Joel Chapter 1
Prophecy offers us a valuable glimpse into God’s relationship with Israel and His plans for the world. You’ll find this to be true over the next 3 weeks as we study the book of Joel. The prophecies of Joel not only provide a clear picture of a landmark moment in Israel’s history but will also help you examine your own personal walk with God and how you can draw closer to Him.
The book of Joel is a serious wakeup call for Israel to say that disaster is coming. The Israelites’ hearts were far from God, who had promised judgment if His people walked away from Him. Joel 1 introduces us to an invasion of locusts, both literal and symbolic, in Israel. God tells Joel the Day of the Lord is coming, a day of judgment and destruction upon His unrepentant Chosen People. But as He always does, God gave Joel to Israel to warn them and tell them to wake up and repent. We are called to do the same, as God is waiting for us to come to Him for grace and forgiveness. We hope this study of Joel blesses you over the next few weeks!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. We're so glad you're with us. Everything related to today's program and every previous episode can be found at foiradio.org. It's there you'll find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel and the Middle East. And while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button and help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Again, visit us at foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we're starting a new series today, a series on the prophet Joel. It's only three chapters long. So we're going to take the next three weeks to go through the prophet Joel and to see what he has to say about what God's going to do in the future concerning the nations of the world and how they relate to Israel and the Jewish people. But first in the news, with Israel's fifth election in just three years around the corner, a recent opinion poll published by Israel's Public Broadcast found that the November 1st national election could have one of the lowest ever turnouts among Arab Israelis. A low turnout could shrink the Arab representation in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Here's my take, Benjamin Netanyahu has the votes to win the Israeli election according to polling data. Now a weak Arab Israeli turnout could be the boost Netanyahu needs to form a coalition government by a slim majority to become prime minister once again.
Chris Katulka: Today we're going to begin a three-part series on the book of Joel. And what makes this a perfect three-part series is that Joel is only three chapters, but these three chapters are full of both Israel's history and Israel's prophetic hope. Of course, today, we're going to look at Joel chapter one. But first let's take a look at the dating and messaging of Joel to help us understand what this prophet has to say. Dating Joel is very difficult, actually, and full of various opinions among Bible scholars.
Joel is one of the only prophets who actually doesn't tell us exactly when he was writing. Most prophets will give definite clues to surrounding events that they were speaking into. For instance, we know Ezekiel was an exilic prophet writing from Babylon because he told us. And we know Amos wrote in the eighth century BC because he was writing during the reign of King Uzziah and Jeroboam. Joel gives us no clear and definitive markers to accurately date his book. So scholars look internally to try to pick up clues. Some date Joel as early as the eighth century BC, a classic prophet, pre-exilic. While others say it could be written as the exile was happening in the earlier years, between 601 and 597 BC. While others date Joel beyond the exile, after the return, around the fourth or third century AD.
Now here's some interesting clues. Joel seems to focus on Jerusalem and the temple is still standing and functioning. Now I tend to think that this was written in that time period between 601 and 597 BC. The enemy army is coming to punish Judah and Jerusalem for their sin. And Joel is not only receiving a vision for what's happening in the present time for Judah and Jerusalem, but also for a future time, a time that hasn't happened yet.
Now the theme of Joel is the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is often associated with judgment. It's associated with Israel's judgment and restoration. It's associated with the judgment of the nations on how they're going to treat Israel and the Jewish people. And Joel is saying to Judah and Jerusalem that God has acted in the past, is about to act and he will act in the future as well.
Now let's jump into Joel chapter one, a vision of locusts. That's right, locusts. And these locusts are really what Joel uses as an opening scene to try to get the attention of the Jewish people. Joel chapter one, starting in verse two says this, "Listen to this, you elders. Pay attention, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this ever happened to you in your whole life or in the lifetime of your ancestors? Tell your children about it. Have your children tell their children and their children the following generation. What the locusts left, the locusts consumed. What the locusts left, more locusts consumed. And what other locusts left, more locusts have consumed."
Now, listen. Locusts were known for the devastation and havoc that they brought in the ancient near east. They would breed. Think about this. The locusts would breed in the Sudanese region and then strike in February and March as they would migrate following the winds either to Egypt or to Israel. Locusts can do some serious damage. A locust can consume their own weight each day. The swarms could cover as much as 400 square miles and one square mile could contain up to a hundred million insects. Think about this, a single female would lay her eggs in June and could produce as many as 18 million offspring within 4 months. That is one tired locust mom.
Joel is recalling an actual locust event that wreaked havoc on Israel. One that has not been forgotten by generations. He's recalling a massive agricultural loss in the past. So there's an actual locust issue that Joel is speaking into as locusts were going through and destroying all of the fruits and vegetables in Israel. But here's the thing, Joel's prophecy is also looking into the near future for his readers. He's not only recalling a massive locust plague, Joel is also using locust as an imagery of war, a metaphor to describe a more devastating destructive force that's even worse than any locust plague that could come on the land. In the ancient near east, locusts were commonly associated with armies coming to devour another land.
Just listen to what Joel says in Joel chapter one, verse five, starting in verse five. It says, "Wake up you drunkards and weep. Wail, all you wine drinkers, because the sweet wine has been taken away from you. For a nation has invaded my land, mighty and without number. Their teeth are lion's teeth. They have fangs of a lioness. They have destroyed my vines. They have turned my fig trees into mere splinters. They have completely stripped the bark and thrown it aside. The twigs are stripped bare." The prophet is calling on Judah and Jerusalem to wake up.
The word drunkards actually has a double meaning here. God is not only saying to those drinking too much that they must now lament the fact that their wine is gone because the locusts have wreaked havoc on all the agriculture in the area. But it's also a hint that the people in general have become spiritually inebriated and they're not responding to the Lord's call. They're drunk spiritually and now an invading army is at their doorstep. That invading army is more than likely the Babylonian army. And what the Jewish people are witnessing as Joel is writing and warning them will be talked about for generations. The empire coming to destroy Judah and Jerusalem will be remembered as a national catastrophe. And Joel says this in Joel 1:8 when he says, "Wail like a young virgin clothed in sackcloth lamenting the death of her husband to be." What Joel is comparing here is that this empire coming to strip the Jewish people of their homeland is compared to a fiance whose husband dies before they even had a chance to get married and start a family.
Now, there is a way out. God calls on his people to lament. God calls on his people to mourn. God calls on his people to repent and turn to him. Awaken from your spiritual drunkenness and return to the Lord. God calls on his priests to cry out to him. Listen to Joel chapter one, starting in verse 13, it says, "Get dressed and lament you priests. Wail, you who minister at the altar. Come spend the night in sackcloth, you servants of my God, because no one brings grain offerings or drink offerings to the temple of your God anymore. Announce a holy fest, proclaim a sacred assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the temple of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. How awful that day will be for the day of the Lord is near," which means judgment is near. It will come as destruction from the divine destroyer.
Listen, Joel's people were wrought with problems. Locust everywhere and not a crop to spare. Temple offerings stopped. People either drank themselves into oblivion or they were praying. In such a disastrous time God gave Joel a message, mourn and pray for help. But know that this is only a sign of worse things that are coming. And in this moment, complacency, listen, complacency is not going to satisfy God. You know what will satisfy God? Broken hearts. As the prophet should, Joel leads the charge in a prayer of repentance. Joel 1:19 says, "To you, oh Lord, I..." That's Joel speaking. "To you, oh Lord, I call out for help, for fire has burned up the pastures of the wilderness. Flames have raised all the trees in the field. Even the wild animals cry out to you for the riverbeds have dried up. Fire has destroyed the pastures of the wilderness."
Listen, Joel was no fool. He knew exactly what was on the horizon for his people. But how did Joel know this? When we return, we're going to see exactly why Joel was urging the Jewish people to turn from their complacency, to turn from their sin and cry out to God. But before we do that, we want you to be able to dive deeper into the book of Joel, because it's going to open your eyes to not only how God is going to use Israel and the Jewish people and how God's going to judge Israel, but also the great prophetic hope that Israel has as well. And also how God is going to speak to the nations and how they treated Israel and the Jewish people.
Chris Katulka: We want you to dive deeper. And the way that you can do that is by getting David Levy's book Joel. This is a fantastic resource on learning more about the prophet Joel. So what lies in store for the nations of the world? Learn what God has planned concerning the destiny of the nations as they relate to Israel in the Day of the Lord. The book Joel illustrated chapter outlines and graphics will give added insights into the timely and dynamic Book of Joel, which is surely one of the most neglected and misinterpreted books in the Bible. Steve, we really want our listeners to get a good grip on this fantastic prophet. It's only three chapters long. How can they get their hands on the book Joel by David Levy?
Steve Conover: Yeah. Chris, anyone that has been around The Friends of Israel knows David Levy. He's a trusted teacher for many years with our ministry. And Joel: The Day of the Lord is available in print, or you can get it as an ebook. We'll have a link at foiradio.org there. You can purchase or find out more about Joel: The Day of the Lord by David Levy. That's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: We're endeavoring over the next few weeks to study the prophet Joel, a quick three-chapter prophecy. And you know what? I want to encourage you to do something. Over the course of this study, I want to encourage you to read through Joel yourself. Honestly, you could probably just do it in one sitting. But how did Joel, this is the question we left with, how did Joel know what was coming on the horizon for his people? Of course, God gave him revelation as a prophet, but God had already given his people revelation of this event. See, Joel knew God's Word. He studied God's Word. A prophet was more than just a prognosticator of future events. A prophet was used by God to communicate his word in various real life situations. And God had explained long before Joel was even born that he would bring judgment on his people if they fell away from him, Joel bases his entire prophecy on the imminent Day of the Lord from Deuteronomy chapter 28.
Listen, Moses penned Deuteronomy long before Joel. It's in that chapter that God warned of the curses on those who disobeyed his covenant. As you read through Joel, you quickly see that his Day of the Lord fulfills those curses from Deuteronomy chapter 28. First for disobedient Israel, and then for their unrighteous enemies. In Deuteronomy chapter 28, God promised that if Israel continued to disobey, he would bring havoc on the agriculture of the land, on their food. He would cut off the rain that helped the food grow. And in Deuteronomy 28:42 it actually says, "Because of Israel's disobedience, locusts would take over every tree and all the produce of your soil." That was said back in Deuteronomy chapter 28. And if they continue in their disobedience and remain stubborn toward God's kindness and grace, he will allow a foreign enemy to overtake them, to consume them. An enemy that would act like a swarm of locusts.
Listen, Deuteronomy 28 says this, "The Lord will allow you to be struck down before your enemies. You'll attack them from one direction, but flee from them in seven directions and will become an object of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your carcasses will be food for every bird of the sky and wild animal of the earth and there will be no one to chase them off." God's judgment, listen to this, Deuteronomy 28. God's judgment though, would relent if Israel would return to the Lord and renew the covenant that he made with them. See, this is why Joel had the confidence to tell his people to repent. Joel saw the writing on the wall. The spiritual complacency of Judah and Jerusalem kept them in a drunken stupor. As a prophet, he was there to wake them up.
Judgment is coming and it will get even worse in the future. But God is faithful, listen to this, to forgive his people. I don't know where you are right now in your walk with the Lord, but spiritual complacency is easy to fall into. As Christians we can sometimes slip into a spiritual coma if we're not taking inventory of our walk with the Lord. And that's why it's always good to have spiritual accountability in our lives, fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord who love us and act as a prophet in our lives, making sure we are keeping in step with God's Word. That's exactly what Joel was trying to do. Joel was looking at Israel and saying, look at what's going on around you. Locusts are not just physically eating up your crops, but there is a locust plague, swarming, an army that's building that will come and do even more devastation.
And I'm seeing this happening. Why? Because God's Word said it would happen. Don't wait to be like Israel. Remember what Paul says in Romans chapter two, “it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance.” I mean, for Israel, it was right there in Deuteronomy. If they would have read the scriptures for themselves, they would've seen that their trajectory was bringing calamity. But God, no matter what, if we would turn to him, would always promise, even in the Old Testament and the New Testament, to forgive. And notice, it's not God's anger that leads us to repentance, it's his kindness because his grace is always there waiting for us to turn. God's grace and kindness is an attribute of his nature and his character. And just like Joel's audience when he was writing, we each have a past, we have a present and we have a future. Don't wait like Israel. God has ways to grab us, to draw us to our knees in repentance. But there is one thing for sure, my friends, God is waiting for us to call out to him so he can shower us with his grace.
Chris Katulka: Hey, you know what? Make Joel's words an anthem for your life today. Do you remember what he said for himself and his people? To you, oh Lord, I call out for help. Make that your prayer even today.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: The Lord Jesus said, "When they bring you to the synagogues, do not worry about how or what you should answer or what you should say. The holy spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." I praise God this truth strengthens me as I witness for him in the land of Israel. On a pleasant Sabbath recently, I took my son's dog out for a walk. And as I was walking, an Orthodox family with many children approached me and the children began to play with the dog and their father was happy to see them having such a good time. As we watched his children, the little dog occupied himself by chewing on the tassels of the man's prayer shaw. I did not notice what the dog was doing or I would've stopped him. And while I had a good laugh about the situation, the man became angry. He said, "I have made a great sin by allowing your unclean dog to defile my long tassels. He ate my most holy possession."
I responded, "Your tassels were never holy. If you know the Jewish scriptures, you should know in Numbers 15:37 the Lord commanded the Israelis to make tassels on their garments to serve as a visual reminder of his commandments, but God never said they were holy. He wants you to look at them and remember what he expects of you. The man asked, "How do you know what the Lord expects of me?" I replied, "He wants you to keep his commandments. Joel 2:13 says, 'Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God.' Your tassels are more important to you than your faith in the Lord. But your faith in him is more important to God than your tassels. I will be happy to purchase more tassels for your prayer shawl so people can see how holy you are on the outside, but that will not affect your heart's attitude toward God."
He became extremely agitated and said, "As a Jew, you should know it is our obligation to wear tassels on our garments. I replied, "Receiving the Lord as your Savior is more important. Why keep his commandments if you do not understand why you are doing it?" In time, he became calm and eventually said, "Now I know with whom I should be spending time. It will be a privilege for me to visit you on my way home from the synagogue. Perhaps I can bring a lost soul back to God." I let him continue for a while. And then his attitude changed abruptly when he sensed the irony in someone like him trying to bring another back to God. He told me he used to be a drug addict, but said he had repented. I prayed silently and then said, "You must open your heart before the Lord and ask for the forgiveness of your sins." I thought this would make him angry but instead he asked in whom I place my faith and how I had come to believe as I do. And for the next hour, I had the great privilege of telling this Orthodox Jewish man how I had found Jesus. Who would've thought a little dog could pave the way for such an opportunity? This was a work of God. Perhaps someday he will discard his tassels and place his faith in God, not in his garments.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today. We hope this program is helping you grow in your understanding of God's Word. If so, we'd love to know. Reach out to us on our contact form at foiradio.org. There, you can let us know how we're doing. It's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: And Steve listen, I know that we also have podcast listeners who are tuning in from all around the world. Can I encourage our podcast listeners to go and take time to rate our program? Your comments and your ratings will actually expose The Friends of Israel Today to new listeners. So if you believe that it's important to teach about Israel and the Jewish people, leave us a comment so that others can benefit from The Friends of Israel Today.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Joel: The Day of the Lord
Dive deeper into Joel with David Levy’s expert commentary! Learn about the prophecies God revealed that came to pass and the ones still to come that will culminate in the Battle of Armageddon in this concise, insightful work.
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Apples of Gold: A Little Dog Paves the Way
While Zvi was out walking his son’s dog, he encountered an Orthodox Jewish man and his family. When the dog began to chew on the man’s tassels, he became upset saying he had eaten his most holy possession. The man was putting his faith in his tassels and garments, but Zvi encouraged him to put his faith in God instead. Who would have thought a little dog could open the door for such an opportunity? Find out how a dog looking for a chew toy led to an examination of the heart.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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