devour them.) Like the stars and sands of the sea, locusts are a type of that which cannot be numbered The locust was almost synonymous with “destroyer” and a plague of locust was often regarded as God’s judgment
Read Joel ch.1
- Before looking at the passage in detail, explain a bit how prophecy works:
- There are often layers of meaning
(1) the surface level - the present situation: locust plague.
(2) that surface level was a picture - held a message, a deeper meaning, a lesson and sometimes a foretelling of a future event: invading army.
(3) but often there is more than one level of fulfilment - there is a near fulfilment, but also a complete fulfilment later on - the prophecy is itself a prophecy of another event: locust plague prefigured invading army which prefigures the Day of the LORD - Jesus return and final judgment.
(4) that is yet future and we need to be informed and prepared for it but prophecy also has a message for us today, an application - the principle of the lesson it contains is valid for us: repentance and seeking the LORD.
HEAR! - what is God saying to us? (2-4)
v.1 Joel means “YHWH is God”, he received a message from YHWH probably around the reign of Joash about 800BC.
- The word of the LORD - message from YHWH Himself! It is to be heeded. How should we respond? (Isaiah 66:2 “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.). The message came from heaven from God to His servant, to His prophet. So the words which follow are not from human origin, some outstanding preaching, but this is what God Himself is saying! Let us tremble!
v.2 There is no "easing into it gently", it is immediate, direct, shocking them to pay attention to what is going on around (God’s actions through the circumstances of life). They were to consider its significance, think about it, lay it to heart - has anything like this ever happened before? - in their memory or even that passed down in history from their ancestors? What was happening was unprecedented - therefore they should consider its significance - its spiritual message - what is God seeking to say through this unprecedented occurrence?
- We are to hear. Call to attention. Speaks to those in leadership (the elders) but also to all the inhabitants of the land. Leaders have the foremost responsibility to listen, but we all must heed the word of YHWH. He called them to take a look at what was happening around them.
- God speaks through circumstances - we put things down to natural causes but God is in control. He determines what goes on. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Insurance companies are right - the locust plague was an "act of God." When extraordinary things take place we should take note - and ask what is God saying to us through this?
v.3 -Still he does not tell us what “it” is, keeps us in suspense.
- Not only was the significance for their own generation but for ones to come - God's deeds in history have a lesson for the future. Often significant events in the past are a picture of future ones (e.g. passover, crossing of Red Sea, plagues, Abraham offering Isaac etc.). So we must pay attention to history - not only does it teach us lessons but can also contain a prophetic message. God's deeds in the past must be passed on. We are a generation concerned with the now - but it is essential to pass on the record of God's deeds in history. They equip us for the future.
v.4 ? identity of different locusts (RSMT missionary deferred giving an opinion) but indicates wave after wave (Egypt only one wave) - twice, terrible coincidence; three times, someone's got it in for me. But four times! - unprecedented! Nothing left. Blow after blow. May not know identity but names are descriptive of their action. The locusts cut off, mow (גָּזָם), they multiply and devastate (אַרְבֶּה), they devour (יֶלֶק) and they consume(חָסִיל) - the final wave, the consuming locust leaves nothing - חסל means not only "to consume" but "to come to an end" - A little may be expected to remain after the first devastating swarm, and may be possibly something somewhere after the second. But after the third? Certainly not after the fourth! The consuming of the fruitfulness of the land, the product of the peoples toil will be totally destroyed - nothing left for all their efforts. All they have done will prove to be utterly futile in the end.
- יהוה is unsparing, thorough, relentless in the judgment, nothing will escape the successive waves (cf. Revelations: 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls of wrath) wave after wave of judgment until it is complete - nothing will escape. God’s judgment is relentless on those on whom it falls (cf. Hebrews 12:29 our God is a consuming fire).
- It was from the LORD’s hand - How readily we attribute all calamity to the enemy - by doing so we are prevented from hearing God speak to us.
WAKE UP! - something is going on (5-7)
.V.5 - But are the people concerned? No, they are getting drunk! Anaesthetized, not facing up to the calamity that has come upon them. Picture of end times - people pursuing indulgence with no conception of the peril they are facing. It is time to wake up! (Eph 5:11-18). But they will not be able to continue their drunken indulgence - so great is the calamity that no vines are left to produce the grapes to make their wine. One day men will face to face up to the reality of judgment.
- The LORD urgently calls the leaders and people to take heed there is a terrible calamity! - But they haven’t woken up to the reality of it, to the implications of it. They are continuing their self indulgent, escapist, existentialist life-style, oblivious of the disaster that is bringing that way of life to an end.Here their world was falling down around their ears and they had not taken it seriously, done anything about it, sought the LORD earnestly in prayer.
- You cannot avoid the issue of sin, righteousness and judgment of יהוה forever. One day it is going to catch up on you and your escapism will no longer keep the reality from you. All you do is delay the realization until the situation is too desperate to be remedied.
v.6 - But it is not just the present calamity, terrible as it is, it is just a picture of a more terrible judgment, not insects but men - an invading army. A nation has invaded, innumerable like the locusts - ferocious and vicious.
The locust plague was devastating indeed but it was just a shadow, a warning of what was to come.
- "My land" - Israel belongs to יהוה!"My vine" (v.7). A nation (גּוֹי) would invade - i.e. the Gentiles - God uses them as His instrument to judge His people.
V.7 - Returning to the image of vegetation destroyed by locusts, two plants that typify Israel are utterly destroyed by the invading army of insects. The fig tree did not bear fruit so the tree would be destroyed ( the fruit looked for was repentance - Luke 3:8 Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance,; 13:3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Matt 21:18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry.
Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.). Israel was יהוה’s vine that He planted in the land and lovingly tended, it did not produce worthwhile fruit so it would be abandoned unto destruction (cf. Isaiah 5:1-7). What יהוה looked for was repentance and this is what He exhorts His people to do.
REPENT! - mourn and turn (8-12)
v.8 - What do you do when such a calamity strikes? Mourning, grieving the terrible loss. All you hoped for is taken before you have a chance to enjoy it
- Israel is commanded to mourn - to weep and wail like a virgin betrothed, Heart-broken, disconsolate, all hopes and future prospects shattered - she is utterly devastated at her loss. All they’d hoped and dreamed and longed and lived for was never to come about. A response is required to the devastation that has struck them: heart felt repentance and grief.
- The repentance is to be heart-broken, grief and mourning at all they have lost. It is to be genuine grief from the heart - not merely mechanical dispassionate acknowledgment of wrong-doing (cf. Joel 2:13 rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.James 4:9,10 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.). Self-humbling is called for - dress in sack-cloth, If they realized their true state, their true situation, their state as יהוה saw it, they would mourn with desperate, unconsolable weeping and grief - genuine repentance from the heart. So too would we!
- Judgment is coming yet we mindlessly go on getting drunk "in the Spirit" oblivious to the true situation!
- LORD open our eyes to see our true state! To see things as You see them!
v.9 - Calamity in the natural has an effect - also effects spiritual life. (1 Cor 15:46).Can’t divorce secular life from spiritual.
- Not only the farmers and leaders (cf. v.2) but also the spiritual leaders of the land were to mourn. The devastation caused by the locust plague is so great that there is no longer grain left to be offered nor wine for the drink offering in the temple. The pretense of worship, the religious ritual cannot be maintained.
v.10 - Man may be reveling but the land itself realizes the magnitude of the disaster - man may not mourn but the land does - field, grain, wine, olives - every aspect of agriculture is ruined.
The concepts of being dried up and of mourning are together in the words of this verse .אָבְלָה = mourn (as in previous verse) but it also means "to be dried up" - so there is a possible play on words. How does the land mourn? - by being dried up and not producing anything.
v.11 - If the fields are mourning, ought not the farmers also? So the instruction for the farmers to be ashamed - it is their moral and spiritual failure that has been the cause of the desperate state of agriculture. They are to be ashamed because the crop failure is their responsibility even though it has come from the LORD’s hand. They are to mourn also. There is another play on words - in (v.10) הוֹבִישׁ (root יבשׁ) means "dried up"; here הֹבִישׁוּ means "be ashamed"
- יהוה calls for a response, He calls on those who work the land, the ploughman and the vine-dresser to mourn and be ashamed - for their labour is utterly futile. So are all our efforts if they are not done in obedience to God, according to His will, by His Spirit
Likewise, in the Day of the LORD, the final judgment, all that we have worked so hard to attain, obtain, produce will be utterly and completely destroyed if it has not been done in God, by His Spirit, rather than by our own assertiveness and efforts, planning and scheming, intelligence, labour, industry and cooperation. All our efforts will come to nothing, it will be totally frustrating, labouring for nothing. Only that done in Christ will remain (cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15; Heb 12:26-29).
v.12 - All is dried up - as this effects agriculture so it effects men’s spirits - joy also has dried up.
- the catalogue of devastation continues - every aspect of agriculture is decimated. Not only the early grain and the later harvest (barley and wheat) but also the produce of the fruit trees. Normally locust will attack the grain crop, but here they strike the trees as well: vine, palm, apple and other trees.
- The new wine dries up (v.10) the vine dries up. All the trees of the field dry up. Rejoicing dries up from the sons of men - The key word is dried up - turn from God and you dry up.
- So much dryness and lack of fruitfulness when it continues and pervades eventually dries you up - sucks all the joy out of you. All you worked for ends up as nothing, all your joyful expectation is dashed. A depressing miserable picture - but there is a remedy (see v.13ff). When this happens the answer is repentance - seek God seriously, proclaim a fast, cry out to Him for mercy.
JUDGMENT IS COMING! - the Day of the LORD (15-18)
v.15 - This drying up and burning fire (v.20) is prophesied in the end times (Revelation 6:5,6; When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”16:8,12 The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.)
- the locust plague is made a symbol of the yet future day of the LORD (Isaiah 2:17-20 The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, But the idols will completely vanish. Men will go into caves of the rocks And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the Lord And the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble. ... they will go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble. Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed? Ezekiel 30:3 “For the day is near, Even the day of the Lord is near; It will be a day of clouds,
A time of doom for the nations.Revelation 19:15,16 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”). In this apocalyptic period (Rev 6-19), the Lord will manifest His power in putting down His enemies actively and publicly in order to set up His mediatorial Kingdom over Israel.
- The Bible assures us that a day is coming, the Day of the LORD and that it will be terrible! It is near! What is the Day of the LORD? - the day Jesus returns - a day of judgment. When Jesus returns He comes as judge and king. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Righteousness means that what He says goes! Justice means that He will execute judgment - recompense for what we have done. He will judge the world with righteousness and equity. All wrongs will be righted. Great for those that have been wronged, but what about those that have wronged them? It will not be the great day of joy that they had been anticipating. It will be a day of woe and destruction from God Himself!
The day of the LORD is coming! He will have His day! It will come! It is near! We have been warned! We must take heed lest we be caught unawares. But we have no excuse for its imminence has been proclaimed. It is a day of woe! Alas! It is near! How we long for the Day of the LORD, for Jesus to return. But it will not be as we expect (Amos 5:18-20 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; As when a man flees from a lion And a bear meets him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall And a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in Amos 8:9,10 It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord God,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon And make the earth dark in broad daylight.“Then I will turn your festivals into mourning And all your songs into lamentation; And I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins And baldness on every head. And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, And the end of it will be like a bitter day. Zephaniah 1:14-18 Near is the great day of the Lord, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and battle cry Against the fortified cities And the high corner towers. I will bring distress on men So that they will walk like the blind, Because they have sinned against the Lord; And their blood will be poured out like dust And their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord’s wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth.)
- It will be a day of calamity, not a day of joy. The day of יהוה the Almighty, El Shaddai Himself. It will come! It is near! The mouth of the LORD has spoken! Our response, the only appropriate one is collective repentance, self-humbling, mourning our neglect of the things of God, our sin, being absorbed in self-interest - desperate crying out to יהוה for mercy; earnestly, sincerely, desperately seeking of יהוה Himself as He really is.
v.16 - It is a time of misery and lack - materially and spiritually.
And the worship יהוה of is an onerous drag - all the joy and gladness has been cut off from the house of יהוה. He is no longer a source of satisfaction - only misery comes from His hand now that the Day of His judgment has arrived.
v.17 - This is not the devastation of the locust plague - they eat the plants but they do not prevent the seeds from germinating or cause the grain to dry up. This is another plague even more far reaching than the locusts that completely cuts off the food supply.This is because of the drying up, because the Source of Life has withheld the life-giving moisture
v.18 - It is not only the crops that are affected, also the livestock - this is more than locusts eating vegetation.The sheep too suffer and are destroyed - the word implies that the suffering is the consequence of guilt, because of wrong doing.
SEEK THE LORD! - He is our only hope (13,14,19,20)
v.13 - The situation is dire! - a response is required from man. When the circumstances are desperate, we don’t just shrug our shoulders and regard it as due to circumstances beyond our control. True we can do nothing about it because it is from God’s hand, but He can do something about it.
- We don’t just accept the terribleness of the situation - “Gird yourself” - there is something we can do: seek God! Mourn our loss, mourn the wrong way we have chosen and turn back to God. If we repent, then God’s hand may turn also. If we turn to Him, He may yet turn to us.
- Deep sorrow is the first response required, then repentance (i.e turning from our way to God’s). It is He who has been neglected while we have sought our own
- To put on sack cloth is a call for self humbling - mourning, a desperate crying out to God. Be serious, earnest and desperate in your seeking of God in view of the calamity that has come upon you.When things are lean our response should not be to work harder but to stop, set time aside and seek the LORD earnestly, mourn over our sin, humbly repent and cry out to Him for mercy.
v.14 - In view of the great crisis the urgent imperative is: to seek the LORD! The call to hear went to the elders and inhabitants (v.2) now it is they who are called to come before God and pray. The Day of the LORD is fast approaching, judgment that makes locust plagues seem like Sunday School! Is there not an urgent need to be seeking the LORD earnestly, to be praying to Him for mercy? Or do you think that it will not happen?
- Our only hope is to call upon the name of the LORD - it is they that do that will be saved in that day.
- But this was not to be just the spiritual leaders and ministers. The whole nation had to repent. A collective repentance was required Everyone had to be there - the leaders (the elders) and all the inhabitants of the land.Together we must seek the LORD with all our heart; crying out desperately, earnestly, sincerely.
- A fast was to be set aside, a holy period of self-humbling, consecrated to seek יהוה only to the disregard of physical needs. This had to be a priority. Seeking יהוה had to be the only thing that mattered. A desperate longing for יהוה and crying out to Him as the only hope. Nothing else matters but יהוה. It is imperative that my cry is heard by Him for He alone is the answer. He is all that matters! This is what fasting is saying. Oh how this is needed in our Western church today! For calamity is imminent - the Day of the LORD is not far away! Yet we are oblivious! (cf. v.5). It is time to awake and gird ourselves! To implore יהוה for mercy
v.19 - There is only one remedy: GOD! This is not locusts - this is destruction by fire as has been prophesied that will occur in the judgment of the great tribulation. This destruction by burning becomes more evident latter on in the book. This not locust but the final judgment of the LORD This tribulation comes from God, not from demonic sources. How readily we attribute all calamity to the enemy - by doing so we are prevented from hearing God speak to us.
- The only answer is in God! The situation is desperate! Joel makes the response that is seems the people don’t. Despite the calamity all around they don’t cry out to God, but the prophet cries to יהוה on their behalf. (Psalm 50:15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”)
v.20 - the animals have more spiritual discernment than humans! They know the destruction is from the hand of the Almighty. They seek Him, pant for Him - but does man? Burning sun dries up everything. It is heat that is causing this plague, not insects. even the wild animals are desperate for water. They are desperate for the Source of Living Water, for יהוה. Even the dumb animals know that the LORD is the Source of the water
- they thirst not for the water but for "YOU", the LORD, יהוה, the Source of the water and Provider of all they need. The water brooks are dried up and the pasture of the wilderness dried up - the reason is the LORD. The beasts of the field recognize it, but does hard-hearted man acknowledge it?
- A desperate situation! The imperative is to desperately seek יהוה! The Living Water (cf. Jeremiah 2:13 For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water. 17:13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord. Isaiah 55:1 Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,And delight yourself in abundance. John 7:37-39 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.) - Jesus to supply the Spirit of the Living God - this is the desperate need of the last days - without His Spirit we perish!
- 2Chron 7:14 is a well known verse:" if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” - do your know the context? Few know 2 Chron 7:13 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people,” - the context is God sending a locust plague - a sign of God’s judgment - our response should be to seek His face and turn from our wicked ways.