Joel Chapter 1:1-4 The Attack of the Locusts
by Pastor Wayne Basye
I. The term “the Day of the Lord” is commonly found throughout both the Old and New Testaments of our Bible. The term was originally used by the Prophet Joel approximately 800 years BC. Its meaning is and application is judgement. However, when evil is judged the righteous are elevated. The Day of the Lord is not a single phenomenon or event in human history. There were many judgements given to Israel and mankind as well that can be referred to as “the Day of the Lord”. Having said this, all these judgements are a prelude to the final judgement that is coming to a world near you. When the prophets wrote of the coming judgement in their day, we must remember that the prophets are speaking the Word of God. God, is very aware that one day He will bring upon the entire earth a final judgement. Therefore, “the Day of the Lord” is a term that can always point to the final latter judgement.
The Prophet Joel experienced either a future vision of a great judgement or a judgement that came in his day. He referred to this time of judgement as “the Day of the Lord”. If we were just reading about that particular time in the history of Israel, we would understand this to be only an isolated event. However, the context of Chapter 2 and 3 lets us understand that this event was only a picture of that which is yet to come. As with many of the other minor prophets, the theme of “the Day of the Lord” is threaded throughout the tapestry of human history and will culminate at a very specific time which we call “the Latter Days”.
The Book of Joel is short with only 3 chapters. These 3 chapters do not necessarily follow the outline of the Book. Rather, the Book is laid out in this way: Chapter 1:1-14 describes a literal and local plague of locusts. Chapters 1:15-2:32 describes this event as a prelude to “the coming Day of the Lord”. And, Chapter 3 specifically speaks to that day of great tribulation as well as the blessings which are coming in the Millennial Kingdom.
Joel Chapter 1: 1-3
The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
2 Hear this, you elders, And give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in the your days, Or even the days of your father?
3 Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation.
Things Nicodemus Should Have Known – Chapter Two
II. This chapter opens with a question to all of the older men. “Have you ever seen anything like this?” Joel was of course referring to a local plague of locusts. Most scholars believe that this plague was witnessed by Joel himself and he probably thought that this was the most devastating thing that could ever happen. In his little world, in or around Jerusalem, this was in fact a devastating event. So, he asked the people to look at this very unique plague and to know that it is nothing compared to that which is coming in the future. He coined the phrase “the Day of the Lord” and applied it to this local plague of locusts.
“The Day of Lord” will be a day such as never seen before. If Jesus were talking to those old men in the days of Joel, he would have said something like this: “For there shall be a great tribulation such as not been seen since the beginning of the world to this time, nor shall there ever be” (Matthew 24:21). He might have said, do you think that the days of slavery were bad? Or, to us he might ask, was the Holocaust bad? – WWI – WWII – etc. was bad? He might have said to them, you have not seen anything yet. Scripture shows me that we will never see the great tribulation if we have put our trust in Jesus Christ.
Revelation 3:10 – Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 – 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Joel Chapter 1:4
4 What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten;
What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten;
And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.
III. Joel continues to tell of the complete and total devastation that the locusts did to the land of Judah. Here, he tells us this one insect is 4 insects in one: They chew, they swarm, they crawl and they consume. In the future “The Day of the Lord” we see 4 riders on 4 horses, all there for one reason – To destroy – 1 for conquest, 1 for war, 1 for famine and 1 for death. The picture of the locusts is one of complete and total devastation. This is the picture that Joel wants to paint which will make the following chapters more vivid.
IV. Drunkenness is the only sin that Joel mentions. Unlike the 11 other minor prophets who continually warned Israel of her many sins, Joel only mentions this one. Believe me Israel will receive many more spankings from the Lord. Each and every one is a judgement and could be referred to as a “Day of the Lord”. However, all of them and all of the other minor prophets will use Joel’s terminology (Day of the Lord) to point to that Great Tribulation that is to come).
6 For a nation has come up against My land,
Strong, and without number;
His teeth are the teeth of a lion,
And he has the fangs of a fierce lion.
7 He has laid waste My vine,
And ruined My fig tree;
He has stripped it bare and thrown it away;
Its branches are made white.
V. When the drunkard from verse 5 awakens he will see what appears to be a great army – Strong and without number. This may be only small insects but as an army they can bring big devastation. The insects are without number – Millions and millions – No man can conquer – Even taking down a fig tree.
8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth
For the husband of her youth.
9 The grain offering and the drink offering
Have been cut off from the house of the LORD;
The priests mourn, who minister to the LORD.
10 The field is wasted,
The land mourns;
For the grain is ruined,
The new wine is dried up,
The oil fails.
11 Be ashamed, you farmers,
Wail, you vinedressers,
For the wheat and the barley;
Because the harvest of the field has perished.
12 The vine has dried up,
And the fig tree has withered;
The pomegranate tree,
The palm tree also,
And the apple tree—
All the trees of the field are withered;
Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men.
13 Gird yourselves and lament, you priests;
Wail, you who minister before the altar;
Come, lie all night in sackcloth,
You who minister to my God;
For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God.
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
Into the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
- Picture yourself in the same position as was Joel. Both he and all the people are seeing the devastation of the locust. There is nothing that can be done, or say they think. In the verse above, Joel gives them a number of things that they can actually do. If this devastation is in fact from God, then only God who sent the devastation can stop or reverse the destruction.
Here are some things that Joel says the people can do:
- The people and the priests can lament and mourn (verses 8 and 9. They need to be sorry to a gracious God who has given them everything but is now angry at them. They need to realize that all those bugs out there on their crops is “their fault”. God sent them as a judgement against them.
- Not only do they need to lament and mourn but they should simply be “ashamed”! The people must realize that when their babies have no food and the “joy has withered away from man”, it is again – Their fault!
- When they lament, wail and lie all night in sackcloth and they come to the realization that their ways need to change, they can then “fast”. They can call for a sacred assembly – They can gather the elders in the house of the Lord and they can “cry out to the Lord”. What should they cry out – We are sorry! – Believe it or not, all God wants is a heart that realizes his own sin – I am sorry goes along way when the heart condition is right with God.