Israel has a terrible plague of locusts. Joel brings a depth of theological study of the old testament scriptures to discuss the problem.
First he writes eloquently and at length about the plague. He did not want to seem unsympathetic, even though he has a much more complex story to tell.
On a simple level, he tells them to repent. The temple has stopped functioning with the plague, but he tells everyone to pray to God for mercy.
His scripture study uses the locust situation to launch into cosmic revelations about God.
God has an army of judgement that is like the dark cloud of locusts, but much worse.
God’s call to repentance is much broader than just the short term problem. He wants to love them, he’s slow to anger and quick to forgive, joel reminds them, quoting exodus.
And he promises prosperity, many times more than what they lost in the plague, if they will learn from the suffering to rely on him, to swallow their pride.
So having said there is a whole spiritual dimension: of judgement and forgiveness, that is so much more significant than the physical coming and ending of the plague, he then uses scripture to look further into the future of God’s blessing.
He sees the plague like army of God bringing justice to all nations. Judgement of the whole world.
And rather than a just time of prosperity, he sees all creation remade, a new Eden.
And rather than just forgiveness, he sees the spirit, poured out, living in our hearts. God dwelling with us, but in a temple.
So by looking at God’s saving promises, Joel sees hope, to encourage the sufferers of the locust plague, but also on a cosmic and global scale.
One of the ways he links the ideas is by talking about the day of the Lord. Which is coming, which will seem unendurable, like the plague, but will end with justice and creation made new, and God’s dwelling being with man. It’s all about timing, and not despairing in the present.
So allow God his time, his days. Accept his judgement, trust his justice.
When things seem impossible, trust in the day of the Lord. It’s terrible, it’s wonderful. Who can endure it? Those on whom the spirit is poured, those who use God’s judgement to rend their hearts, not just their clothes.
Is climate change a day of the Lord? Is the church, bruised and damaged by scandal and irrelevance, heading for a day of the Lord? It is in his hands.