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locust August 11 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Joel

Note: The date of this prophecy is uncertain; it may have been written before an Assyrian invasion during the reign of King Joash of Judah, or it may have been written before the final invasion of Babylon. The latter view is taken here because of the strong emphasis on Jerusalem and Zion (the names of Israel or Ephraim are notably absent from the book) and the condition of the land and the people at the time of the prophecy.

Learning from Natural Disasters

If you don’t like bugs, you probably won’t like locusts. Farmers know that certain bugs can destroy crops. Locusts have sometimes destroyed much of the land in the Middle East. Perhaps you have not experienced a locust plague, but you may have experienced another natural disaster like a tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, or even a severe drought. What did you learn from it? Did it cause you to fear the LORD and go to church? Did it cause you to wonder if you did something wrong or if more disasters were on the horizon? Or, did you just think of it as an unfortunate event of nature?

In the days of the prophet Joel there was a severe drought in the land of Israel and Judah and surrounding areas. Added to this problem were a locust plague and famine. This may have occurred during the two year siege by Babylon upon Jerusalem.

So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. (2Kings 25:1-3, NIV)

I [God] will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another's flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives (Jeremiah 19:9, NIV).

The army of Babylon was like a large army of devouring locusts. She had attacked Judah from the north twice, and now she laid siege on Jerusalem and threatened to devour her totally, leaving nothing (Joel 1:4). She was also fierce like a lion (Joel 1:6). Through Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, God destroyed by sword and siege (which caused famine), and God sent plagues. One of these may have been locusts, as locusts are mentioned during the reigns of King Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (Jeremiah 46:23, 51:14 and 51:27).

In fear of the invasion, King Zedekiah had asked Jeremiah to inquire of the LORD to see if he would work miracles for Judah as he did in the past (Jeremiah 21:2). The prophets Joel and Jeremiah made pleas for repentance before Judah was destroyed (Joel 2:12-13; Jeremiah 21:12). Her demise was compared to the future Day of the LORD, a day of terrible destruction before the second coming of Christ to the earth. Because of the severe drought, famine, and plague, Joel called upon the people to repent. This repentance was not to be a false pretense of being sorry for their sins. Joel proclaimed this message:

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing (Joel 2:12-14a, NIV)

When we sin are we truly sorry for it? Are we contrite, or do we try to justify our actions? Do we put up a show of repentance to try to avoid punishment? Joel’s message could be for us as well as the people of Jerusalem: “Return to me with all your heart…rend your hearts and not your garments.”

Unfortunately for Judah, the invasion would come, and they would be destroyed. Was there no more hope for Judah? Yes, there was. After seventy years in captivity in Babylon, the Jewish exiles would repent and be allowed to return to their devastated homeland. There, under the vassal state of Medo-Persia, she would be authorized to rebuild the temple and her city walls. In the future there will also be another period of judgment for the re-unified nation of Israel. She will be threatened with annihilation, but God will bring judgment upon her enemies, destroying them. After that, God will bring everlasting peace. God said,

“In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.”

The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.

The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. “Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her…”

“Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” The LORD dwells in Zion! (Joel 3:1-2, 15-17, 21, NIV)

Lessons to live by:

  • Natural disasters should cause us to think about our life and to seek the LORD.
  • If we have sinned, let us not come to God in pretense to try to curry favors or avoid catastrophes - let us return to God with our whole hearts. If we do this, we may avoid punishment and be given his blessings.
  • God can give us peace even during natural disasters. He will either protect us or help us through them if we will trust in him for our salvation (more...).

Today’s Bible memory verse: Joel 2:13 “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (NIV)

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