Restoring the locust years: Comments on the book of Joel

In the book of Joel, we see how God sent judgments upon the WHOLE of Israel for their sins against Him. I emphasize the word “whole” because there was always a PART of that whole that was preserved by God as the faithful remnant. We have an instance of this in the book of Isaiah:

“So says Jehovah: As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it; so I will do for the sake of My servants, not to destroy the whole. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah one to inherit My mountains. And My elect shall inherit, and My servants shall live there. And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks; and the valley of Achor a resting place of herds for My people who have sought Me. But you are those who forsake Jehovah, who forget My holy mountain; who array a table for Fortune, and who fill mixed wine for Fate. And I will number you to the sword; and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because I called and you did not answer. I spoke, and you did not hear; and you did the evil in My eyes; and you chose that in which I had no pleasure. So the Lord Jehovah says this: Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry. Behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty. Behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be ashamed” (Isaiah 65:8-13).

Let us keep a passage like Isaiah 65 in mind as we read the following from the book of Joel:

“The Word of Jehovah that was to Joel, the son of Pethuel: Hear this, you old men, and give ear, all you people of the land. Has this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your sons about it, and your sons to their sons, and their sons to another generation. What was left by the cutter, the swarming locust ate; and that left of the swarming locust, the locust larvae ate; and that left of the locust larvae, the stripping locust ate. Awake, drunkards, and weep. And wail, all wine drinkers, over the grape must, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up on my land, strong and without number; its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the jaw teeth of a lioness” ( Joel 1:1-6).

There is disagreement amongst some commentators whether these “locusts” be literal or whether they figurative or emblematic, signifying a nation of men, “strong without number.” If these “locusts” describe a nation, “strong and without number” that was sent by God against Israel for their idolatries, then in a similar manner God sent the Assyrians (cf. Isaiah 10). I think the whole of the book shows that this army, this nation of locusts are literal locusts sent in a similar manner that God sent them upon the Egyptians in the book of Exodus. But either way, the point in Joel is that God sent these righteous judgments against wickedness that caused destruction of crops which also negatively affected the livestock and flocks of sheep (Joel 1:10-12, 16-20).

“Yet even now turn to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning, declares Jehovah. Yea, tear your heart, and not your robes; and turn to Jehovah your God. For He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and He pities concerning the evil” (Joel 2:12-13).

Those who have committed wickedness are admonished to turn to the God of mercy and great kindness. Application: In our time of unregeneracy and lostness we were continually committing great wickedness against God. Now that He has regenerated and saved us based on the work of Christ alone, we see just how great His kindness is and just how slow He is to anger. We who believe the gospel know that because God would unconditionally pity concerning the evil, He sent Christ to die for us, His people:

“…but God commends His love to us in this, that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“…and you being dead in deviations and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, among whom we also all conducted ourselves in times past in the lusts of our flesh, doing the things willed of the flesh and of the understanding, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even we being dead in deviations, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved), and raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that He might demonstrate in the ages coming on, the exceeding great riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-7).

“Let the priests, ministers of Jehovah, weep between the porch and the altar; and let them say, Have pity on Your people, O Jehovah, and do not give Your inheritance to shame, for a proverb among those of the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God? Then Jehovah will be jealous for His land and have pity on His people. Yea, Jehovah will answer and say to His people, Behold, I will send you grain, and wine, and oil, and you shall be satisfied with it. And I will no more make you a curse among the nations: (Joel 2:17-19).

Just as those in Joel were no more to be made a curse among the nations, so we who were formerly cursed in our unregenerate state have received the blessing of Abraham, the promise of the Holy Spirit:

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us; for it has been written, ‘Cursed is everyone having been hung on a tree;’ that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Christ became a curse for us that we might be blessed; He became poor for us, so that we might become rich through His poverty:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich, He became poor for your sake, so that you might become rich by the poverty of that One”( 2 Corinthians 8:9).

“Fear not, O land, be glad and rejoice, for Jehovah is doing great things. Fear not, beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness grow green, for the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their strength. Then be glad, sons of Zion, and rejoice in Jehovah your God. For He has given to you the early rain according to righteousness, and He will cause the rain to come down for you, the early rain and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full with grain, and the wine vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the locust larvae, and the stripping locust, and the cutting locust, My great army which I sent among you. And you shall eat fully and be satisfied; and you shall praise the name of Jehovah your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And My people shall not be ashamed forever. And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am Jehovah your God, and there is no other. And My people shall not be ashamed forever” (Joel 2:21-27).

The locust years for those recorded in the book of Joel was a time of destruction of things like fruit, grain, and green pastures. Spiritual application: Our locust years might be the time of our unregeneracy when we were dead in trespasses and sins. God, in His mercy in Christ Jesus has restored the locust years in this life and especially in the eternal life to come. God has dealt wondrously with us and we shall never be ashamed:

“For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones calling on Him. For everyone, “whoever may call on the name of the Lord will be saved'” (Romans 10:11-13).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek” (Romans 1:16).

“Because of this, it is also contained in the Scripture: “Behold,” I lay in Zion” an elect, “precious Stone,” “a Corner-foundation;” “and the one believing in Him shall not be ashamed, never!” Then to you who believe belongs the preciousness. But to disobeying ones, He is the “Stone which those building rejected; this One became the Head of the Corner,” and a Stone-of-stumbling, and a Rock-of-offense” to the ones stumbling, being disobedient to the Word, to which they were also appointed. But you are “an elect race,” “a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” “a people for possession,” so that “you may openly speak of the virtues” of the One who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; you who then were “not a people, but now are the people” of God; “the one not pitied then but now pitied.” Beloved, I exhort you as pilgrims and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul; having your behavior good among the nations, in that which they speak against you as evildoers; by observing your good works, they may glorify God in a day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:6-12).

“And Jehovah roars from Zion, and He gives His voice from Jerusalem. And the heavens and the earth quake. But Jehovah is a refuge for His people and a fortress to the sons of Israel” (Joel 3:16).

The Mighty God who bled for us His people and who glorified Himself by calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light is our Refuge and Fortress. But to those who are not the people of God, they will be a ruin, a desolate wilderness (Joel 3:19).