Joel 1–2:27 The Locusts Attack.

Key Notes: Assyrians are like locusts. Trumpets. National tragedy, cause and effect.

Introduction:
Joel was the son of Pethuel. His name means "the LORD is God." The date of the book is unknown and it is short--only seven pages--but the writing is clear and easy to ro read. Joel mentions Phoenicia (3:4), Judah and Jerusalem (3:6), Egypt and Edom (3:19), Greeks and Sabeans (3:6,8) but these are not key references for time or events.

Joel and Amos have two quotations in common. The two passages are
"And the Lord roars ftom Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem." Joel 3:16, Amos 1:2
"And on that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow...." Joel 3:18, Amos 9:13.
Joel announced the plague of locusts. Amos begged the Lord not to send the plague. Amos 7:1
Amos prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II; we guess that Joel wrote before Amos, only because his book precedes Amos in tne Hebrew Bible.

Joel is famous for his prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, cited by Peter in his first sermon. (Acts 2:16–20). He also gives us much on the Day of the Lord, and the second lesson will try to organize our thinking on that awesome prospect.

1;1–4 Joe1 describes a plague of locusts that he prophesies will devastate the land. Locust swarms are not uncommon in the Middle East, but this one will be remembered for generations.

Some entomology will make the text (1:4) clearer.

Locusts develop through three stages. All three are aggressive.
*The "hopping locusts" are wing-less larvae that jump like fleas.
*The " cutting locusts” are pupae with wings encased in sacks. They walk like other insects.
*The “flying locusts" are mature insects about 1 1/2 inches long. The head is shaped rather like a horse’s, leading to names like “little horse” or” God’s horse”. The invaders of Rev.9:7  are called locusts and look like horses.

Locust swarms move straight ahead, climbing over obstacles without distraction. They get into houses easily. They may cover 400 sq. miles at a time, eaing any kind of vegetation, even the bark of trees. They can leave the trunks of trees white and the trees dead. The plague of locusts in Egypt is well-described in Ex.10.
Moses later threatened Israel with locusts. (Deut.28:38). Solomon prayed against the plague. IIChron.6:28–31

1:5–14 He calls people from all walks of life to stop, fast and make a solemn assembly at the Temple because a nation is coming up against them. It is a precursor to the Day of the Lord. 1:15

2:1–11 He makes the analogy between the locusts and an invading army which will have even more devastating effects. This too will be unprecedented in its severity. Many commentators believe Joel is referring to the invasion of the Assyrian army under Sennacharib. The Lord spared Jerusalem through the prayers of Hezekiah and the prophecy of Isaiah and but the surrounding towns and villages were devastated. Isa.36–39

Isaiah said "The Lord will shave with a razor which is hired beyond the River--with the king of Assyria--the head (hair) and the hair of the feet and it will sweep away the beard also." Isa. 7:20

"...behold, the Lord is bringing against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory; and it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks; and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel." Isa.8:7–8

2:12–17"Yet even now" Joel calls for a fast to include adults and children, babies and newly-weds as well as the priests. He does not want external display (rending garments), but a change of heart ("rending" hearts).

Joel 2:18–27 The prophecy of restoration begins with a restoration of foods, then the destruction of the invading army ("the northerner") . The fullness of blessing will follow, with God dwelling with His people. They will never again suffer shame.

Discussion:

Trumpets are mentioned twice.
            “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm….” 2:1
            “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast.” 2:15
Two trumpets used in the Temple were made of silver. (The traditional shofar was made from a ram’s horn.)

The rules for blowing the trumpet are spelled out in Num.10:1–10.

One horn sound was to summon leaders.
Two horns were sounded to summon the congregation.
Horns were also blown at the time of burnt offerings and peace offerings.
The horns also sounded alarms for war.

Cereal and drink offerings are mention three times. (1:9,13; 2:14)
A handful of the offering of grain was mixed with frankincense and oil and was burned as an offering. (Lev.2:1–16; Lev.6:14-). A little more than a pint of wine accompanied the offering. (Lev.23:13). The offering could be baked and was to contain salt but no leaven. The cereal offering was offered on various occasions but was a routine part of the twice-daily offerings on the altar. Even when Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans in 70AD, the twice- daily cereal offerings did not cease until there was no one left to offer them. So we understand that conditions would have to be very serious for the cereal offering to cease (1:9,13) and a great relief when offerings were resumed. 2:14

The fourth “detail” is the Day of the Lord. Popular opinion was that this would be the day of Israel’s liberation, as might be surmised from Isa. 2:1–5, but that would be to ignore the rest of that chapter which is full of dire threats. In Joel there is no doubt about it.
            “The Day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.” (1:15)
            “The Day of the Lord is near, a day of darkness and gloom….” (2:1)
            “For the Day of the Lord is great and terrible. Who can endure it?" (2:11)

Discussion:
In order to understand it better, we will have to study much more of the minor—and major prophets. When we look at the origin of English words for trouble, we can see the influence of Greek culture on our society. For example,
*Tragedy comes from Greek “goat song”, imitating the braying sound of goats. It was a literary piece intended to excite pity or terror during a series of unhappy events.
*Catastrophe: is a down-turn, an event which overturns the order of things.
*Disaster is a bad alignment of stars.

Christians have poorly thought-through views of large scale physical destruction. We tend to be fatalistic about calamity, as if it were like Greek tragedy. Greek tragedy sees humans as victims of fate or the arbitrary actions of the gods. We also believe it will not happen to us. Some recent events to think about are

Four hurricanes in Florida in three months of 2004.
Tsunami in Indonesia 12 / 26 / 05 that swept away 200,000 people.
The AIDS epidemic in Africa destroying 25 million people.
A hundred thousand acres of lands in the West destroyed by wild-fires.
The volcanic explosion at Mount St. Helens and threatening to show further activity.
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005.
A meteor explodes over Russia. 2013.

The general understanding is that these are random accidents. Our reaction is to jump in and help out. It was a bad break, and we’re sorry, but aid is coming. We clear away rubble. We think about insurance, food and medicines, and building materials. Of course we must not under-value human efforts. There is no doubt that God cares for the victims and expects us to help in every way possible. However, that is not the end of our engagement with disasters.

The Biblical perspective is to grieve, mourn, repent and beg God for mercy. The reason is that

  1. There is virtually no such thing as a meaningless tragedy or disaster. [We look at the death of Josiah as a possible exception.] IIK.23:29
  2. Tragedy, like prosperity, is caused. It is not accidental. “As destruction from the Almighty it comes.”
  3. The reaction to tragedy is therefore prayer and meditation. “Yet even now, says the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting…and rend your hearts and not your garments.” (2:12–13)

The cause-and-effect of national tragedy was summarized by Moses:
“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in His ways and by keeping His commandments…then you shall live and multiply and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish….’’ (Deut.30:15–18)

“…therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for that means life to you and length of days….” Deut.30:19–20