Scripture reading – Joel 1; Joel 2
Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Joel. Authored by the prophet whose name it bears; Joel is only three chapters in length, and he is therefore named among the minor prophets. The subject of the book was the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), and God’s imminent judgment of Judah.
Summons to Old Men (1:2-4)
Summoning the “old men” to hear and give ear, Joel called upon them to testify of the judgment coming upon the nation, and that it was like none other that preceded it (1:2). The severity of God’s judgment would be so great, that it behooved the “old men” to tell the story of God’s judgment to the generations that would follow (1:3). Taking the locust and its four stages of growth as a symbol of four judgments, the portrait was drawn of a vast judgment that might provoke God’s people to repent and turn to the LORD (1:4; Jeremiah 15:3; Ezekiel 14:21).
Summons to the Drunkards (1:5-7)
After awakening the “old men,” the “drunkards” were summoned by Joel (1:5-7). These “drunkards” were a symbol of the hedonistic, pleasure-seeking people who reveled in the pleasures of wine and drunkenness (1:5). The judgment of God would fall upon the drunkards, and “the new wine…[would be] cut off from [their] mouth” (1:5b). Rather than locusts, the judgment of God would be carried out by “a nation [that was] come up upon [the LORD’s] land” (1:6).
Scholars are generally agreed this nation was Assyria, which a century before Joel’s prophecy had taken northern Israel captive (the ten tribes of the north). Described as “strong, and without number,” Assyria’s soldiers were the bane of the ancient world. Twice we read, the army of Assyria had “the teeth of a lion” (1:6). Joel prophesied the enemy would strip the land bare, wasting the vine (symbol of Judah), and the fig tree (most likely a symbol of Jerusalem, 1:7).
A General Summons to the Congregation (1:8-14)
With Assyria encamped outside the walls of Jerusalem, Joel summoned the people to gather before the LORD and call upon him. He implored the people to cry to the LORD like a young widow mourning the death of her husband (1:8). Judah was impoverished, and there was no harvest, therefore no offerings to the LORD (1:9-10). The farmer was commanded to bemoan the failure of his crops, and “be…ashamed” (1:11). Of the workers of the orchards, it was said their “joy [was] withered away,” for the vines and the fruit trees were withered (1:12). The priests and ministers [Levites] who assisted them were called to mourn and lament, for there were no offerings to present to the LORD (1:13).
Joel longed for the LORD to deliver Jerusalem from the enemy, and he called the people to gather at the Temple and display signs of repentance: Fast (sign of grief), “solemn assembly” (a common sorrow), gather at the Temple (a public sign of repentance), and “cry unto the LORD” to save them (1:14).
A Prophetic Lamentation (1:15-20)
Understanding only the LORD could save Judah, Joel cried, “15Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand [Day of Judgment]” (1:15). The siege of Jerusalem brought famine (“meat cut off before our eyes”), and a time of sorrow (1:16). There was no harvest, no offerings, and the barns rotted and the crops withered (1:17). The beasts failed, for there was no pastures (1:18). Joel cried to the LORD, “19O Lord, to thee will I cry” for all was lost without the LORD’s help (1:19-20).
Joel 2 – The Day of the LORD, the Day of Judgment
Joel’s penitent prayer for Jerusalem (Zion), continued in chapter 2, as the prophet summoned the priests to pray for the nation. “Blow ye the trumpet,” sound the alarm, “let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD” was imminent (2:1). The judgment the LORD brought upon Judah by Assyria was described as, “2A day of darkness and of gloominess, A day of clouds and of thick darkness” (2:2a).
The Assyrian armies that marched through Judah had destroyed everything in their path (2:3), and the army encamped outside Jerusalem was mighty and terrifying to look upon (2:4-5). All nations, walled fortresses, and cities had fallen to Assyria, and without the LORD, there was no hope for Jerusalem (2:6-9). Indeed, the whole earth trembled, and in the words of the prophet, even the sun, moon, and stars were moved by the sight of the great army of Assyria (2:10-11).
Why was the LORD bringing this great judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem? (2:12-32)
It was to the end the people would repent of their sin, turn to the LORD with all their “heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (2:12). Joel exhorted the people, “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God” (2:13). Cut away the callousness of your sinful hearts and repent, for “the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:13). Joel longed for a national revival, and called upon the priests to, “weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people…[lest the heathen] say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).
Closing thoughts – Joel’s longing for revival should be the passion of every believer. Yet, the LORD requires His children to acknowledge and confess their sins, and turn to the LORD. Repentance might bring with it the LORD’s gracious promise to “restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (2:25).
Believer, you cannot get back the time you have wasted in sin, but the LORD is merciful. In His grace He is able, and may repay what was lost in your foolishness, and give you cause to praise His name (2:26).
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