Joel 1:1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
The prophet Joel is difficult to date, but he may have written from Jerusalem around 500 BC, after many Jews returned from Babylonian exile. He foresaw a locust invasion that would devastate the land, and he called on God’s people to repent. He also foresaw a physical and spiritual blessing for God’s people, and judgment on their enemies. The prophet’s name means the Lord is God, which suggests that he came from a godly home.
Joel 1:4 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.
A plague of locusts would strip the nation of everything green, leaving little for God’s people to eat. To make things even worse, they would also suffer fire (Joel 1:19) and drought (Joel 1:20). This was not merely an act of nature, but of nature’s God. God was sending a plague on his people to turn them from their sins. It is hard to imagine a more thorough devastation.
Joel 2:1-2 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come.
The day of the Lord is an important theme that echoes throughout the prophets. Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty (Isaiah 13:6), wrote Isaiah. See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it (Isaiah 13:9), wrote Isaiah again.
For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near—a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations (Ezekiel 30:3), wrote Ezekiel. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11), wrote Joel. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:20), wrote Amos.
Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath (Zephaniah 1:18), wrote Zephaniah. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger (Zephaniah 2:3), wrote Zephaniah again.
In short, the day of the Lord is any catastrophic judgment which points ahead to the ultimate catastrophic judgment. [T]he day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:10), wrote Peter.
If we truly believe the day of the Lord is near, we will not be too attached to this present evil age (Galatians 1:4). We’ll be less attracted to the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25), and more attracted to the pleasures of God (Psalm 16:11). By storing up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20) we’ll have less to lose on earth. This is how to prepare for the day of the Lord.
Joel 2:12 Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.
The spiritual purpose behind every disaster is to turn us more fully to God. [U]nless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:3), said Jesus.
One of my friends asked if he could live a sinful life, turn to God on his deathbed, and still be saved. I had to admit there was some evidence in the Bible to support that idea (Luke 23:43), and he was glad to hear it. Then that is what I will do, he said. The only problem is that many who plan to repent at the eleventh hour die at ten-thirty. We can never repent too soon, because we never know when it will be too late.
Joel 2:13 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.
With all the calamity in the Bible, we might imagine God enjoys it, but he does not. [He] doesn’t willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone (Lamentations 3:33), wrote Jeremiah. I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live (Ezekiel 33:11), wrote Ezekiel. [He is] not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), wrote Peter. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world (CS Lewis). That is God’s purpose behind every calamity.
Reflection and Review
How can Christians prepare for the worst?
When is the best time to turn to God?
Why does pain awaken us to God?