Biographers and historians often sanitize the lives of those whom they write about, leaving out salient details that mar a person or people's legacy. God does not. The Bible chronicles the nations of Israel and Judah, and the picture isn't pretty. Rebellion, idolatry, gross sexual immorality, oppression, and family and communal brokenness are revealed in all their ugliness.
Israel and Judah function as a mirror for all other peoples, demonstrating a truth captured by the Psalmist and the Apostle Paul, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one" (Ps. 14:1; Rom. 3:10). Without God's moving toward man in redemption, man has no hope whatsoever.
God's covenant love for Israel is demonstrated by the lengths to which He goes to turn them away from the path that leads to destruction. He rains locusts upon Judah that, in a matter of hours, devastate the land (Joel 1:4), and He sends Joel to deliver His message to His sin-drunk people (1:5). Moses had foretold the plague of locusts as a consequence of continual disobedience in the Blessings and Cursings (Deut. 28:38). Israel has been warned, a thousand years in advance. And now, judgment has arrived!
Locusts, like sin, threaten to dismantle Israel as a nation, and nothing gets people's attention more quickly than the lack of food. In response to the locust invasion, Joel commands farmers, priests, and elders alike to consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly into the house of the LORD, and cry out to the LORD (1:11, 13-14), and to turn to Him with all their hearts (2:12). Joel fuels hope as he points the people to the One who is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness . . . . Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him? (2:13-14). To a repentant people, God promises, "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten" (2:25).
The judgment of locusts, however, pales in comparison to the coming judgment of the Day of the LORD, "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgement with them there" (Joel 3:1-2).
We've been warned more than 2500 years in advance!
What God promises to do for repentant Israel, He will do for any repentant man--until it is too late. That's unvarnished truth!
Describe the communal and marital relationships of the former exiles. What does their interpersonal brokenness reveal about their relationship with God? Review 1 John 4:20.
What do Malachi and Joel's messages share in common?
What do their messages reveal about God?
What hope do their messages contain regarding the future of Israel?
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