We live during days that are very similar days to the days of the prophet Joel, even though many centuries separate us, our cultures are very similar. At one time during the history of the USA, there was a very healthy fear of the Lord. Children used to pray at school even if they did not come from families that were faithful to God. Many children learned how to read using the Bible as their guide. Bible stories were once the bedtime stories that children heard from their parents. Somewhere along the way, people stopped seeking fellowship with God. It did not happen overnight. It happened little by little until social/secular life became separate from spiritual life and many just completely moved away from spirituality. This discretion is a mirror image of what happened in Israel during the life of the prophet Joel. Society was falling apart then as it seems to be doing now. I would like to examine the root of the problem and see what solution God offers to right was has been made wrong by us, the people.
Joel chapters 1 and 2 give us 4 important truths to learn for our own times. God always shows us our problems with the purpose of making us aware of the consequences so that we will be more open to receiving His solution. If we follow His plan then the results will always be positive for us.
9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off From the house of the LORD. The priests mourn, The ministers of the LORD. 13 Gird yourselves with sackcloth And lament, O priests ; Wail, O ministers of the altar ! Come, spend the night in sackcloth O ministers of my God, For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God. (Joel 1)
The people no longer had time to meet with their God. They were either upset with Him (because of the consequences of their sin) or they were too busy trying to survive, trying to ride out the bad times so they did not place their relationship with God as a number one priority. The problem was, for a long time, their relationship with God had not really been a priority. They were faithful to God in the past and He greatly blessed them. At the height of their blessings, they became proud and began to trust in their position and possessions and forgot about the One who gave the two things to them, God. They were paying lip service to God yet their hearts were far from Him. He called them out on it and they were suffering. Instead of returning to Him, they occupied themselves with “survival” and things just went from bad to worse. I see a very similar situation, or pattern in our country. There was a time when we needed God so much that we walked with Him like children do with their fathers when they are in a strange place. As God began to bless, we began to trust in those blessings more than in the One who gave them. For a while we still continued to give lip service to Him yet our hearts were moving further and further away from Him. We have reached the point now that many are just in survival mode and do not have time for God or spiritual things. If you get to that stage, then that is when you need God the most and instead of digging your own pit deeper and deeper, you need to return to your Creator and watch how He will put you back on the right path.
If you do not come to your senses on your own then sometimes God will help you out by pressing you with the consequences of your own sin, desiring that this pressure will drive you to your knees so that you will look up to Him. This is what He did to Israel during the days of Joel, the prophet.
Sooner or later sin will bring about its fruit in your life, the consequences of your actions. God is a good God. He allows us to make our own choices but He also tells us what the right choices are and what the wrong ones are. He does not let us choose our own consequences. He gives those to us but He does warn us of the consequences ahead of time so that we can factor that into the decision making process. What can we learn from the children of Israel during the days of the prophet Joel?
2 Hear this, O elders, And listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days Or in your fathers’ days ? 3 Tell your sons about it, And let your sons tell their sons, And their sons the next generation. (Joel 1)
These consequences are to be a testimony to every generation that follows of what happens to a nation that forgets God and lives in the momentary pleasures of sin. This is a lesson for you and for me. We are to learn from it and pass it on to our children and our grandchildren.
4 What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten ; And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten ; And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten. 6 For a nation has invaded my land, Mighty and without number ; Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, And it has the fangs of a lioness. (Joel 1)
God is in control of all things and He allows natural disasters to happen to awaken us from our slumber (see verse 5). Many times we get content and forget about God’s blessings that got us to the place of contentment. We begin to trust in ourselves and settle into a routine of contentment doing what we can to stay comfortable. If we forget God during this time then He will allow something to happen to wake us up a bit so that we will turn to Him. In Israel, there was an invasion of locusts that destroyed the crops and led to famine. They had been living high on the hog and become so content that they had forgotten about God. He was about to change all of that, for their own good of course. They needed to see that their spiritual lives were in shambles. Not only did the locusts invade, so did another nation to conquer them. Why does God do this? Being blessed and content is useless if your spiritual life is falling apart. Look no further than Hollywood or professional sports to see people who are blessed in every material way possible yet many of their spiritual lives are in shambles and as a result, their lives consist of just one big drama after another.
Verse 2 of chapter one gives us the answer. We must listen and pay attention to the Word of God. Our modern age is an age that likes to boast of it development and advancements. Even with all of our modern technologies, if we do not pay attention to the Word of God, we will suffer the consequences. As leaders in the community we need to pay attention to and live by the Word of God so that we can pass this knowledge on to the next generations. If we do not, then they will repeat our same basic mistakes and face the same consequences over and over again. Mankind has been fighting STD’s since the fall yet with all of our technological advancements, we are losing the battle on a daily basis against STD’s. Why? Because God has promised to judge fornicators and adulterers. The quickest way to stop the spread of STD’s is by teaching abstinence until marriage and fidelity in marriage. God has been saying this all along yet we seem to think that we know better so we invent “protection”, promote promiscuity, and then are amazed at the rapid rate at which STD’s spread.
Joel chapter 1 basically covers all social groups of a society.
14 Consecrate a fast, Proclaim a solemn assembly ; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land To the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD. (Joel 1)
They all receive the same message, “weep and wail over your situation and the reason that you are in that situation, your sin, admit that you have failed, and return to God for His help”. Chapter 2 gives a detailed description of what it means to return to the Lord with all of your heart.
The results are beautiful. They can be read in Joel 2:18-27.
- God will have mercy on His people.
- He will heal them and their land.
- He will send rain and cause fresh crops to grow.
- Everyone will have enough to eat.
- The invaders will be defeated and driven out.
- People will rejoice in their relationship with God once again.
Do you rejoice in your relationship with God or are you too busy just trying to survive to worry about your spiritual life? Do you teach your children and the next generations the Word of God so that they will not repeat our same mistakes or are you just too busy for that? When you go through difficult times, do you think to turn to God or do you just put your head down and wade through the problems never giving a second thought to your need for God? May God give us wisdom to make wise decisions based on His wise Word.