28 January 2020Joel 1:11-20
Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. (v.15)
Psalm: Psalm 122
Joel continues to call for mourning and appropriate response by the people to the locust plague (v. 4) that is devastating the country. Having specifically addressed drunkards, and then the nation as a whole, he now turns to farmers whose livelihood has been destroyed (vs. 11-12), and then to the priests (v. 13) who lack the elements required for the daily offerings of grain and wine in the Temple, an essential part of the ritual of sacrifice (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8). This worship was a sign of God’s continuing presence with and blessing of the people, so the loss of opportunity to maintain the worship pattern felt like desertion by God.
And indeed, in verse 14, it becomes clear the answer lies with God because God is viewed as the author of the disaster, which is seen as an act of judgement on the people’s failure to remain faithful to God, although no specific sins are identified. So a fast and “solemn assembly” should be called as a focus for repentance. For other examples of fasting used to support serious repentance and entreaty of God see Judges 20:26 and 1 Samuel 7:6.
The unrivalled seriousness of the disaster leads Joel to believe that “the day of the Lord is near” (v. 15; compare 3:14), the time when it was believed God would act decisively in judgement, salvation or both. The theme appears in many prophecies (eg Isaiah 13:6, Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7).
In verse 19-20 we have the prophet turning from the call to corporate lament to uttering a personal expression of grief regarding the famine, and we also learn here of the fact that drought and searing heat have accompanied the locust plague; it was very likely a hot desert wind that brought them in the first place.
- Note Joel’s sensitivity to the suffering of animals as well as humans (vs. 18, 20). Do you think that today we care too much or too little about the plight of animals when disasters affect humans and other creatures alike? Why do you take that view?
- Have you found fasting to be of value? If so, what kind of circumstances have led you to fast?
- Droughts and heatwaves are becoming more common due to climate change. Does God speak today through such events and, if so, what is the message?