Joel: Devastating Loss

Minor Prophets  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:46
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1. The state of affairs: Judah under judgment, 1:1-12.

A. A rousing appeal to tell future generations, 1:1-3.

1 -- The source of inspiration is the “word of the LORD.” When Yahweh is used (33 times in Joel) it emphasizes His personal name, indicating intimacy and covenant. When Adonai is used, it suggests a relationship of hierarchy and power.
Joel means “Yahweh is God.” All we know about Joel is that he is called the “son of Pethuel, possibly “belonging to Yahweh.” Joel prophesied shortly after the time of Obadiah.
2 – The verb “Hear this” involves listening, obeying, perceiving a message. We could say effective hearing. The verb “Listen” means ‘to cause to give ear,” refers to a purposeful decision to respond.
The call is to the elders and all inhabitants of the land. This is a message for the nation; all of society must listen and take heed. It is a call for national lament, involving the wisdom of the elderly, the energy of youth, and those who lead. The rhetorical question points to a historical event that the nation was well aware of, specifically in our context a locust swarm. It is an event without parallel in memory
3 -- Four generations are mentioned: those presently, their sons, the sons of their sons, the next generation that follows the sons of their sons. The term “generation” in the Hebrew is referring to the cycle from birth to death or conception and birth of one to the conception and birth of an offspring. The people are called to relate this event and to declare its meaning and significance to each generation. It becomes a matter to teach those who follow and becomes part of the continuing story of Israel. They bring glory to God by recounting His mighty acts; we can do the same as we recall His mighty acts, what He has done through His Son Jesus, and His work in our own lives.

B. The p

lague impacting all Judea, 1:4-12.

In verses 4 through 7 we have a vivid picture of the total completeness of the destruction.

1. Description of the locust swarm, 1:4.

4 – This emphasizes the overwhelming number and overwhelming destruction brought about by locusts, each one eating its own weight daily. Their arrival on the scene always means devastation and despair.
A historical example from the last century is a locust swarm that arrived in Africa in 1926 -1927. By the time it was gone 14 years later, the swarm had impacted 5,000,000 square miles of Africa, an area two times the size of the United States!

2. The trail of locust destruction, 1:5-12.

a. Loss of the luxuries of life, 1:5-7.

5 -– The term “drunkards” may refer to those who overindulge; “wine drinkers” refer to imbibers, who partake of wine, a cultural mainstay. They are said to “weep,” a verb that has the idea of lamenting, a natural response to a catastrophe. To “wail” is associated with mourning a death, speaks of intense sorrow. Here is a call to wake up, to public, communal mourning because the sweet wine has been “cut off” – that newly pressed wine which is not yet bottled. The future of wine is endangered, no guarantee of wine for next year. Once they have drank what they have, there will be no more to quench their thirst.
Why did this happen?
6 — For a nation has Invaded (gone up into) my land. A military metaphor is used here where invaders have the power due to their sheer numbers. In the context, it is the locusts who have attacked. “My land” is God's land. This nation is described as having teeth and fangs. When the word “teeth” is used in Scripture, it speaks of power and the capability for destruction. The picture is one of a ferocious swarm and the results are exceedingly devastating in an agricultural society.
7 -- Wine and fig trees are among the things that make life worth living, see
Numbers 20:5 NASB95
“Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.”
2 Kings 18:31 NASB95
‘Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, “Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern,
The vine and fig trees are pictured as being stripped bare of its outer skin or bark, leaving smaller branches bare and white. The point is there is nothing to salvage; there is no hope for a harvest for a long time to come.

b. Lacking elements which interrupts worship, 1:8-10.

8 -- In verse 8-10, the priests and ministers of the LORD are addressed. Sackcloth is a visible expression of one’s state of mourning. The religious leaders are called to wail like a virgin who has lost her betrothed, wearing sackcloth rather than a bridal dress. This emphasizes the gravity of the situation and the true nature of their hearts.
9 -- The grain offering, and the drink offering are “cut off from” the house of the Lord. This points to the cutting off the covenant. In other words, these covenantal offerings and libations cannot be carried out. Because of this Israel, the wife of Yahweh, must repent lest her relationship with Yahweh become like that of the young maiden in verse 8. But who cut off this covenant? The One who is the giver of all? Why did he do it? In our context it is because the people have need of repentance.
The priests mourn. This is an intense emotional grief because there is no grain offering and drink offering being able to be offered on a regular basis. This threatens their livelihood, and it makes them unable to minister before the Lord. The daily sacrifices each morning and evening are in view here. With the severe lack, there is no grain offering and no drink offering, demonstrating a lack of submission on the part of people to the Lord along with a lack of community communion between the people and the LORD. We are told in Deuteronomy 28:42
Deuteronomy 28:42 NASB95
“The cricket shall possess all your trees and the produce of your ground.
This is part of the steps Yahweh uses to judge Israel if they are unfaithful to the covenant. Deuteronomy 28:49 tells us:
Deuteronomy 28:49 NASB95
“The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,
10 -- The basic staples of life are threatened: the grain is ruined, the new wine dries up, the fresh oil fails. All three of these are a part of worship at the temple.

c. Life essentials have been stripped away, 1:11-12.

11 – Farmers are the cultivators of the soil who are ashamed (confounded) because their efforts have been for nothing. The wailing of vine dressers who are the tender of the vines and fruits is heard because there is nothing to harvest.
Wheat is considered a blessing, Deut. 8:7-8
Deuteronomy 8:7–8 NASB95
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;
Barley is considered the grain of the poor.
12 -- Harvest time itself was considered a time of celebration but when there is no harvest, there is no celebration, there is no offering, and so the departure of rejoicing and joy unwillingly. reluctantly follow.

2. The call to repent, 1:13-20.

Joel calls the priests and ministers of the altar to take action.
Corollary: Disobedience to God brings locusts,
Deuteronomy 28:15 NASB95
“But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
One of those curses,
Deuteronomy 28:38 NASB95
“You shall bring out much seed to the field but you will gather in little, for the locust will consume it.
How is the curse to be removed? 1 Kings 8:37-40
1 Kings 8:37–40 NASB95
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, locust or grasshopper, if their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men, that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You have given to our fathers.

A. Priests and ministers to lead the way, 1:13-14.

1. They take action by example, 1:13.

13-There are four imperatives:
“Gird” is to wrap around oneself;
“Lament” is to beat the breast;
to “wail” is a vocal, violent lamentation; and
to “spend the night” is to bring the situation before Yahweh, continuing uninterrupted in mourning both day and night.
What Joel is calling for is the priests and ministers to take action first by their example in verse 13, and then by the proclamation in verse 14. They are to rally the elders and people together for prayer and supplication. This calls for penitence and prayer from all levels of society. The priests are even told to get out of their ornately embroidered robes that they have been divinely instructed to wear when serving before the Lord to put on sackcloth, a visible expression of one’s state of mourning. They are to wear it day and night until the Lord responds to them.

2. They take action in their proclamation, 1:14.

14 — There are four imperatives in this verse as well:
“Consecrate” is a vivid demonstration of their grief and remorse.
“Proclaim” a sacred assembly because this is not a private sorrow, but a common sorrow.
“Gather” - Everyone is to come to the temple to express their repentance.
“Cry out,” a plea to the LORD to be their savior. As a community, they may have chanted Psalms as an expression of their heartfelt prayers, such as Psalm 74.

B. The reason for the call, 1:15-18.

15 – “Alas, for the day” is a cry of alarm emphasizing that it is urgent. “The day of the Lord is near” and it will come as destruction from the Almighty. This is the reason for the call: as bad as the locust plague is, this is just a sample of the day of the Lord, which will be a far more awesome and terrifying day.
16 -- The people are helpless. There is no food. Because there's no food, there is no gladness or joy from the house of our God. Why is that? There is no annual ritual celebration of the feasts.
There were three feast days in which every Israelite male was to go to the temple in Jerusalem. Each year the opening of the harvest was celebrated at the Feast of First fruits (Unleavened Bread), the end of the harvest was celebrated at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and when the end of the vintage harvest came, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. Now there is an occasion for sorrow because they cannot celebrate any of these.
17 -- How severe are these conditions?
The seeds shrivel under their clods.
the storehouses “have been desolated.”
the barns “have been torn down.”
Why? There is no crop, and if there's no crop, there's no motivation to maintain the store houses and barns. But if the crop is dried up and there's no store houses and barns, there's no crop available next year, either.
18 -- the beasts of burden are said to groan. The cattle wander aimlessly because there is no pasture for them. Even the flocks of sheep, who can get food where cattle cannot, suffer. There isn't even enough for the sheep; that's how severe the conditions are.

C. Joel their example, 1:19-20.

19 -- Joel the prophet is the first to take the warning seriously. He serves as a stimulus to the community to turn to the Lord. The plague and drought had come by divine prescription, so only Yahweh could stay further devastation. His cry echoes that of other prophets praying for himself and for the people they serve.
The wilderness is not the desert, but it refers to grazing land.
In the verbal picture of fire and flames, Joel prays about the scorching drought which apparently accompanied the locust plague. The flame has burned up all the trees of the field – there is even in the wild the impact of the people’s unfaithfulness to their God.
20 -- The beast of the field refers to non-domesticated animals that graze. They are in dire need because the water brooks are dried up. There is no pastures for them to graze upon; there is no water for them to lap up.
The repetition of the phrase “fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness” is a means of intensification that Joel uses to get his message across: God is judging His people; the severity is only limited by the people’s proper response to Him. Their sin impacts all.
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