Read: Joel 1-3
The prophet Joel, son of Pethuel, delivers his short and succinct message to Judah. Some say the locusts are allegorical while others point to the invasion of the devouring bugs as a real event that Joel uses to get people’s attention. Peter, the fisherman turned apostle, was certainly familiar with the words of Joel as he quoted him in his first sermon at Pentecost. I suspect many in the crowd were familiar with the reference.
What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten.
Now that you have that firmly in mind:
Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine;
wail because of the new wine,
for it has been snatched from your lips.
Joel must have been a great preacher! His words are vivid and his message was short–sometimes fewer words get more attention. We are reminded to call upon the Lord for help in this time of great need. The time to repent is now:
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.
For he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love.
What if we were more gracious and compassionate? What if we would slow down and resist being angry? What if we abounded in love? Would we not be attractive to a world that is consumed with selfish, instant gratification? Lord, help us to read the description of your great love and change our ways to be like your ways.
Surely he has done great things!
Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things!
And after the devastation, the Lord’s promise will be fulfilled. There will be plenty for all, this is his guarantee. Peter picks up on this theme in Acts 2:15-21 as he delivers his inaugural sermon at Pentecost:
“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
The Spirit stirs in us, it stirs us to action, keeps us awake at night sometimes, but have no doubt, the Spirit is alive and well inside of each of those who call upon the Lord. May we be quiet enough to hear!
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.
It appears that human trafficking was an issue in those ancient days as well:
There I will put them on trial
for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
and divided up my land.
They cast lots for my people
and traded boys for prostitutes;
they sold girls for wine to drink.
Our God will not tolerate such behavior! Joel enunciates his message with this assurance:
The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
I love the way Joel ends his message:
The Lord dwells in Zion!
In my imagination, I see Joel’s short sermon ending with a loud clap! Perhaps he had a gavel or some device to get your attention. If he were preaching today, I can see him taking the Bible and slamming it down on the lectern: The Lord dwells in Zion! and storming off the stage–boom!
Lord, may we be stirred to action with the power of the Holy Spirit today! May we love one another with great compassion, may we be slow to anger and learn to live in peace with everyone. We can’t forget what the locusts have destroyed, but we can be sure that you are not satisfied with evil–you will overcome: The Lord dwells in Zion!