The imagery of the plague of locusts and the theological theme of the Day of the Lord dominate this short prophetic book. The devastation occurs on a number of multiple levels – from an immediate and then imminent timeframe all the way to the ultimate eschatological fulfillment of God’s day of judgment. For the elect people of God there is promised blessing associated with repentance as Judah is eventually restored.
The Devastation of the Coming Day of the Lord (Prefigured in the Locust Plague and Severe Drought) Should Prompt Heartfelt Repentance that Will Lead to God’s Gracious Promises of Restoration and Blessing
Joel 2:12-13 “Yet even now, declares the Lord, Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting,
weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to
the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding
in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.”
I. (1:1-2) Devastation – The Devastation of the Immediate Locust Plague Awakens Weeping and Wailing and Crying Out to God
II. (2:1-17) Repentance – The Anticipation of a Future Coming Day of the Lord (Emphasis on Possible Immediate Invasion But Definite Eschatological Fulfillment) Prompts Plea for Heartfelt Repentance
III. (2:18-32) Blessings – The Promise and Fulfillment of Blessing Associated with Repentance
IV. (3:1-21) Judgment of the Nations and Restoration of Judah in the Context of the Eschatological Day of the Lord
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
– To view God’s judgment against sin.
– To see our need for repentance and what that involves.
– To understand God’s program for Israel and the nations in the Day of the Lord.
– To model the compassion and mercy of God.
– To anticipate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and what that involves.
– To know how to respond to disastrous times.
John Piper: There are four things I think we should take to heart.
1) First, let us never lose sight of God’s purpose in history—from grasshopper swarms, to world-wide judgment, to the dissolving of sun and moon—his purpose is to be God in the eyes of all the world. . .
2) Second, if our hearts wander from this God, he will fight against us to bring us to repentance. . .
3) Third, therefore, as Joel pleads,
– rend your hearts and not your garments, awake (1:5),
– lament (1:8),
– be ashamed and wail (1:11),
– declare a fast, and cry to the Lord (1:14) for mercy. Turn from the sin you cherish and for which you feel guilty every day.
– Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (2:13).
Don’t be bitter at God because he clogs your way and frustrates your day. Every divine stroke is the discipline of a loving Father and a blow against our pride, our self-reliance, and our love for the world. Turn and kiss the rod of God, and the Lord will become to you a gentle shepherd. . . .
4) Fourth, and finally, let us pray and seek God earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised in 2:28, 29.
J. Sidlow Baxter: Both in style and subject this Book of Joel is arresting. For vividness of description and picturesquesness of diction Joel is scarcely equaled. His pen-pictures of the plague-stricken land, the invading locust-army, and the final gathering of all nations to the valley of judgment, are miniature masterpieces of graphic vigour.
Joel, whose name means “Jehovah is God,” calls himself “the son of Pethuel” (i.1). Beyond this we are told nothing about him. His book makes it tolerably certain, however, that he exercised his prophetic ministry in or near Jerusalem. . . It is the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem which is then to be ended (iii. 1); and it is Judah and Jerusalem which shall “dwell forever” (iii. 20). The ten-tribed northern kingdom is not once mentioned.
Chuck Swindoll: Using what was at that time the well-known locust plague in Judah, Joel capitalized on a recent tragedy to dispense the Lord’s message of judgment and the hope of repentance. In referring to the terrible locust plague, Joel was able to speak into the lives of his listeners and imprint the message of judgment into their minds, like a brand sears the flesh of an animal.
One commentator notes that the day of the Lord, which is a reference not to a single day only but to a period of judgment and restoration, consists of three basic features:
– The judgment of God’s people
– The judgment of foreign nations
– The purification and restoration of God’s people through intense suffering
We find each of these elements in the book of Joel, as it offers one of the most complete pictures in Scripture of this ultimately redemptive event (Joel 2:1–11; 2:28–32; 3:1–16).
John MacArthur: Following 1:1, the contents of the book are arranged under 3 basic categories. In the first section (1:2-20) the prophet describes the contemporary Day of the Lord. The land is suffering massive devastation caused by a locust plague and drought. The details of the calamity (1:2-12) are followed by a summons to communal penitence and reformation (1:13-20).
The second section (2:1-17) provides a transition from the historical plague of locusts described in chap. 1 to the eschatological Day of the Lord in 2:18 – 3:21. Employing the contemporary infestation of locusts as a backdrop, the prophet, with an increased level of intensity, paints a vivid and forceful picture of the impending visitation of the Lord (2:1-11) and, with powerful and explicit terminology, tenaciously renews the appeal for repentance (2:12-17).
In the third section (2:18 – 3:21), the Lord speaks directly, assuring His people of His presence among them (2:27; 3:17, 21). This portion of the book assumes that the repentance solicited (2:12-17) had occurred and describes the Lord’s zealous response (2:18, 19a) to their prayer. Joel 2:18-20 forms the transition in the message from lamentation and woe to divine assurances of God’s presence and the reversal of the calamities, with 2:19b, 20 introducing the essence and nature of that reversal.
The Lord then gives 3 promises to assure the penitents of His presence:
– material restoration through the divine healing of their land (2:21-27),
– spiritual restoration through the divine outpouring of His Spirit (2:28-32),
– and national restoration through the divine judgment on the unrighteous (3:1-21).
Warren Wiersbe: Outline:
I. The Immediate Day of the Lord (1:1-20)
II. The Imminent Day of the Lord (2:1-27)
III. The ultimate Day of the Lord (2:28 – 3:21)
Joel refers to three important events, each of which he calls a “day of the Lord.” He sees the plague of locusts as an immediate day of the Lord (1:1-20), the invasion of Judah by Assyria as an imminent day of the Lord (2:1-27), and the final judgment of the world as the ultimate day of the Lord (2:27 – 3:21). In the first, the locusts are a metaphorical army; in the second, the locusts symbolize a real army; in the third, the locusts aren’t seen at all and the armies are very real and very dangerous.