• Call to lament and repent. When great tragedy occurs, a natural impulse is to lament, to cry to God for help, and to complain about one's circumstances. Yet, in our day, persons of faith are often discouraged, directly or more subtly, from a vigorous, accusing lament. Sometimes, it is appropriate to repent if persons have brought their trouble on themselves by their own behavior.
• Connection with the Pentecost experience. Probably the best known passage from Joel is 2:28-29 where, it is said, all people will be able to prophesy. The writer of Acts uses this passage to interpret the experience of people speaking and understanding many different languages. It links the Hebrew Bible with the experience of those first Christians.
• The Day of the Lord. The world has many flaws, the wicked prosper while the innocent suffer, the bad guys often win the wars, and death hangs over the head of everyone. And so, people of faith long for a time when God will come to fix everything once and for all. When that day, the Day of the Lord, comes, will it be a good time or a bad time? Joel sees the Day both as a time of judgment and as a promise of hope.
• Hope has the last word. Prophetic books often contain words of dire warning if people do not live in obedience to God. Or, as in the case of Joel, terrible things have already happened, probably as the result of human sin. The prophetic books, however, almost never leave the people without hope. Joel, like other prophets, ends with hope, both in 2:18-27 (regarding the locusts) and 3:18, 20-21 (regarding the final vindication of Israel).
• Natural disasters as messages from God. Natural disasters are a common occurrence in every age--floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, or the scourge of crop-eating insects. Did God have a part in sending the disaster? How do we know that? And what is the message that is being sent? Joel, as people do in our day, sees the locusts as a punishment from God, though he never states clearly what sin might have caused it.
AUTHOR: Daniel Simundson, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament