When a disaster becomes a lever- Friday, 27th week in ordinary time- Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2
The prophet, after whom this short book is named, is called simply “Joel” meaning Yahweh. The prophet was, in all probability, a citizen of Jerusalem in Judah, which is the focal point of the book’s substance. He may have been a priest or cult-prophet and it may be assumed that Joel was a person of some education, for his poetry has literary power and his words reflect familiarity with the writings, or sayings, of other prophets.
The book was written after the building of the temple in 515 and before the destruction of Sidon in 343 and after the time of Obadiah and Malachi. Though the date of the prophet’s ministry remains shrouded in mystery, the event which prompted the ministry, from the human perspective, is perfectly clear; it was the horrifying experience of a locust plague. The prophet describes in vivid terms the recent experience of the devastation caused by locusts (1:2-2:17) and takes that historical reality as the launching point of his prophetic ministry.
That the prophet describes a real infestation of the land by locusts need not be doubted, though there was a tendency among the older interpreters to understand the tale of the locusts to be merely symbolic or allegorical. Not only in ancient times, but also in the modern era, Jerusalem and its surrounding lands have been vulnerable to the ravages of locusts. In the spring of 1915, Jerusalem, Palestine and Syria were subjected to terrible devastation as a consequence of an influx of locusts
The principal theme of the prophecy is the “Day of the Lord”, an expression which occurs with frequency throughout the short book. It is a phrase used also by other prophets, but no other writer devotes his attention so comprehensively to the theme as does Joel. In general terms, the Day of the Lord is the day on which God’s judgment of evil persons and nations is executed and his reign of righteousness established.
The focus on the present is prompted by the plague of locusts, which evokes in Joel’s mind the approaching judgment of God. And so Joel calls upon his people to repent (1:12-17); after the passage of an undetermined period of time, it appears that the people have responded to the prophet’s message and judgment has been averted.
Wherever and whenever evil prospered, the Day of the Lord must always be at hand. Although that day may be delayed, inevitably it must someday come to pass. And though the Day of the Lord would be a fearful time for the practitioners of evil, both persons and nations, it would nevertheless be a time of hope. For beyond that day the prophet sees a vision, albeit distant and without clear substance, when the years lost to the locust would be remembered no more.
compiled from various sources.
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