The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
An Invasion of Locusts
2 Hear this, you elders;
listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
3 Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.
4 What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten.
5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine;
wail because of the new wine,
for it has been snatched from your lips.
6 A nation has invaded my land,
a mighty army without number;
it has the teeth of a lion,
the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has laid waste my vines
and ruined my fig trees.
It has stripped off their bark
and thrown it away,
leaving their branches white.
8 Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth
grieving for the betrothed of her youth.
9 Grain offerings and drink offerings
are cut off from the house of the Lord.
The priests are in mourning,
those who minister before the Lord.
10 The fields are ruined,
the ground is dried up;
the grain is destroyed,
the new wine is dried up,
the olive oil fails.
11 Despair, you farmers,
wail, you vine growers;
grieve for the wheat and the barley,
because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
12 The vine is dried up
and the fig tree is withered;
the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—
all the trees of the field—are dried up.
Surely the people’s joy
is withered away.
Joel lived and spoke God’s Word at a time when drought and a plague of locusts had devastated the economy. He ‘joined the dots’ between sin and judgment, but also held out the hope that there could be restoration if the people would sincerely repent. Eugene Peterson writes, in his introduction to Joel in ‘The Message’: ‘He used a current event in Israel as a text to call his people to an immediate awareness that there wasn’t a day that went by that they weren’t dealing God. We are always dealing with God.’
In today’s passage I am particularly struck by the repetition of the word ”my” (verses 6,7). The land belonged to the Lord, not to the people who were infecting it with their sin. Similarly, we need to recognise today that the church is Christ’s. Whatever people may be doing to the visible church with their doctrinal and moral infidelity, the invisible church of Jesus – the true church – is on the building site. It is going up, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
The church is the Lord’s. This understanding can bring peace to our heavy hearts when we mistakenly start to think it’s all on our shoulders. It most certainly isn’t.
But it should also warn us sternly:
”Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).
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