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An army of locusts (2:1-11)
Joel now pictures the approaching swarms of locusts as a person in Jerusalem sees them. He compares them to an enemy army and commands the watchman on the city wall to blow the trumpet to warn the city’s inhabitants of the attack. The swarms are so thick that they look like black clouds as they sweep down over the mountains (2:1-2). They spread over the countryside like an uncontrollable bushfire, turning healthy farmlands into barren wastes (3). People are terrified. They are helpless before the onslaught of this destructive army (4-6).
Finally, the locusts attack Jerusalem. City walls cannot keep this enemy out, as locusts swarm into the city and through the houses (7-9). The clouds of insects are so thick they blot out the sun. The darkness demonstrates to all that this is God’s judgment and the day of the Lord is upon them (10-11).
2:12-32 GOD’S MERCY ON THE REPENTANT
Repentance and restoration (2:12-27)
Although God is the one who has sent this judgment, it is not too late for the people to ask for his mercy. However, this must be accompanied by genuine inward repentance, not just by the outward show of torn clothing, sackcloth and ashes. God may then restore their fields and vineyards, and they will be able to worship him with their cereal and wine offerings again (12-14).
Once more a trumpet is blown, but this time to call the people to the temple to seek God’s mercy. No one is to be excluded, not even the children. All are to fast and mourn, even people who would normally be rejoicing and celebrating, such as those who have just been married (15-16). The priests gather in the temple court between the porch and the altar, and lead the people in prayer (17).
God accepts the people’s repentance and promises to remove the locusts. He will drive them out to perish in the desert regions to the south, in the Dead Sea to the east, and in the Mediterranean Sea to the west. There may be some unpleasantness at first because of the smell from the millions of decaying locust carcasses, some lying in heaps on the ground, others washed up on to the shores. But after this, the land will become productive again (18-22). God will give good rains and good harvests to compensate for the losses suffered during the locust plague (23-25). This whole experience of judgment, repentance, forgiveness, blessing and thanksgiving will cause them to know God better (26-27).
Promise of the Spirit (2:28-32)
People may readily turn to God in days of hardship, but many of them just as readily forget God and become self-satisfied as soon as prosperity returns. They will be more obedient to God when they have a better understanding of his will. They will be more genuine in their devotion to him when they realize that his blessings consist of more than grain, wine and oil. Joel looks forward to the day when God will give all his people this better understanding by putting his Spirit within each one, regardless of age, sex or social status. It will not be like former times, when God gave his Spirit only to certain people for special tasks on special occasions (28-29).
All this must happen before the final great day of the Lord dawns. The darkness and terror of the locust plague is only a faint picture of the horror of that last great judgment. On that day believers will be saved but sinners will perish (30-32).
In New Testament times Peter saw a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy in the remarkable events of the Day of Pentecost. With the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, a new age had dawned. The Spirit was now given to all God’s people. Those who called on God’s name had the assurance of salvation, but those who persisted in their sin had the assurance of judgment and condemnation (Acts 2:14-21; cf. John 16:7-15).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Joel 2". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent