Joel was a prophet to Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, from about 835 to 796 BC. His name means "Yahweh (Jehovah) is God."
In the book named for him, Joel warned of a devastating four-fold plague of locusts covering the land. The creatures would devour everything in sight - all of the plants the people treasured and used for food. The land would be devastated. This wouldn't be an accident or a simple act of nature. This was God's judgment and it would be but a mere shadow of coming judgments and of the great and final judgment called "the Day of the Lord."
Why would God send such tragedy? This was Israel, God's chosen people. They were loved by God, however the people of Judah had become calloused. Sin had crept into their lives and they'd become accustomed it. Their physical and moral senses had become dull. Sin (unrighteousness, rebelling against God's word) had become so common place that, in their eyes, it seemed to be normal conduct. They were no longer offended by obvious sinful behavior.
We are all prone to this. We accept one small sin and when we see it again, it isn't so shocking. The more we see it and allow it, the more it becomes normal behavior. Our own moral compass becomes flawed.
God sometimes needs to send calamity to get our attention but He never sends it without a warning. His prophets were sent to warn and to tell His people what to do to escape devastation. Today we have the Bible, we have preachers, and even godly friends who serve that purpose. We have the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin-if we listen.
In Joel 1:14-19, Joel called for a national fast. This was to be a period of time when no food was eaten, giving the people time to approach God in humility and sorrow over sin. They would pray for His forgiveness and blessing.
In Joel 2:15-17, Joel called for a national day of prayer. Everyone was to take part; children, elders. Even newly marrieds were to put off their honeymoon to gather with the priests and leaders of the nation. Nothing was more important. They were to seek God in earnest prayer and to ask for forgiveness. They were to ask Him to turn aside the judgment they deserved.
It seems that the people of Judah heeded Joel's warning and followed his call for repentance. They received mercy. Joel tells of the terrible swarms being removed and scattered in the desert.
Joelís book is more than a forewarning of judgment, for there are great promises in it for those who believe.
In Joel 2:25 God says "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten." After we repent (admit the sin and turn away from it) and get to know God, we see how many wasted years were caused by our own willful disobedience. When we repent, God promises to repay us for those years. With receiving the promised Holy Spirit, our hearts and minds become so full of God's riches that the sorrow of the wasted years is forgotten.
In Joel 2:32, Joel says that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
There is no distinction of class, race or nationality. Everyone has the right to Godís mercy and redemption.
As with most prophets, Joel's sobering message has as much truth for us today as it did for the people of Judah in 835 BC.
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