Day 3 Joel 2:1-19 ... The Day the Earth will Shake

Scenes from the lives of Elijah and Elisha - fire on Mount Carmel, the widowâs oil, Naamanâs healing, the chariots of fire - are among the most familiar of Old Testament stories. But in a sense those two prophets represented the last of a dying breed. The prophets who followed them performed few miracles, relying less on spectacular displays of power and more on the power of the Word.

The prophet Joel provides a brief introduction to the style of the writing prophets. No one knows for sure when he delivered his messages - they could have come anywhere within a four-century span. No one is even sure whether he lived in Israel of the North or Judah of the South. But in gripping prose he warned his people of a terrible disaster to come. This one chapter captures as well as any the essential message of all the prophets.

1. A day of judgment. Nearly every prophet begins with words meant to inspire fear and dread. Some warned of invading armies, and some of natural disasters. For example, Joel paints vivid pictures of an army of locusts.

The locusts could symbolically represent human armies, but may also be taken literally. People who have lived through a locust invasion never forget the experience. Here is how author Isak Dinesen recalls such as event in Africa:

I saw, along the Northern horizon, a shadow on the sky, like a long stretch of smoke, a town burning, "a million-peopled city vomiting smoke in the bright air," I thought, or like a thin cloud rising.

"What is that?" I asked.

"Grasshoppers," said the Indian . . . .

The next morning as I opened my door and looked out, the whole landscape outside was the color of pale dull terra cotta. The grasshoppers were sitting there. While I stood and looked at it, all the scenery began to quiver and break, the grasshoppers moved and lifted . . . They had broken a couple of big trees in my drive simply by sitting on them, and when you looked at the trees and remembered that each of the grasshoppers could only weigh a tenth of an ounce, you began to conceive the number of them.

2. A call to repentance. The prophets raise alarm with good reason, for they see such disasters as a consequence of their nationâs unfaithfulness to God. They urgently call on their people to turn from their evil ways. Joel 2:13 could stand as a single, eloquent summary of the heart of the prophetsâ message.

3. A future of hope. Every biblical prophet, no matter how dour, gets around to a word of hope. Taken together, they tell of a time when God will make right everything wrong with the earth, a time when The World As It Is will finally match The World As God Wants It.

Joel is a fine capsule summary of this threefold message.

Point to Ponder: Peter applied Joel's prophecy about "the day of the Lord" to the events of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21). Have all of Joel's prophecies already been fulfilled?