Major Lesson: Without repentance, judgment will be harsh, thorough and certain. Our focus should not be on the things we have but, rather, the LORD our God.
In Joel 1:1, it begins “The word of the LORD that came to Joel…” Thus, we know that this message was divinely commissioned and we are reminded that God always has a word for His people. This time: repent while you can.
Before repenting, the people had to prepare for the work of doing so. In Joel 1:13, we read “gird yourselves and lament, you priests.” (NKJV)
Then comes the actual work of repentance. In 1:14 the steps are clearly laid out: 1. “Consecrate a fast.” Getting right with God must matter more than anything, including eating. 2. “Call a sacred assembly.” God’s people must come together in unity and a spirit of repentance. 3. “Gather the elders.” Church leadership must be visibly involved in the work of repentance. “Into the house of the LORD your God.” We must come together corporately in the place where we normally should meet with God. “And cry out unto the LORD.” Cry out to God and trust He will respond in mercy. (Guzik)
What happened: A plague of locusts had come to discipline the nation. Chuck Missler refers to these locusts as “not necessarily natural insects” in Learn The Bible in 24 Hours and considers them probably a ‘demon army.’ It caused an agricultural disaster in Israel. Joel called people to repent before even greater calamity occurred, not to “run for cover” (Joel 2:12-14).
Questions to contemplate: Have you ever stopped to think about how much God ‘puts up’ with? Can you think of times when you benefitted from God’s patience and extravagant love? (From Message Devotional Bible) As a believer, do you look forward to the Day of the LORD? We should, if we know Him. We should want Him to show His strength if we abide in Him (Guzik).
We learn once again that, while God will judge us for our sins and there will be a price to be paid (Joel 1:15-20), He will also respond to sincere repentance with mercy and salvation (Joel 2:32).
Chapter 1 begins with destruction brought about by locusts and reveals the suffering that entailed. Has any suffering you’ve endured been destructive to your relationship with God or has it been redemptive? What about Job’s response to suffering (Job 1:20-22)? The Bible gives believers clear cut direction as to what their behavior should be when they are in the midst of suffering (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-7).
Most of the history of that time had to be passed by word of mouth from one generation to another (Joel 1:3). Like the fig tree, the vine is also used as a symbol for Israel as we previously read in Joel 1:6-7. In verse 15 as we also read, Joel mentions the “Day of the LORD.” This is continued in 2:1. This phrase is mentioned 5 times by Joel and mentioned by no less than 5 other prophets (Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah and Malachi). This term can also refer to the time when Christ comes to consummate history (Mal.4:5; 1 Co. 5:5; 2 Co. 1:14; 1 Th. 5:2). The book of Revelation offers more detail on the Day of the LORD.
In chapter 2, we discover that nations from the north are going to attack Israel (Joel 2:2). This is discussed in Ezekiel 38, 39. Half-hearted repentance before God will not do (Joel 2:12). He demands more than that from us and will make Himself available to us if we seek Him with all our hearts (Jer. 29:13-14). He wants genuine repentance from our hearts. When we do, we stand to be very blessed by our loving Father (Joel 2:13). God does promise to once again bring rain to the land in sufficient abundance for it to flourish (Joel 2:23-24). Joel 2:25-26 shows what the destructive power of sin can do to us — how it can eat away at our lives, but also how the restorative power of God can work in a believer’s life. In Joel 2:28-29, we see why Joel has been referred to as “the Prophet of Pentecost.” This is not the only place in scripture where we read of God pouring out His unifying Spirit on His people (Ez. 39:29; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28).
The key to God’s redemption is found in chapter 2: the gift of His Holy Spirit. This story continues into chapter 3. In Joel 3:1-3, the LORD will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem in fulfillment of Moses’ promise (Deut. 30:3) while gathering the rest of the nations for judgment. The site of the judgment is to be the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2,13). What is more important than the location is the meaning of the name: “The Lord judges.”
Joel 3:4-6 records the LORD speaking directly to those who had profited from Judah’s demise. God would repay them for their offenses of robbery and slavery. There is a reverse of a statement made by Isaiah: Instead of beating swords into plowshares in Isaiah 2:4, God’s people are instructed to do the reverse (Joel 3:10). This is considered a preamble to the Battle of Armageddon, taking place in “the valley of decision” in a face-off against Israel and its God (Joel 3:14-16). This will be a time of fierce judgment for God’s enemies, but also great mercy for His people (Heitzig). The LORD is a God who restores! Joel 3:17-21 once again records the story of the LORD restoring good fortune to Israel.