Joel Overview

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.

1 A dramatically described locust attack

2 the locust attack it’s not gods preference. He wants to pour out his spirit. This passage is quoted at Pentecost.

3 a worse judgement than the locusts is coming, but also a day of justice. Rend your hearts, not your clothes, it’s all about the heart.

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Joel 3

Worse to come. This chapter says to use the lesson of the locust plague for worse days to come. It speaks of the Jews being scattered, shattered. The lord is in control, there will be justice. Gods judgement will come on all the nations.

I’m praying today for my wife who is down, some of my children who suffer mental illness, and for my church where I’m struggling to find a positive role.

It’s easy for my heart to get numb when things such as this go on and on. But God speaks to the heart more than anything.

Rend my heart

 

Joel 2

I should have known. The last chapter set a scene of urgent practical disaster that leaves you throwing yourself on God. Where does he go?

Cosmic, takes us out of the moment and deeper into it. Breaks the paradigm with talk of spiritual reckoning more dreadful, time scales more blurry, blessing: abundant, physical and spiritual, beyond borders and beyond time, beyond expectation.

God!  This is urgent isn’t it?

First the narrative bit retells the locust attack from the last chapter, from a perspective of heavenly judgement. Described like cinema, the shadow of a flying army darkening the sky, an army of judgement sweeping in unstoppably, it’s intense writing And god is at the helm. This dreadful day is gods. It ends with the question “who can endure it?”. Reminds me of Jesus teaching of judgement coming as a shock, or the rich fool who counts his wealth, goes to bed happy and dies. Who can endure?

Revelation 9 returns to this way of describing a locust plague as an army of gods judgement.

Then a reminder that this is not gods preference for us. He wants to love. It gets back to hearts. Don’t just wail and tear your clothes in grief as in chapter 1, rend your hearts. Change.

Everything is spiritual. Time is spiritual. there is still enough of it to know gods mercy. That is more urgent than anything.

Cue the locust horde sent into the sea, the land blessed, abundant rain, plentiful crops. I’m not close to doing the language justice, it’s beautifully written.

But it doesn’t stop at practical blessing, a good harvest, God will pour out his spirit. The bit about the effect of the spirit, women prophesying, young men seeing visions and old men dreaming, is quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost. It speaks of a far greater judgement and a far greater blessing of which this experience is just a hint.

 

 

 

 

Joel 1

A poem about a disaster, waves of locusts destroying all the crops.  I get the impression is an urgent warning, they are imminent. On the northern border, and have destroyed wild pastures there.

Chapter 1 runs through something like the stages of grief, from the disbelief (has anything like this ever happened?) initial shock (wake up, wake up! It’ll all be gone) realising the implications, grieving.

All done with wonderful vivid language: forget figs, the trunks of the fig trees are white because the bark is gone. New wine is being snatched from the lips of drunkards sleeping off the old, cattle and sheep wandering about aimlessly with no crops, olive oil failed, trees withered… like our joy.

And the cry of anguish and the wail to God. The people, the flocks even the panting wild animals, all run out of options but to cry to God.

Got it. I see people there in the news, it happens to friends, and I myself have felt at times I’m there, even though my objective circumstances were not as bad. The place of utter seemingly inevitable disaster, absolutely zero resources other than a voice to cry to God.

Next chapter!