Book of Joel

Chapter 1, Part 1

Let me explain why we have left Psalms to study Joel. We all love the Book of Psalms, but we need to prepare ourselves. We are in times where things change not daily, but hourly. Earthquakes are coming more frequently and they are so large and destructive that we can’t take our attention from the television as we watch the broadcasts of what took place. Japan is a perfect example. Between their 9.0 earthquake and their 35-foot tsunami waves at least one town was demolished and thousands are dead and homeless. The news tells us daily about how the radioactive matter released from the failed nuclear power plants is already all over the world.  

I believe we are in the birth pangs Jesus warned about in Matthew 24:8 KJV. In the newer translations, they have corrected the translation of sorrows to birth pangs that is in the original writing. A woman in labor has pain at the beginning of her delivery cycle. As her labor progresses, the pains intensify and come closer together until the pains seem like one continuous bit of torture. Finally, when she thinks she can’t take any more, the child is born and relief comes with a heavy sigh.  

We need to know what to watch for and what to expect, so we will begin with Joel and see where the Holy Spirit takes us. Eventually, Lord willing, we will return to the Psalms.

In the book of Joel, the prophet Joel gives very little personal information about himself. Joel stated without hesitation that:

V. 1 “The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.” He set himself apart from all the other Joel’s by naming his Father, Pethuel. No one knows for sure when this book was written, but the content is prophetic as well as historic. The name “Joel” literally means “Yahweh is God.” There is no doubt that Joel was a prophet who heard from God. He just didn’t make much of himself in order that all focus would be on the Lord and His Words, not on the prophet.

Since both Isaiah and Amos borrowed information from the Book of Joel, scholars believe Joel is one of the earliest minor prophets. Speculation has it that Joel prophesied during the time of the high priest, Jehoiada, during the first 30 years of the reign of Joash, king of Judah. That would place Joel’s prophetic ministry between 835-805 B.C.

During the ministry of Joel, a great plague of locust devastated Judah leaving their fields bare of all vegetation as well as the pasturelands for the flocks and herds. Those locusts were so many and so ravenous they even ate the bark off the fig trees. This turned what a few hours before was a beautiful lush land into a wasteland. The crops of the land were destroyed, but worse yet, so were the seeds for the following year’s planting. A great famine came on the land and people and animals died.

The prophet, Amos, used Joel’s closing words in his writing to open his own. “The Lord shall roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem” (Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2). It makes sense then that Joel was before Amos. Albert Barnes said that Joel was first and that his writing was already widely distributed to the people. The Book of Amos reiterates the prophecies of Joel. Barnes said, “For the whole force of the words, as employed by Amos, depends upon their being recognized by his hearers, as a renewal of the prophecy of Joel.”

After his rather meager introduction, Joel dives right in to what the Lord has given him to say. He begins by asking: 

V. 2 “Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?" He’s telling the men and the people, not all over the earth, but in Judah, to search their memories to see if they had ever seen or heard from their fathers, the type of destruction that had befallen Judah. The answer is that they have not. Apparently even the plagues of Egypt were not as horrifying as what happened in Judah, the southern kingdom.  

What came was so devastating that Joel told the people to remember it and pass it down as oral tradition. He said:

V. 3 “Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation .” They were not to tell this as a mere story or parable, but in such a way as to teach their generations to reverence and fear God and the power of His judgments. This fear was to encourage the nation to live uprightly before God so these types of judgments would not come on the land where they lived. It was never to be forgotten.  

We must understand the truth of this for ourselves as well. As we learn about the Lord and his judgments we must teach it to the next generations. That’s one function of the church and of the Holy Days we celebrate, such as Christmas, the birth, and Easter as well. We need to learn and share so that there is no reason for people to go to hell. This doesn’t only mean our natural family, but everyone we meet.

What is Joel referring to?
V. 4 “That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten” Apparently no one knows exactly what the differences were in these 4 insects, but they were very voracious eaters and cleared every piece of vegetation form the land of Judea. Matthew Henry said of these insects, “…any one of them despicable, and which a man might easily crush with his foot or with his finger; but when they came in vast swarms, or shoals, they were very formidable and ate up all before them.” He made another good point when he said, “God is Lord of hosts, has all creatures at his command, and, when he pleases, can humble and mortify a proud and rebellious people by the weakest and most contemptible creatures.” Such a little bug can take down a mighty empire and cause great famine.

This reminds me of the speculation of how God will end the world. Two of the theories are a comet crashing in to earth, or nuclear attacks. Both are, of course, very possible, but I’m sticking to the truth that God made the earth without the help of man, He surely can figure out how to destroy it without man-made weapons. Truth be told, the weaker the weapon God uses to subdue his enemies, the more visible is his power.  

V. 5 “Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.” Yes, this means literal drunkenness. It also means drunk in sin. The people Joel is addressing were drowsy from drink and from sin. Whether one is drunk from wine or sin, the mind is made weak, discernment flies out the window, and more sin is the result. Joel told them to weep (mourn with tears) their sadness at the loss of the vineyards. God’s judgment had come, the wine no longer flowed, and the impetus for sin was gone. There would be no new wine.

Another thing about wine is it was used in Jewish festivals, feasts and Holy Days. It is said to make the heart merry. Jesus drank wine during Passover before He was hanged on the cross. How do I know? Scripture says so! Look at Luke 7:33-34, “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.””They would not have referred to Jesus as a drunkard had he been drinking unfermented grape juice. In mark 14:25, Jesus also said, “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Jesus will have wine with us at the Marriage supper of the Lamb, I believe. However, we are warned, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Wine causes people to behave irrationally. It renders the drinkers unable to make wise choices.  

The people were to mourn the loss of this beverage and the grapes from which it was made. The insects had devoured all leaving bare vines. There would be no gaiety in their holidays.

V. 6 “For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.” The nation spoken of here is the insects, a massive amount of insects that got on and in everything and ate their way out.  

This allegory is not exclusive in Scripture. Solomon wrote, “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces” (Proverbs 30:25-28). Coneys are rabbits.  

The “cheek teeth” are the molars that masticate the food lions, or anyone with teeth, eat. This tells us that the bugs had strong teeth and jaws that allowed them to eat even the bows and branches of the plants. The devil gnaws at his victims like a lion gnawing a gazelle.

This verse can also be seen as a prophecy about the nations that would invade Israel. Assyria, under the leadership of Sennacherib came down and took the cities of Judah. They demolished the cities of Judea and overran all their possessions, ruining their fields and such. But I believe it is really an insect judgment of God on the people drunk with sin in Judah. 

Book of Joel

Chapter 1, Part 2

One of the plagues God used to persuade Pharaoh to release the people of Israel was locusts. In Deuteronomy, Moses lists the blessings for Israel if she will heed and follow God’s commandments. After the blessings, Moses also listed the curses which would befall Israel if she did not obey the Lord. Among them is, “Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it” (Deuteronomy 28:34). It was something they knew would come if they went against the Lord, yet they went after false gods. We have people doing that now.  

Instead of worshipping God, people are worshipping their pastor, like Rob Bell who says even if you go to hell, God will eventually bring you out and to heaven. That is NOT in my Bible. Or Oprah who says we are all gods and that there are many paths to heaven, also not in my Bible. Or Dr. Oz (He’s a favorite of Rick Warren.) who teaches new age methods and has even Christians following his teaching; or anyone who doesn’t tell them the truth about God and His vengeance. They make up things like, “God loves you and would never send you to hell!” They are right! God loves us deeply and will never SEND us to hell. We sign up to go by rejecting Jesus. They tell us we are gods and there is no ONE Supreme Being but that God is a concept or a crutch. They lie and it’s the lie of hell that leads to death. Beware of who you listen to and believe.  

“He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white” (Joel 1:7). This is a vision of extreme devastation. The locusts, not satisfied yet with all the greenery they consumed, now head to the trees, eat the leaves and denude the trees, feasting on the bark till the trees are white and bare. This would probably kill the trees because they no longer had protection from the elements or from disease.

The vines and the fig trees are often used as metaphors by God to speak of Israel. “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it” (Psalm 80:8). We know that God took the Israelis out of Egypt and, by their own fault, caused them to wander in the desert for 40 years. When that time was over, and the generation of doubters was dead, the Lord gave Joshua the task of leading the men in fighting the enemies of Israel and taking over their lands. God “planted” His vine, His fig tree in the midst of new land. The Jews were to bear children in the land. They were to grow mightily and cover the land as they possessed it. As long as they obeyed God, He kept the vine healthy and strong. When they began to stray, God began to prune. 

Instead of making this a place where God’s name was revered and held above all others, the Jews began to build altars and temples to the foreign gods of the land they lived in. They used the resources God provided to honor the false gods with sacrifices of wine, fruit and other things. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldeans, Antiochus, and Rome all conquered the vine or fig that is Israel. Piece by piece, they lost their heritage. Get the picture here, please. They gave worship and sacrifices to statues. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). (Italics added.) This is clear, and yet, the Israelites behaved contrary to what God instructed.  

There is one more time remaining in the future when Israel will suffer at the hands of a despot. That will be during the second half of the Tribulation when antichrist (with teeth and cheek teeth of a lion) will persecute them terribly until the great day when Jesus comes to earth for the second time. “Our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:5). Jesus will come to earth for a second time. Then He make a hiding place for Israel as He deals directly and finally with the enemy that has wanted her dead for millennia.  

“Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth” (verse 8). One thing for sure, the Jews know how to lament. They cry, howl, wail and in some cases tear their clothes apart. Here we see the picture of a virgin waiting for her groom to marry her and take her home to become one. As she waits, word comes that the groom has been killed and there would be no wedding at this time. She would have to find another Groom to marry. She removes her wedding gown and dons a rough, scratchy garment of sackcloth that will chaff her delicate skin. She will then begin to howl out her grief.  

Jesus cried over Jerusalem. “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19.41). She has turned her back on Jesus and to this day, most Jews do not accept Jesus as Messiah come to save that which was lost.

“For thy Maker [is] thine husband; the LORD of hosts [is] his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called” (Isaiah 54:5). Through her idolatry and because of her unholy sacrifices to false gods, Israel lost her Groom.  

We, the church of Christ are called the Bride of Christ. A false doctrine that is preached is that the church of Christ has replaced Israel in God’s affection. That is unequivocally not so. We are grafted in to the vine, but we are not the vine that God planted. God will deal with Israel in His time and in His way. We, the bride, wait not too patiently for the day Jesus will call us to meet Him in the air. When that happens, we will be given our robes of pure white, which is our robes of righteousness, our wedding gown, if you will, and Jesus will take us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb where we will become one forever with the Lord. Know this, however. Israel will always be the apple of God’s eye. (Zechariah 2:8)  

“The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD's ministers, mourn” (verse 9). When the locusts cleared the fields and vines they took away the product of the offerings. John Gill said that the offerings consisted of meat made of fine flour, oil, and frankincense; and that the drink offering was of wine. Remember, making the sacrifices wasn’t just the work of the priests, it was their provision. They got their food for themselves and their families from the offerings brought for sacrifice. If there were no food or drink offerings brought in, the priests didn’t eat. That would certainly cause them to weep and mourn over the loss of both because they could no longer provide for their families.

The Israelites are now preparing to rebuild the temple. Whether it will be done before or after the rapture is not known. They have the money and they have the priests who will offer the sacrifices. They have made the priestly garments. All is ready. The last time they had a temple to worship in was before 70AD when the second temple was destroyed according to the prophecy of Jesus.  

“The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished” (verse 10, 11). The oil meant here was and is oil made from olives. Israel used olive oil for everything, including skin and hair care. The olive trees were devastated along with all other vegetation. The land is sad, the people in mourning for the loss of those things which bring joy. 

All of the vinedressers, orchard keepers and the farmers sat in despondency when they looked at the bare fields, vines and trees. All the work they had done was gone. The land went from a colorful, beautiful vista to a whiteness of death in hours. Their income had just vanished for the year, and they watched it disappear. Karen only plants a small garden here in comparison and if we lost it, we would howl in disappointment.  

We must understand the wider scope of this destruction. Without grain growing in the fields, there was no way to feed their livestock either. Their animals would perish without food, and that means a famine in the land. Rather than giving God praise in all things (I Thessalonians 5:18), and knowing that “all things work together for the good for those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28), they mourned their loses.  

“The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men” (verse 12). Now Joel expands the explanation of all that was lost. Every fruit bearing tree was bare, all the fruit eaten or falling to the ground. There would be no refreshing fruit to eat, no worship because they had no sacrifices to bring, and there could be no feasts for the same reason. Also, they had no wine to cheer them.

“Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God” (verse 13). “Gird yourselves” is Joel telling the people to dress in sackcloth, the robe of mourning. In the United States, the dress of mourning is black. Black is a somber color and is a visible demonstration of loss and sadness. For the Israelites, that garment was the rough sackcloth. Anyone seeing them dressed in it knew they were mourning. The priests were to dress in this fabric and stay in it day and night.  

As the spiritual leaders of Israel, the priests were called to repentance, not only for personal sin, but as an example to the people that they would follow their lead and repent. When reading the Bible, we see over and over what happened to Israel when she disobeyed, and then how God restrained His hand when they repented and turned to Him.

Book of Joel

Chapter 1, Part 3

“Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God” (Joel 1:13).  

In his commentary on Joel 13, Matthew Henry said, “Let the priests, the Lord's ministers, lament, for they share deeply in the calamity.” This means that the priests were no better than the people. It is there position to teach the people about right living and do it as much by example as by preaching, yet they didn’t.  

To gird is to prepare. The priests were to prepare themselves for the wailing and lamenting by belting on sackcloth. Sackcloth was made of camel’s hair, goat’s hair, flax, or cotton and was very rough. It was worn as a sign of mourning for the loss of loved ones or sorrow over one’s sins. In this case, it was worn in mourning for what they had lost through the ravaging of the four kinds of locusts that would cause heavy destruction to the substances of the sacrifices.  

Joel called the priests (the ministers of God called by God) to enter the house of the Almighty God (their God) where He met with them and gave them mercy, lie at the altar where they normally offered up sacrifices, and “lament.” That is, they were to express their deep sadness over the judgments of God that had passed and was coming. The insects had done their business. There would be no sacrifices for the covering of the priests’ sins or those of the people. It was be a terrible loss for them all.  

We are so blessed who know Jesus that we don’t have to worry about the sacrifices offered by man for sin. I will put the Scripture here that shows Jesus is our new High Priest and that He was the “once for all” sacrifice that eliminated the further need of offerings in any altar. I will use the Amplified version for this.

“In keeping with [the oath's greater strength and force], Jesus has become the Guarantee of a better (stronger) agreement [a more excellent and more advantageous covenant]. [Again, the former successive line of priests] was made up of many, because they were each prevented by death from continuing [perpetually in office]; But He holds His priesthood unchangeably, because He lives on forever. Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. Here is] the High Priest [perfectly adapted] to our needs, as was fitting--holy, blameless, unstained by sin, separated from sinners, and exalted higher than the heavens. He has no day by day necessity, as [do each of these other] high priests, to offer sacrifice first of all for his own [personal] sins and then for
those of the people, because He [met all the requirements] once for all when He brought Himself [as a sacrifice] which He offered up. For the Law sets up men in their weakness [frail, sinful, dying human beings] as high priests, but the word of [God's] oath, which [was spoken later] after the institution of the Law, [chooses and appoints as priest One Whose appointment is complete and permanent], a Son Who has been made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:22-28).

There will never be a need of sacrifices for cleansing of sin again. Jesus is our propitiation, our Blood Sacrifice, our water of renewing. The body He lived in died, but He will never die. He sits at the right hand of God even making intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)  

Jesus had not yet come, so the sacrifices were still the way of purifying the people. It was never complete, as only the perfect Blood of a sinless man could accomplish that, but the sacrifices gave them relief for periods of time.  

The priests were to lay on the floor howling out their grief. Normally, they would be singing and praising the Lord in the sanctuary. But Joel told them to change that to the wailing cries of a mournful person as they counted what they had lost and caused all of Israel to lose through their perversions and sins. What they lost were the meat and wine offerings for the sacrifices. The meat, in this case, refers to the grains and herbs which they formed into cakes and burnt on the altar.  

”Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD, Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (verses 14, 15). It was the priests’ job to “sanctify” or “set apart” a time of fasting. They would announce it and allow the people time to prepare for it. The priests were to keep the fast and watch that the congregation did too. This was to be a religious fast, a true fast where one forgoes eating and drinking for a set amount of time.  

The “solemn assembly” was that the people would do no work during the time of fasting, but that they would meet at the temple where they would pray together, not in thanksgiving for the benefits of God, but in sadness seeking relief from the hand of God for themselves, their land and their animals.  

By “elders” Joel meant not only the old people, but those who were responsible for the governing of the people. The elders were to call “all the inhabitants of the land” to come to the “house of the Lord” where they would fast and mourn right along with them. It was the example of the elders that led the people astray from worshipping the one true Jehovah God. Now they are called to lead the fast in humility so that the people would follow. Together they would mourn, wail, and fast.  

The sackcloth and fasting were not of themselves of any use without the prayer. The sackcloth was a symbol of humility and the fasting was a discipline that drew the people to the Lord. Once they were to the Lord, it was their prayer that the Holy Spirit used to transform the life of the fast-er and bring the change he was fasting to accomplish.  

They were not simply fasting for what had happened by the locusts, but for what would happen at the hand of God in judgment. Joel warned them, “…for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.”  

‘Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?” (Verse 16) They saw the destruction of all their crops and vegetation. Joel tells them this loss is not the end of God’s Judgment. Having lost their sustenance and their meat and wine for sacrificing, the joy of the Lord was no longer with them.

“The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered” (verse 17). It wasn’t just the crops that had grown and were dead, but the crops of wheat and rye that were still in the ground that were ruined. The seeds of the grains dried out and died. There was no supply in the storehouses.  

“How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate” (verse18). The animals in the flocks and herds were confused. They were used to roaming the fields, or in the case of sheep, being led to food, green grass, hay etc… But now there was no food to be found. They groaned with hunger and thirst.

“O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field” (verse 19). The cry was their prayer with longing. They were seeking forgiveness. The priests and the elders led in prayer and the people joined their ‘howl”[s] of fervent prayer. Again let me say that fasting and sackcloth do not change things. It’s the prayer of the righteous that avails much.  

During the Tribulation men will suffer many difficult times. There will be an earthquake of tremendous size that will kill a quarter of the population of the world. There will be wars and there will be “locusts” that will come out of the smoke of the earth (Revelation 9:1-11) and famines. But they still won’t “cry out” to the Lord Jesus. They will cry for the mountains to fall on them instead. They will not bow their knee to the King of kings and seek forgiveness.  

The men Joel is speaking to were called to cry out to God. The locusts had cleared everything off. This caused the plants to “burn up” or dry out as though burned by fire.  

“The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness” (verse 20). Some have called this verse one of personification where an animal is used in place of a person. I don’t think so. When the animals roam about seeking for food and find none, they cry out. God said that He provides for the birds who do not work. (Matthew 6:26)  

When the leaves fall off the trees and the grass is low, it clears the way for the wind to blow over the land. That’s probably what this is saying. The sun and the winds dried up their drinking spots so that now the animals not only couldn’t eat there was nothing for them to drink.  

Joel called the religious leaders, the elders of the tribes and the people to come together as one, hold a fast, and repent of their personal sin and the sin of the nation as a whole. We could learn from that. If our spiritual leaders as well as our government leaders would come together and repent of their sin and the sins of this nation, God would stay His hand of judgment. We can do it on a smaller scale by repenting of the sins we continue in, turn from them and begin to live a more righteous life before the Lord.

Book of Joel

Chapter 1, Part 4

“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand…” (Joel 2:1) (Jeremiah 4:5; Zephaniah 1:16) Zion is the mountain in Jerusalem that Jesus will split. Jews will pass through there into safety. There will come from Jerusalem “living waters” that will flow, “half toward the eastern sea and half toward the western sea” (Zechariah 14:1-9). Zion is the mountain Jesus will return to at His Second Coming. That is, after the rapture has occurred and at the middle of the Tribulation.

In chapter 1 Joel described the killing army of locusts, palmerworm, caterpillar, cankerworm and drought that devastated Israel. These things brought on a famine in the land and even the animals groaned in hunger. 

It was the job of priests to blow the trumpet (shofar; ram’s horn) to announce assemblies, feasts days, the beginning of a new month or danger coming. It was the priests whom Joel was addressing here. This is another example from the Word of God that it is the priests, or ministers, who are given the task of sounding the alarm about sin in their congregations. In Joel, this call was to the entire nation. Every one of them lived in sin and every one had to hear the warning Joel would issue.  

Look at what John Calvin (10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) said;

And it hence appears how much we have departed from the right and lawful order of things; for at this day it would be new and unusual to proclaim a fast. How so? Because the greater part are become hardened; and as they know not commonly what repentance is, so they understand not what the profession of repentance means; for they understand not what sin is, what the wrath of God is, what grace is. It is then no wonder that they are so secure, and that when praying for pardon is mentioned, it is a thing wholly unknown at this day.

Does that describe our day or what? Hundreds of years ago sin was so bad, people’s hearts were hardened. A hard heart is one that denies the Christ continually until the point where it can no longer be changed to see the truth. Look at the news some day and see all the sin and deprivation going on, then try to imagine a pastor blowing a shofar in the United States to call all sinners to gather and admit their sin before the Lord? Now imagine them all participating in a fast. But this is what Joel was directing the priests to do. Call them all, old, young and in between, and get them to fast together before God. John pointedly said that people are too “stupid” to come like that, but that we must learn from the prophets it’s the minister’s job to teach them about repentance.  

Joel wanted the people to come to the assembly in fear with trembling. This assembly was not to be a party. All the people were to come reverencing God. “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness” (Jeremiah 23:9).

“…for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” Look what Calvin says of this:

By these words he first intimates that we are not to wait until God strikes us, but that as soon as he shows signs of his wrath, we ought to anticipate his judgment. When God then warns us of his displeasure, we ought instantly to solicit pardon.

“The day of the Lord” is any day His judgment falls on the people of this earth.

“A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations” (verse 2). (Also read Zephaniah 1:14, 15.) Joel uses the words “dark” and “gloomy” to shove home the fact that there is no hope of deliverance apart from the Lord. The cloud is explained in Lamentations 3:44, “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud that our prayer should not pass through.” So even if they did bow their knees in prayer, it would not touch God’s heart. It was going to take more than prayer. It would take fasting and repentance.  

“…a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” One of the plagues on Egypt was locusts. They are most often spoken of in the Bible as a form of punishment. Locusts don’t just come in swarms as has been said of them; they come in clouds dense enough to blot out the sun. If you have ever been in the mountains and up before sunrise, you saw how the sun overtakes everything all at once. Seems it no sooner appears than all the earth around is illuminated by its rays. This is what the locusts did. They came so suddenly on the winds that they instantly blotted out the sun and the temperature dropped. The locusts then settled in to eat while they rested from their flight. This is how the army would come; quick, strong and ready to devour anyone in its path.  

Whether “a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like” refers to the locusts, the Babylonian Army or the Assyrian Army, the damage would be extensive. This referred only To Judea because Egypt before her had suffered the great plague of locusts, so it had happened before, just not there, and “neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” This might refer to the fact that Judah was swarmed by four individual types of devouring insects, one after the other, and that’s what would never happen again.

I thought you might be interested in the following information I found about locusts:

It was only in 1921 that the mystery of the locust was solved. Prior to this date researchers wondered what became of the locust during the years in which there were no outbreaks. In 1921 B. P. Uvarov demonstrated that the swarming locust was none other than an ordinary species of grasshopper. However, when moisture and temperature conditions favored a large hatch, the crowding, unceasing contact, and jostling of the nymphs begin to stimulate changes in coloration, physiology, metabolism, and behavior, so that the grasshopper nymphs make the transition from solitary behavior to the swarming gregarious and migratory phases of the dreaded plague. Plagues continue as long as climatic conditions favor the large hatches. Once entering their gregarious phase, swarms, of locusts can migrate great distances and have even been observed twelve hundred miles at sea. The swarms can reach great sizes: a swarm across the Red Sea in 1889 was estimated to cover two
thousand square miles. A swarm is estimated to contain up to 120 million insects per mile Baro Desert Locust, (Raymond Dillard, The Minor Prophets, “Joel,” p. 255-56).

We have to admit, that’s a lot of voracious mouths in a mile. In the measurement I found of Judah (Judea) the land was 1350 square miles. That would mean 162,000,000,000 (one hundred sixty-two billion) bugs came toward them to devour everything in sight. We can understand now why the devastation was so complete.  

“A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them” (verse 3). This means that the locusts were like a fire that consumes everything in its path. As they came in on the winds, they began to eat their way through the country. The aftermath of their passing is that everything looked as though it had been burned. A swarm of locusts can eat as much as 2,500 people per day. 

I like the analogy Joel used here when he likens Judah to the lush herbaceous Garden of Eden. Before the “army” arrived, the land was healthy and green with fruit trees, wheat and corn fields and vineyards with water for the animals. When they left, it was like a dessert scorched by the sun. Nothing survived their invasions. Some of the trees would take two years to recover.  

“The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap; like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array” (verse 4, 5). I have added a picture below. It’s of a locust. You can see that its head is similar to that of a horse. Locusts are very noisy and loud as they travel along. Anyone in an area where locusts are approaching will see and hear them. Locusts don’t walk they leap if they are not flying. This causes a cacophony that assaults the ears. 

Book of Joel

Chapter 1, Part 5

We are still looking at the massive destruction in Judah caused by the vast army of locusts. Moses foretold this locust invasion in Deuteronomy 28:38, 39 and 42, “Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.” Verse 45b tells us why: “because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee.”  

“Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness” (Joel 2:6). That is, before the faces of the locusts the people were in pain as a woman in labor. They saw all their hard work gobbled up by ravenous insects in a matter of hours. What had taken weeks to plan and months to tend was gone. There would be neither food, nor wine, nor oil for anointing. There would be nothing for the priests to offer as sacrifices. And all the people would be without work.  

Lamentation 4:9 says that “they that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger for these pine away, stricken for want of the fruits of the fields.” When we are downcast, people say we look dark. That’s what this is about. These people were in utter despair and it showed on their faces.

“They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief” (verse 7-9). The insects follow rank. They stay in the position they started in and move as one in their pursuit of food. If a house is in their path, they enter it, one way of another. Even if someone were to whack at the locusts with something hard enough to kill them, the locusts of judgment are not killed. They are not even slowed down. Their focus is on returning to their position in the army.  

John Gill said, “they shall climb the wall like men of war; scale the walls of cities as besiegers do; walls and bulwarks cannot keep them out; all places are accessible to them, walled cities, towns, yea, even houses.”

Oh that we would have such determination and loyalty to the Lord that we would follow Him as one army allowing nothing to move us or get in the way of our spiritual growth. If each one took up his position behind the Lord to do the job He assigns us, we could overtake and conquer unbelief. But we are not one army. We are various denominations or non-denominations with our own agenda. We don’t read the Bible and believe what it says, we read and rewrite it to make it say what feels good and is less painful. We don’t see things there as literal, but as figurative, only detailing what might happen when, in fact, much of what the Bible warned about has already come to pass, including the birth, death, and resurrection of the Christ, yet people are teaching things such as, “Jesus was a good man, a wise and knowledgeable man, but He wasn’t God.” See what John 10:30 has to tell us about that. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." That’s a
pretty blatant claim from a “good man” wouldn’t you say?  

I’m a literalist. Unless a Scripture verse has a preposition such as “as” or “like” which indicate similarity, I take it for what it says. Example from our text: “They shall run like mighty men.” This tells us for sure the runners (locusts) are not human men, but they are moving along at a rapid pace as men would when running.  

“Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path…” None of the locusts pushed or shoved the other locusts out of position or hindered their progress. Christians can learn from this too. We should not crave or seek after someone else’s position in Christ. We all have gifts and talents given us to use in service to the Lord. We should not be like the world where they angle for the best positions with the highest pay. You see, we already have the “best position” for us, and we will all receive the best pay, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” If we do our jobs in faith believing we are in the best place we can be in, we will all receive the same blessing. Read Matthew 20:1-16.  

“The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” (Verse 10, 11) Matthew Henry said, “When the inhabitants of the land are made to quake it seems to them as if all about them trembled too.” This is the image of people overcome with fear.  

The locusts caused a total solar eclipse to take place. Their swarm was so large, so dense, that it blotted out the sun for a period of time till they landed. Their night flights over bodies of water and such explain the lunar eclipse they cause as well.  

God called this army of locusts out as a punishment to the people for forgetting He is God and forgetting to thank Him for their blessings. They forgot that without Him they were nothing and would have nothing as they had nothing before. God commanded this army with His voice, and they listened. He said, “Eat the grass,” and they ate. He said, “Strip the vines,” and they did. He said, “Eat the produce of the land and next year’s seed supply,” and they devoured all. What a mighty God it is who calls tiny insects that are the size of our little finger to war leaving an entire nation in the throes of famine and thirst.  

The people of Judah were living in sin. Sin has consequences that often last a long time. This plague of locusts demonstrates that. The Lord’s voice sent these hungry creatures against the land where the sinful people of Judah lived who drank and caroused as they disregarded the warning of the Father. “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12). They forgot about the Lord and the price paid for it was high.

Understand that this warning isn’t just about the coming locusts. This is a transitional verse and is also about a great and mighty Day of the Lord (judgment day) and about a mighty army that will come forth just before Jesus returns to set up His earthly kingdom. This will not be a war of nations and kings against nation and kings, but a gathering of ten kings and antichrist that will come against Israel to defeat her completely and finally. It’s a fight of evil trying to overcome Good, and one that will see many millions die as the Sword of the Word comes forth from the mouth of Jesus and slays them. It’s a battle that will result in a river of blood flowing with dead men’s and horses’ bones. It will be a war where the armies made up of the enemies of God will once for all meet their demise. The carnage will be so enormous it will take 7 months to bury the dead and clean things up. After that battle, the antichrist and his false
prophet will be thrown directly into the Lake of Fire and satan, also known as the dragon, will be bound and tossed into the pit for 1,000 years. Peace will finally come to the earth for 1,000 years until the devil is released once again for a short time before being cast into the Lake of Fire with the rest of his cohorts and all who followed them and those who took the mark of the beast. If you are wondering what that battle is, it’s the Battle of Armageddon.  

“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (verses 12, 13). These two verses made such an impression on me the first time I studied through Joel that I never forgot them, especially verse 13.  

One of the reasons the Jews mourned to loss of their crops and herds was that they now had nothing to offer the priest as sacrifices. The people of Judah were under covenant with God and they figured as long as they kept making the sacrifices, which they did religiously, God was honor-bound to keep the covenant. What they didn’t realize is that their evil living had already broken the covenant. Remember what we read above in Deuteronomy 6, “then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” That was the condition of the covenant. The Jews had to remember God who made all this good living possible. They forgot!

Judah made the sacrifices God required, but not from a heart of gratitude. They made them from their own selfish needs. What God was seeking was an honest repentance. He wanted His chosen people to ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, and they did. When Moses made petition on his face before the Lord for Israel, God’s heart was turned and the people were saved. God was telling them to come in the same humble way Moses did. It’s never too late to ask for deliverance from the wrath of God.

But look at verse 13. God calls the Jews to not only publically rip their garments in contrition, but to rend, tear, break their hearts. The ripping of clothes wasn’t a common occurrence. Clothes even then were very expensive to make or buy. They were likely to rip their clothes only during times of extreme duress such a violent sudden death of a loved one. Yet this is the kind of depth of remorse God wanted. To rip the clothes is an outward symbol. To rend the heart is an inward demonstration of faith in God to forgive. God longed for them all to have a “broken and a contrite heart.” (Psalm 51:7)  

God still wants that from His people creation. He wants them to suffer a broken heart for their sin. He wants them to bow their knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God. He wants none to perish but for all to come to repentance. Praise the Lord, we heard and we came, in Jesus’ name.
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Book of Joel

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Bible Study Opening