1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel
An Invasion of Locusts
2 Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.
Bible commentary for 1:1-3
The first chapter describes the destruction brought by a plague of locusts. Joel opens with an urgent call to his listeners to recognize what has just happened. The leaders(elders) are told to pay attention (v 2) and to teach their children (v 3). The judgment of God is serious business.
How often do we fail to communicate this to our children and others in the rising generation? As we see in the Scriptures, we are only one generation away from forgetting the seriousness of the fear of the Lord (Judges 2:8-10) as well as good news of the gospel (2 Tim. 2:1-2) Just as the Israelites were to pass down to their children the mighty deeds of the Lord on their behalf, so should we. Most importantly, we should tell the next generation of the mighty deeds of the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4 What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. 5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. 6 For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. 7 It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white. 8 Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. 9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord. 10 The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil languishes. 11 Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished. 12 The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, and apple, all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man.
Here is a vivid picture of the destruction brought by the locusts. The descriptions are reminiscent of the locust plagues brought upon the Egyptians at the time of Israel’s exodus. The difference here is that the plague comes as judgment not upon some foreign oppressor but upon the people of God themselves.
This might seem strange, but the Scriptures are clear that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves”(Heb 12:6). While we should be careful not to interpret every hardship or trial as discipline from the Lord-the mistake of the Pharisees in John 9-we should not forget that God may chastise us as he knows is best for the sake of our souls. Through the revelation that comes through his prophet Joel, it is clear that this plague comes as judgment upon God’s people. Yet the fact that God wants everyone(elders and children, rulers and workers, drunkards and priests)to know of this judgment makes it clear that he is also wanting to claim the attention and reclaim the hearts of his people.
It may take significant prayer and discernment to know whether our trials are for our discipline or for our development, but we can always be sure that the sovereign Lord is accomplishing his good purposes, not only in the world at large but in our life-as he was ultimately doing for Israel here.
A Call to Repentance
13 Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. 14 Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. 15 Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. 16 Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? 17 The seed shrivels under the clods; the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. 18 How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. 19 To you, O Lord, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. 20 Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
The proper response to God’s judgment is contrite repentance. Sackcloth(v13) was a very itchy and uncomfortable fabric that was a symbol of humility before the Lord. To “wail” or cry out was another clear expression of sorrow.
And yet the Lord is not mainly concerned with the outward evidences of penitence but rather with genuine repentance from the heart. The fact that God is more desirous of fasts from the contrite then rich offerings from the wayward signifies his priority on genuine repentance and authentic relationship(vv13-14). Such priorities compel us to discern whether we are more sorry about the consequences of our sin (in this case, the destroyed crops and flocks) or about the fact that we have offended our holy God (2 Cor. 7:9-10). The latter is the evidence of true repentance.
The good news is that God does not give up on his people but is determined to be faithful to his promises and to finish what he started in their lives.
Phil. 1:6— God began doing a good work in you. And he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. I am sure of that.
His purifying fires, for those united to Christ, are ultimately for our good.
In the first part it instructs us to share the word with the next generation. Share it with our family and with others. The next section of verses talks about discipline. I thank the Lord daily for all my bad times, along with the good because whether good or bad it has helped me develop into the person I am today. In the last section of verses, it tells me that when I ask God for forgiveness and tell Him how sorry I am, I better mean it, because he always knows what is truly in my heart. Thank you Lord for never giving up on us.
I wish everyone a very blessed Monday.