Joel Highlights

I finished this book a while ago, but I wanted to write down some of the things that I learned from this small, yet packed book.  Joel was a prophet to Judah, the southern kingdom of the Hebrew nation.  He preached a message designed to expose sin and turn hearts back to the Lord because they had turned away and followed false idols. 

In Joel 1, the word of the Lord came to Joel to preach to the people to not let the story die...every generation must know.  They were to tell their children and grandchildren.  That caught my attention immediately, because it must be an extremely important message to make sure was told to future generations.  It was strange to find out the story was about locusts. 

I am sure everyone has heard of the plagues in Egypt when Moses was trying to get the Pharaoh to release the Hebrews.  One of the many plagues God used was with locusts.  I had never really given much thought to what all that entailed until this study. 

During this time, God used a plague of locusts to try and draw the people back to Himself.  Locusts had come into the land and gnawed, eaten, swarmed, creeped, and stripped the land.  It devoured everything edible, leaving not only the people but even the animals in a desperate state.  This was also a dual message which refers to enemies.  This was a plague of such magnitude that it seems as a permanent reminder of the coming day of the Lord.   

    For a nation had invaded my land, mighty and without number; its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and
    its fangs of a lioness.  It had made my vine a waste and my fig tree splinters.  It has stripped them
    bare and cast them away; their branches have become white.  Joel 1:6-7

More locust facts:
1.  There are ten Hebrew words to signify locusts.
2.  The word occurs in Revelation 9:3,7, in allusion to this devastating Oriental insect.
3.  The ordinary Syrian locust resembles the grasshopper but it's larger and more destructive.  "The
      legs and thighs of these insects are so powerful that they can leap to a height of two hundred times
      the length of their bodies.  When so raised they spread their wings and fly so close together as to
      appear like one compact moving mass."
4.   The devastation they make in Eastern lands are often appalling, among the worst calamities that
      can occur.  "Their numbers exceed computation: the Hebrews called them 'the countless,' and the
      Arabs knew them as 'the darkness of the sun.'
5.   At their approach the people the people are in anguish; all faces lose their color (Joel 2:6)
6.   No walls can stop them; no ditches arrest them; fires kindled in their path are forthwith
      extinguished by the myriads of their dead, and the countless armies march on (Joel 2:8-9)
7.   If a door or a window be open, they enter and destroy everything of wood in the house.  Every
      terrace, court, and inner chamber is filled with them in a moment. 
8.   Locusts will be released during the 5th trumpet judgement.  "Then out of the smoke came locusts
      upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.  They were
      told not to hurt the grass or any green thing, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on
      their foreheads.  They were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their
      torment was like that of a scorpion when it stings a man.  Men will seek death and will not find it;
      they will long to die and death flees from them.  (Revelation 9:1-6) 

Joel 2 begins with blowing a trumpet which refers to a warning of coming judgement.  Joel was warning the people that God was bringing judgement upon the land if they did not repent and turn back to Him.  Joel 3 is about judgement on all nations, which is yet to be fulfilled.  Judgement is coming to all people, just as surely as Joel declared to Israel in its need to return to God with fasting, sackcloth, and solemn assemblies, our nations need to repent as well.  No nation is exempt. 

So often when calamity hits a nation, people ask, "Why has this happened?"  The reason for this plague was for their turning away from God.  In Joel 2:12-14, God is asking them to return to Him with their whole heart and with fasting and weeping.  So why does God cause such calamity?  I love this story that will help us understand:

In the early spring of 1877, Minnesota farmers surveyed their lands, dreading the first hordes of locusts that had caused such a widespread destruction the summer before. Another such plague threatened to destroy Minnesota's rich wheat lands, spelling ruin for thousands of families.

Suddenly Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed April 26 a day of fasting and prayer, urging that every man, woman, and child ask divine help.  A strange hush fell over the land as Minnesotans solemnly assembled to pray.  The next morning, the sun rose in cloudless skies.  Temperatures soared to mid-summer heat.  The people looked up at the skies in wonder, and to their horror, the warm earth began to stir with the dreaded insects.

This was a strange answer!  Three days passed.  The unseasonable heat hatched out a vast army of locusts that threatned to engulf the entire Midwest!  Then, on the fourth day, the sun went down in a cold sky, and that night frost gripped the earth.  Most of the locusts were destroyed as surely as if fire had swept them away!  When summer came the wheat waved tall and green.  April 26 went down in history as the day on which a people's prayer had been answered.  (from Discovering the God of Second Chances by Kay Arthur and Pete DeLacy)

They turned back to God in the midst of calamity of locusts seeking God with fasting and prayer.  This is exactly the reason God sent the plague to Israel so they might return to Him.  Some problems are so huge we have to turn to Him and this is why He allows them to happen.  They reveal our spiritual poverty, our desperation, our complete and utter dependence on Him. 

If God uses a drastic measure to get us to turn back to Him, we must have gone somewhere we shouldn't have gone and need turning back.  We can sometimes become comfortable and complacent in our self-sufficiency trusting in our own strength, talents, and abilities.  How dependent on God would we be if we had adequate income, rest, fulfillment, careers, happy homes, good health, a solid community relationship, no crime, no disease, no shortages, and world peace.  Satan would do everything to try and convince us that we had created all of these things ourselves. 

Great disasters will appear in the heavens and on the earth before the Lord's return.  When He comes, no one will mistake it.  He isn't coming secretly in the form of a baby as He did the first time. 

He is coming in glory and power and He will judge mankind.  However, He is a God of second chances and no matter what we have done, we can't out sin God's forgiveness.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

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