I. The Disaster of a Locust Invastion: A Foreshadowing of the Coming Day of the Lord (His Terrifying Judgment), 1:1-20

The Disaster of a Locust Invastion: A Foreshadowing of the Coming Day of the Lord (His Terrifying Judgment), 1:1-20


The Disaster of a Locust Invastion: A Foreshadowing of the Coming Day of the Lord (His Terrifying Judgment), 1:1-20

(1:1-20) Introduction: disasters happen every day of the week. People across the globe are experiencing one form of disaster or another at any given time, disasters such as…

• tornados

• hurricanes

• earthquakes

• floods

• mudslides

• traffic accidents

• plane crashes

• diseases

• bankruptcies

• loss of employment

• violent crimes

• assaults

• wars

• the death of loved ones

On and on the list could go. But the point for us to see is this: one day in the future, a barrage of disasters—one right after another—will strike the earth. Furthermore, these disasters will be the worst catastrophes to ever hit the earth. This barrage will be launched by God Himself, and the calamities will literally shatter and devastate the whole earth (Rev. 6:12-17; 8:6-12; 8:13-9:11; 9:12-21; 16:1-21). The Lord even gives a name to this terrifying period of human history: the Day of the Lord (see DEEPER STUDY #1—Joel 2:1-12 for more discussion). The Day of the Lord will take place at the end of human history, a period sometimes called the tribulation or the Great Tribulation, another name given by the Lord Jesus Himself (Mt. 24:21. Also see outlines and notes—Mt. 24:1-14; 24:15-28; 24:29-31 for more discussion.)

In the present Scripture, a large swarm of locusts had just invaded the nation of Judah and totally ravaged the land. The insects had consumed everything in their path. Consequently, the nation was facing economic collapse, massive unemployment and, worst of all, famine and starvation. Thus, the Lord inspired the prophet Joel to look at the disaster that had struck Judah and to use it as the background for writing this great book.

While the prophet Joel was thinking through the crisis, the Lord revealed that the disaster was an act of God. It was a judgment that God Himself was executing upon the people because of their horrible wickedness. In addition, the locust invasion was a sign, a foreshadowing, of the coming Day of the Lord. Sometime in the future, God’s climactic day of terrifying judgment will fall upon the earth for the final time.

Simply stated, Joel encouraged the people to look at the locust invasion and to see in it God’s hand of judgment. In their suffering, they were to cry out to the Lord, repent of their sins, and beg God to deliver them and their nation. But they must realize the utter necessity of diligently following the Lord throughout the remaining days of their lives. They must continually walk with the Lord and obey His holy commandments, for one day in the future the great and climactic Day of the Lord would come. In that day of final judgment, every individual will give an account for his or her behavior on earth, whether good or bad. This is, The Disaster of a Locust Invasion: A Foreshadowing of the Coming Day of the Lord (His Terrifying Judgment), 1:1-20.

1. The message of the locust invasion: commissioned by God (v. 1).

2. The purpose of the locust invasion: to arouse people to turn and seek the Lord (vv. 2-14).

3. The lesson of the locust invasion: pictured the Day of the Lord—His terrifying judgment and destruction (vv. 15-20).

1. The message of the locust invasion: commissioned by God (v. 1).

1. (1:1) Message, Source, God; Empowered by God—Commission, Source, God—Joel, Commissioned by God—Joel, Message of, Given by God: Joel’s message was based upon a locust invasion, and the message had been given to him by God Himself. It was the Word of the Lord that led Joel to use the insect invasion to illustrate what God was saying to the people.

As will be seen, the invasion had wreaked havoc on the entire land of Israel; therefore, the people needed to search their hearts to see if their irresponsible and wicked behavior had caused the disaster. Could it be that the plague of locusts was an act of God, a judgment from the hand of God due to the people’s wickedness? People needed to give serious thought to the possibility and ask themselves, “What is God saying to us in this catastrophic event?” Thus God spoke to His dear prophet and gave him a series of messages that focused upon the tragedy that had struck the land. Joel used the locust invasion to point to three significant events:

the Day of the Lord

the coming invasion by the Assyrians

the coming judgment of the Lord in the final days of human history

Joel was commissioned by God. It was the Word of the Lord that touched his heart, and it was the Word of the Lord that led him to preach this series of messages contained in his great book.

Thought 1. Like Joel, every believer has been commissioned by God to bear strong witness for Christ. Once we are saved, we are to share the message of salvation. Through Christ, we receive not only forgiveness of sins but also the strength to become triumphant over all the hardships and misfortunes of life. It is this wonderful message of salvation in Christ that we are to share with our families, friends, neighbors, fellow workers, and everyone else in the world. God overlooks no one; therefore, we are to take the gospel to every individual of every generation in every nation of the world. Listen to what God’s Holy Word says about the great commission He gives us:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Mt. 28:19-20).

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

“For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

“Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought” (Acts 5:20-21).

“And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).

“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Cor. 4:13).

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Ti. 1:8).

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11-15).

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pe. 3:15).

“Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Isa. 43:10).

2. The purpose of the locust invasion: to arouse people to turn and seek the Lord (vv. 2-14).

2. (1:2-14) Seek - Seeking, Need for, in Crises—Seeking, Example of, in Crises—Repentance, Need for, in Crises—Disasters, Deliverance From, Through Repentance; Through Prayer and Fasting—Crises - Disasters, Purpose of, to Stir Repentance; to Stir People to Seek God—Locusts, Used by God, to Stir Repentance—Locusts, Disaster of, to Stir Repentance: the purpose of the locust invasion was to arouse people to turn and seek the Lord. Standing before his audience, Joel’s heart reached out to them. His message had come from the Lord; therefore, the people had to do exactly what the Lord said or else they would face the judgment of God—the terrifying Day of the Lord. Note that Joel singled out five groups of people and issued a strong charge to each group:

a. The charge to the leaders and citizens was powerful: HEAR! LISTEN! (v. 2). Everyone who lived in the land must hear exactly what God had to say, for the severity of the catastrophe was unequaled (v. 2). No one could recall when the nation had been so devastated. The destruction caused by the locusts was unprecedented, causing the nation’s economy to collapse, resulting in massive unemployment. The very survival of the nation was being threatened as so many faced the crisis of starvation.

The prophet charged the leaders and citizens to remember this disaster and its lesson, for the lesson was to be shared with all future generations (v. 3). They were to remember how devastating the invasion of insects had been, coming in a series of attacks that led to the total destruction of the nation (v. 4). As will be discussed below, the locust invasion was a picture of the broad and all-encompassing judgment of God that would fall upon the nation unless the people turned back to the Lord.

It should be noted that Joel used four different Hebrew words for locusts throughout this passage (vv. 4, 25). Some scholars suggest that these four words describe the very stages of growth in the life of a locust. But most likely, Joel simply used four different terms to graphically describe the series of invasions that ravaged the land. All growth throughout Judah—every crop, fruit tree, bush, plant, and tree in the forest, every growing thing—had been completely destroyed by the locusts.

b. The charge to the drunkards—the indulgent and pleasure-seekers—was an awakening reproof: WAKE UP AND WEEP! They had every reason to weep, for the disaster had ruined the wine and snatched from their lips that which they craved (vv. 5-7). In Jewish society, wine was usually served at meals; therefore, all the adults of the nation were affected by the loss of the grape harvest. However, Joel was not addressing all the adults in this point but, rather, the drunkards, those who represented the self-indulgent and pleasure-seekers of the nation. The drunkards were as guilty as the gluttons in misusing the harvest and fruit of the land that God had so graciously given them. Both the drunkards and the gluttons had taken more than their due share, consuming an excessive amount of the earth’s produce. Thus the prophet of God cried out to the offenders to wake up and weep, for the land had been invaded by a nation, a vast army of ferocious locusts (vv. 6-7). These locusts had teeth as sharp as those of a lion, so sharp they had destroyed all the vineyards and fig trees throughout the nation, causing the downfall of the entire economy. Of course, this meant there was no produce to trade, buy, or sell. Consequently, businesses were bound to go broke and massive unemployment was bound to sweep across the nation. They had even stripped the bark off of the trees and bushes.

c. The charge to the young and old throughout the nation was forceful: MOURN! Mourn like a virgin over the loss of her fiancé (vv. 8-10). A wedding should be a time of joy and rejoicing, but no more, not in the land of Judah. The locusts had snatched away all the growth of the land and caused economic devastation. The very survival of the people was threatened. Whatever marriages had been planned were now delayed, for people were fighting for their very survival. There was no food and certainly no prospect or hope for a job by which a young married couple could support themselves.

But just as tragic was the impact of the locust invasion on the people’s worship. The opportunity to worship through the required animal sacrifice, grain offerings, and drink offerings was now gone. If a person was truly faithful to the Lord, he was bound to suffer deep grief and sorrow due to his inability to worship the Lord as instructed. Also, the people were no longer able to support the priests, which probably meant that most of them would have to give up their ministries in order to have time to scratch out a living day by day.

All the fields were now ruined due to the repeated attacks by the insects and, apparently, a drought had dried up the ground (v. 10). All the produce and harvests—the grain, wine, and oil—were gone. The very survival of both young and old was now threatened.

d. The charge to the farmers was strong: DESPAIR! (Be Ashamed!) Wail! They were to experience utter despair, for the harvests of their fields were ruined by the attack of the locusts. The vineyards and trees were withered, completely dried up by the drought (v. 12). Note the trees listed: the fig, pomegranate, palm, and apple. All the trees that provided food and beauty to the eye had wilted and shriveled up. Thus the people’s joy was bound to fade away, leaving them discouraged and without hope.

e. The charge to the priests was a compelling admonition: WAIL! Joel encouraged the priests to take the lead in seeking and crying out to the Lord. He gave two strong exhortations to the priests.

First, he charged them to dress in sackcloth and to begin mourning and wailing before the Lord (v. 13). In fact, considering the disaster facing the nation, the priests should spend the night crying out to the Lord. Prolonged prayer meetings were obviously necessary, for the people no longer had offerings to present to the Lord. Of course, this meant that the priests would no longer have the financial support of the people. They too were in the midst of struggling for survival. Note how Joel honored the priests by referring to the temple as the house of “your God.” Also note how he referred to the priests as those who minister before “my God.” Apparently, Joel himself was not a priest when God called him to be a prophet but, rather, a lay person.

Second, Joel encouraged the priests to call the people together for fasting and prayer (v. 14). He challenged them to summon all the leaders (elders) and citizens of the land to attend a worship service in the house of the Lord. They were to cry out to the Lord in prayer, seeking the Lord’s help in dealing with the staggering consequences of the locust invasion.

Thought 1. All disasters should arouse us to turn to the Lord, to seek His holy face, and to beg Him for help. No matter who we are, if we truly turn away from sin and seek the Lord, He will hear our prayer and meet our need.

If leaders and citizens will hear the Word of God and listen to His holy commandments, the Lord will answer their cries for help.

Even the drunkards—the indulgent and pleasure-seekers—of this world will receive God’s help if they sincerely turn to Him and seek His face.

Both young and old alike can know the power of God in facing crises if they truly turn to the Lord.

When farmers give their lives wholly to the Lord and genuinely seek Him in prayer, the Lord will meet their needs.

If the priests and ministers of this world will truly humble themselves and continually seek God’s face, He will meet their needs when facing the crises and disasters of life.

Listen to what God’s Holy Word says to us all:

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5:4).

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Lu. 11:9).

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

“But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deut. 4:29).

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14).

“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

“I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Prov. 8:17).

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7).

“For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

“But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezek. 18:21 ).

“And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (Joel 2:13).

3. The lesson of the locust invasion: pictured the Day of the Lord—His terrifying judgment and destruction (vv. 15-20).

3. (1:15-20) Day of the Lord, Symbolized by, Locust Invasion—Judgment, Symbolized by, Locust Invasion—Destruction, Caused by, Locust Invasion—Locusts, Symbol of, Day of the Lord; God’s Judgment—Intercession, for Sinners, Example of, Joel—Intercession, Duty, to Pray for Sinners; to Pray for Deliverance, from Disasters: the lesson of the locust invasion was to picture the Day of the Lord, the day of His terrifying judgment that was soon coming upon the nation of Judah. Keep in mind that the Day of the Lord refers to the judgment of God, but it also refers to His wonderful salvation and deliverance. This particular Scripture refers to the locust disaster as a present-day judgment that was a foreshadowing (sign) of a greater judgment soon to come upon the nation. The plague of insects was a contemporary Day of the Lord, but lying out in the future was a far more terrifying Day of the Lord. Joel clearly said that the future Day of the Lord was near, imminent. When the future Day came, it would be a time of catastrophic destruction from the Almighty Himself. It would be a shattering, destructive force flowing out from the Lord’s holy nature.

Apparently, Joel was using the locust invasions to point to the future invasions by the Assyrian and Babylonian armies (2:1-2, 20; Isa. 14:31; 41:25; Jer. 1:13-15; 4:6; 6:1; 10:22; 25:9) and to the invasion by the nations of the world in the end times of human history (3:1-16). In verse 15, Joel said that the Day of the Lord was near and that it would come in the form of destruction from the Lord. Note that the future tense is used in this reference to the Day of the Lord.

Beginning in verse 16, the prophet used the devastation by the locusts to foreshadow what would take place in the future Day of the Lord.

a. The Day of the Lord would be a time of horrible suffering. Joel vividly described four areas:

1) People would suffer due to famine because their food supply would be cut off before their very eyes (v. 16a).

2) People would suffer because all joyful worship would be cut off. When God’s terrifying judgment came, there would be no rejoicing or praise coming from the house of God.

3) People would suffer because all storage and grain facilities throughout the nation would be empty and ruined when the Day of the Lord came (v. 17). The economy would collapse and businesses would shut down if there were no products to buy or sell, no money to purchase anything, and people’s sole objective was to survive from one day to the next.

4) Livestock would suffer because there would be nothing for them to eat. Cattle and sheep would groan from lack of pasture to graze on (v. 18).

b. The Day of the Lord would be a day when true believers cried out to the Lord for help (v. 19). This was exactly what the prophet Joel did. He realized the people’s desperate situation and their dire need to repent and turn back to the Lord. Therefore, he cried out to the Lord for help. He cried out for God to have mercy upon the people and their nation. Joel stood in the gap between the Lord and the people, stood as a dynamic example of intercessory prayer. This prophet was a true prayer warrior—one who passionately interceded for others.

c. The Day of the Lord would be a day when wild animals would cry out to God for relief and help (v. 20). When God’s judgment falls upon a nation, even the animals are affected. In this case, Scripture says the beasts would long for water and pasture. God’s judgment would dry up the streams and the ground itself, allowing fire to more easily ignite and burn up the vegetation that provides food for the wild animals.

Thought 1. The lesson for us to see is the certainty of the Day of the Lord, the coming day of God’s terrifying judgment. Just when the climactic day will begin on earth is not known. No person knows the day or hour when Christ will return to earth to execute judgment. But the day of judgment is near for every one of us. All of us will one day leave this earth and stand before the Lord to hear His verdict upon our lives. If we have truly placed our faith in Christ and are obeying His Holy Word and commandments, the Lord will accept us. But if we have rebelled against the Lord—rejecting, cursing, and denying Him—we will suffer the judgment of God. The Lord will take vengeance upon all who rebel against Him, all who curse, deny, and reject Him. Listen to what God says about the terrifying judgment to come:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:36-38).

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Th. 1:7-9).

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Pe. 2:9).

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15).

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7).