Joel 2 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
As we read in Joel 1, locusts have invaded the land. Since we do not see locust swarms here, I embedded a link to the current locust swarms in Africa to allow you see how terribly destructive locusts are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2OUxzErFu8.
In Joel 2, the prophet sounds the alarm v. 1 because Joel knows something coming is even worse than starvation – the result of a locust swarm. We usually comfort people by saying that things will get better. Joel does not say that at all. In verses 1-11, Joel lays out the bad news. Some think Joel is describing a human army; others think he is describing locusts in army terminology. Yet, v. 11 calls this “his army” and this is all about the coming day of the Lord which you notice is in v. 1 and v. 11.
Joel is not scaring God’s people. Joel is telling them what will happen. And it will not be a happy day. But Joel also tells us how to escape God’s judgment. First, Joel calls us to repentance which means a turning and a change of mind about sin, yourself, and God. While this may involve external manifestations, repentance is internal, spiritual, and deep v. 13. Repentance begins in our core, who we are, and because of that repentance, God’s Spirit recalibrates our speech, our thoughts, our relationships, and all our behavior.
You will also see that repentance is God-focused. “Return to me . . . Return to the Lord . . . for he is . . . he will relent over disaster.” V. 12-13. Look again in verses 15-17. Repentance is all about turning to God in a spiritual act. Blowing the trumpet is a call for God’s people to gather and repent, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16 gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. 17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD. . . .”
Yet repentance guarantees nothing. “Who knows whether he will not turn and relent . . .v. 14 sounds like Jonah 3:9, “9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” So we see that God’s people are treated like and acting like ungodly people. But like the ungodly, God’s people, His chosen ones, need to repent.
What is so striking is the speed that God forgives and restores. As soon as there is a call to repentance, God is speedily, recklessly forgiving and restoring.
“18 Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. 19 The LORD answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations. If a judge responded that quickly to a guilty person who repented we might consider that judge irresponsible, careless and rash.
I find v. 18 hard to understand or comprehend. Why, after hundreds of years of rebellion and sin, after prophetic pleading and calls for repentance, after more hard hearted rebellion, does God, at this late stage, still have pity? Why is he jealous? For these people?
But that last phrase is somewhat misleading. I should say, for people like us? Because we are the people Joel is writing about. We are the rebellious, sinful, belligerent people blind to our own situation – at least some of us and all of us at times.
When Joel says to rend your heart that means there is work for us to do. We need to search our hearts, repent, and return. Of course, we can’t do that without the Holy Spirit, but we must truly, honestly, genuinely, and humbly repent. I hope you understand that for anyone to say or write these things, that person also means it for themselves. I need to repent because I am a sinner. My sin grieves God and yet I persist in it. I can never stop repenting.
But when I do, I find a God that is more gracious than I could ever imagine. We will find a God that has more pity than we could ever deserve. He “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster” v. 13. No matter what you have done, who you are, and whether you think God will forgive you, run to Him. He will not refuse those who come to Him repenting and believing. Don’t wait. Start repenting now.