Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Joel 1: 1-4

The Devastation of Locusts
1The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel:
2Hear this, O elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land
Has anything like this happened in your days or in your fathers' days?
3Tell your sons about it,
And let your sons tell their sons,
And their sons the next generation.
4What 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.

The setting for the opening chapter of Joel reads as something from a horror movie. Locusts! Locusts! Locusts!! Joel lives at a time in which drought has plagued the southern kingdom of Judah, and what was still viable for consumption was eaten by locusts (vs 4).

What is significant about locusts? Without turning this into a lecture on entomology, locusts are not just like grasshoppers. They eat their weight in plants every day, which doesn't seem like a big deal, until you multiply that tens of millions of times.

"...Locusts have another behavioral phase called the gregarious phase. When environmental conditions produce many green plants and promote breeding, locusts can congregate into thick, mobile, ravenous swarms."

What had once been a land of sustenance had been decimated by insects.

Interesting note that the King James Version does not use 'locusts' through this passage. It also references the palmer worm, the canker worm and caterpillars. It is possible that the reference to 'locusts' in the NASB and other translations refers to different stages in the life-cycle of locusts. Regardless, the end result is complete devastation over a period of time.

As horrible as such a plague in and of itself would be upon a country, Joel's cry to the elders and the people of Judah in verse 2 is not solely to address the locust invasion. He is describing a current "day of the Lord." God had much more to say than just "Locusts!"

'Hear' and 'Listen' are the opening verbs in verse 2. My study Bible has notes about the phrasing of the passage, which is seen in other places in the Bible. "The terminology was commonly used in 'lawsuit' passages, intimating that Israel was found guilty and that the present judgment was her 'sentence'." Here's a cross-reference for verse 2 from Hosea 4:1,

"Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land."

What can happen at the hands of an angry God? Plenty, not the least of which is an invasion of locusts. So, it would appear that God used the circumstances of the times--the consequences of a lack of faithfulness--to speak to His people through His chosen messenger, Joel. In the next couple weeks, as we read further, there will be more and more parallels drawn. [I'm excited and awed at the same time, as there are paragraphs of notes in my S.B. related to single verses. This is why I feared looking at the prophets for so long. No longer!]

Concluding today, looking at verse 3, God says that this is not a message only for Judah in this time, but it is a message for generations to come. This is part of the character of God, that He relies upon His people to talk about who He is and that this message not be lost. He expects--commands--that it be carried on forever.

"Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you."
--Deuteronomy 32:7

"For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments...."
--Psalm 78:5-7 (emphasis mine)

It's easy for us to say that we serve an unchanging God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, but do we truly understand that His Word is the same, and has been passed down through generations that we would continue to relay the Truth to the next generations?
This is one of those places in which prophecy for a different time speaks mightily to us today.

'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Joel 1: 5-9

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


B His Girl said...

The picture looks scary and the thought of no knowledge of God in the land is frightning. I saw the words 'wake up your garden' on the issue of Lowe's Creative Ideas yesterday. I am reminded of those words as I read this. B

Sue J. said...

Barbara, good to hear from you!

"Wake up your garden...." Well, that could go in a number of different ways, couldn't it? When we're surrounded by plenty, we can easily forget the One who provided. We've only touched the surface of this story of Judah, and there will be more words of devastation before we get to the hope.

As devastating as the pictures are from Haiti, I've heard too many stories about the Hope that those people know. And they are not living in a land of plenty as we know one. But, though their devastation be great, the outpouring of praises for God and the blessings that He has already demonstrated through this suffering are greater.

What will Judah's elders say and do? What else will God say?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Edie said...

I was trying to eat a sandwich as I started reading this. I managed to get it down in spite of the visuals I was getting. LOL!

As I was reading how it referred to gnawing locusts, and swarming, locusts and creeping locusts, I was thinking that it must be referring to the different stages in the life of locusts too. It's my understanding that the KJV is supposed to be a word for word translation as opposed to word for thought. Now I want to do a word study.

What caught my attention is that this scripture says "there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land."

There is much that can be said about that as it relates to our culture today, but the lack of knowledge of God makes me think of how Christianity is being turned into a universal "one size fits all" kind of religion that has no understanding (knowledge) of God.

Great study Sue J!