Joel 1:1-20 – It’s More Than Locusts

locust on a branch

Read Joel 1:1-20

Welcome to the book of Joel, another one of the twelve minor prophets. You may have noticed that Joel, compared to other prophets, started with a strikingly abbreviated “editorial heading.”  That’s what opens the book and sets forth the time frame and sometimes location where the prophet received the message from God. That being absent in Joel’s prophecy leads to much speculation among scholars. It’s good to keep in mind the timeless message given by Joel that sin brings God’s judgment, yet with God’s justice there is great mercy as well.

As you read through Joel, focus on the Holy Spirit’s message for you today regarding the contents. You may be also asking, is the prophecy about locusts? That’s part of it, but the questions should be, what’s the “real” message behind the locusts, and who do the locusts represent?

The locust plague was only a foretaste of the judgment to come in the day of the Lord. It speaks of a crisis and how to manage through it. Joel clearly wants people to pay attention and be ready for an attack by enemies or evil itself. We’ll also encounter a divine summons to repentance. God wants us!

As I read through this text, I didn’t necessarily picture a swarm of bugs, but rather an attack leading to a great crisis. I would say that anyone living in the “corona virus age” has witnessed firsthand what a world crisis looks like. People are now talking of resulting inflation, food shortages, and other such crisis situations to come. Joel’s words are powerful when you think past the locusts.

I also thought about the armies that attacked Israel and Judah predicted by some of the other prophets. We know a variety of invasions took place. Do Joel’s “locusts” represent great armies that will press in and take over God’s people? God’s message probably has many meanings, that being just one.

Do you marvel at Scripture and how it all fits together? Does God surprise you over and over with how he reveals himself to you in his word? When you can answer “yes” to both of those questions, you’ll know your connection with God is healthy and strong. That should be what we strive for, don’t you agree?

So much destruction and ruin results from a crisis. While it can be painful to dwell in the past, Joel wants people to tell their children about such locust devastation (fill in the blank with your own crisis). Why? So that future generations can learn from the mistakes and, hopefully, find solutions for those hard times.

It’s okay to grieve what is lost. Joel tells us to weep right along with the drunkards, wine drinkers, brides dressed in black, priests, ministers of the Lord, farmers, and vine growers, called out as having been impacted by the locust catastrophe. If you have been the victim of a swarm of evil in your life, it’s okay to weep. It’s a great way to cleanse yourself.

Joel’s words lead to great fear brewing in terms of what is yet to come. “The day of the Lord is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be!” I understand that the “day of the Lord” is a common phrase in the Old Testament and can refer to (1) a present event (like the plague), (2) a future event (destruction of Jerusalem), or (3) the final victory where God defeats evil. Of course, #3 would not at all be “terrible,” unless, of course, you were not a believer!

Did Joel speak to your heart today? Are you reminded of a predicament in your own life where you feel like you’re about to be defeated? What does Joel do? He cries out, “LORD, help us!” What good advice! Joel says even the wild animals cry out to God!

Take some time today to cry out to God for your own situation, that of a loved one, or even the world. Wars, famines, natural disasters, family dysfunction, illness, and financial stress has touched countless lives.

colorful animation of prayer hands and hearts and flowers

Let’s pray … God, please help us! Help me! One crisis after another seems to confront me. Thank you for how you have carried me through each storm of life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without your grace and mercy. I know these verses focused more on the fear and grief caused by such an invasion of evil, but I know your grace is sufficient for all trials I’ll face. Use me to introduce others to the depths of your love. I know you’ll do the rest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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