First Sermon of 6 Part Series
From the Book of Joel

"Learning From The Locusts"
by Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
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Preached Wednesday night 1/16/2008

Sermon One: "There's A Great Day Coming - Learning From The Locusts" - Text: Opening Passage: Joel 1:1

The opening verse of Joel reads, "The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel (peth-oo-ale')." Joel is one of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament. The minor prophets are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. In the Hebrew Bible, the writings of these twelve are counted as a single book. In our Bible, they are twelve individual books. Joel's prophecy appears second in the canon's order of the twelve books.

The name Joel means "Yahweh is God." We know nothing about Joel, other than the name of his father, Pethuel (peth-oo-ale'). Obviously God knew Joel and sent His Spirit to him with a message to share with his people. There is speculation as to just when this book was written. No other Old Testament book mentions Joel. Most believe that Joel is an early, pre-exile prophet, and suggest a date of 830 B.C. Other pre-exile prophets include Obadiah, Jonah, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, and Micah. Joel's frequent references to Judah and Jerusalem indicate that he lived and ministered in the southern kingdom.

It has been observed, that while the prophecy of Hosea reveals the heart of God, the prophecy of Joel reveals the hand of God. The course of history is determined by the hand of God, and is being directed to a culminating event known as "the day of the Lord." Verse 15 reads, "Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." Joel warns the nation Israel of a coming great and dreaded day. No Bible author writes more about "the day of the Lord," than does Joel. Joel uses the phrase "the day of the Lord," to refer both to events in his own day, as well as to events in the future.

The "day of the Lord" is a phrase that appears often in the Old Testament, especially in the writings of the prophets. It speaks of times when the Lord intervenes in the affairs of men, in an obvious way. For example, the day the fountains of the earth burst forth and the heaven's released their reservoirs of water to flood the earth in the days of Noah, was a day of the Lord! We could say the same about the day God rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah. The ultimate day of the Lord is yet in our future, and is both general and specific. We must understand that The word "day," can speak of a twenty four hour day, or of a period of time. In a general sense, the "day of the Lord," speaks of a time of judgment beginning with the Tribulation Period, extending through the Millennium, reaching to the final defeat of Satan and final judgment of lost humanity. In a specific sense, it speaks of the visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth, at the end of the seventieth week of Daniel, or Tribulation Period. The ultimate "day of the Lord" will be good news to some, and bad news to others, the difference being their relationship to God through Jesus Christ. Revelation 1:7 speaks of that day. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen."

Years ago, we would sing an invitation hymn entitled, There's A Great Day Coming. By Will A. Thompson. The lyrics went:

There's a great day coming, a great day coming.
There's a great day coming by and by.
When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left.
Are you ready for that day to come?

There's a bright day coming, a bright day coming.
There's a bright day coming by and by.
But its brightness shall only come to them that love the Lord.
Are you ready for that day to come?

There's a sad day coming, a sad day coming.
There's a sad day coming by and by.
When the sinner shall hear his doom, "Depart, I know ye not."
Are you ready for that day to come?

This is essentially the message of Joel. He points us all to the coming "day of the Lord." It will be a day of calamity and accountability; a day of rejoicing and great sorrow!

Sermon one: Learning From The Locusts - Text: Joel 1:2-20.

Introduction: What strikes fear and dread in your heart? Is it a nuclear attack? Is it some pandemic or act of terrorism? What about locusts? Does the thought of grasshoppers strike fear in your heart? This first chapter of Joel is a reminder that God can use anything to get our attention, and if necessary, He will!

There are three chapters in Joel, and each chapter speaks of a day of judgment. Chapter one describes the effects of a severe locust plague that had recently destroyed the agriculture of the land. Joel by the Spirit of the Lord, sees the locust plague as a warning from God; a preview of the coming day of the Lord, as well as a wake-up call and an opportunity to repent and return to a right relationship with Him. In this chapter, Joel uses an invasion of locusts to teach us lessons concerning "the day of the Lord."

Locusts Lessons

Lesson one: Fear God! The "the day of the Lord" is a day to remember and rehearse.
We all talk about the weather and especially weather related events. In Pueblo, Colorado, they talk about the "100 year flood", or the great flood of 1921! These days we make T-shirts to remember a catastrophic event. In verses 2-3, Joel tells the survivors of the locust plague to make a T-shirt reading, "I survived the locusts plague of 835 B.C." Joel says, "Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation." The story of the great locust plague and the message the prophet Joel attached to it, is one that must be passed on to future generations.

This terrible thing happened by the hand of God! Moses had instructed Israel to rehearse the works of the Lord to their children. They were to remember God's acts of mercy and deliverance, as well as God's acts of judgment and discipline! Why? The reason is obvious. Every generation needs to be reminded that no matter what they have done, no matter who is against them, they can turn to God and find a new beginning. However, every generation also needs to be reminded, that God will not let His children get away with continual, willful disobedience! He loves us too much to let us continue in sin! Romans 11:22 reads, "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."

What has happened to the fear of the Lord? The fear of the Lord is a holy respect and reverence for God! The Word of God tells us over and over that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A holy reverence and respect for God, will keep us from sin and needless suffering in this life! Speaking of a healthy, holy fear of the Lord, Jesus said Matthew 10:28, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him (the Lord) which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." We would do good to remember that the Lord chastens whom He loves!

Lesson two: The Lord knows how to get our attention.
The "the day of the Lord" is both humbling and horrible. Notice verse 4. "That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten." Joel describes a locust plague. A locust is a kind of grasshopper that travels in swarms and causes great damage to crops. In Hebrew, there are at least nine different names to indicate the different species of locusts, as well as their different stages of maturity. Joel uses four different words to describe the locusts in this verse. Most concur that it speaks of four different waves of locusts, gnawing, swarming, creeping, and stripping, as they consumed the land. What one wave had left uneaten, other waves had destroyed.

Why had this come upon the land of Israel? God had warned His people of such a thing, if they were unfaithful to Him. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses stands before Israel to remind them of their special relationship to God. He tells them that while God will bless their obedience, He will also send various chastisements and curses upon them for their disobedience. Verses 14-15. read, "And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee." It goes on to list an invasion of locusts as one of those consequences of disobedience. Verse 38 says, "Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it." Verse 42 reads, "All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume."

King Omri of Israel, as well as the daughter or niece to Ahab, one of Israel's worst kings. The name Athaliah means afflicted of the Lord! Without doubt, the wickedness of this woman and her impact on the nation, had something to do with God sending this plague of locusts!

Verse 6 describes these locusts as a hostile army invading the land. "For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion." In the Middle East, they call locusts, "the army of God." Like an army, they approach in rank or order; they camp in the field at night; in the morning they rise with the sun to dry their wings, and then they fly with the wind. Their number can be in the billions, covering an area of ten miles in length and five miles wide. Locusts have been known to fly seventeen hours straight, covering over fifteen hundred miles. They can blot out the sun. Their teeth are compared to a lion's teeth, powerful to devour and destroy everything in sight.

In 1881, workers in Cyprus tried to stop a locust swarm attack by digging up and destroying the locust eggs, which weighed a total of thirteen hundred tons. A swarm that was seen crossing the Red Sea in 1889, was estimated as having at least 120 million locusts and covered two thousand square miles!

This was a catastrophic event! Joel documents the devastation for us, reminding us of God's power in creation! The grapevines and fig trees were striped bare. Verse 7 reads, "He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white." The invading locusts stripped the grapevines and fig trees bare, even eating the bark, leaving the branches bare and white. This visitation of God's judgment reached everyone in the nation, from the farmer, to the servant, to the priest!

The destruction of the locusts set the stage for drought, disease, and fires to ravage the land. We see this in verses 17-20. "The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered. 18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. 19 O LORD, to Thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. 20 The beasts of the field cry also unto Thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness." Joel vividly describes a devastating drought, disease, and the wildfires that ravaged the dry land in Judah.

We need to be reminded that while God is certainly merciful, longsuffering, and slow to wrath, He will not let His children continue to live in rebellious and sinful ways. If needs be, God can and will get our attention! The Lord can use everything from a loss, to our health, to weather, to get our attention. God can put us on our backs, so that the only way we can look, up!

Also, if God did not spare people in the past, if He did not make an exception for His nation and people Israel, why would we think that He would spare us? America is a great nation. God has favored and blessed America, but we are foolish to think that God will spare America in her disobedience!

Lesson three: Repent while there is time and opportunity!
The "the day of the Lord" is designed to lead us to repentance. It is human nature for people to have more of an interest in spiritual things, when tragedy hits. It causes them to understand their own mortality and their need to restore their fellowship with God.

The "day of the Lord" is a wake-up call! Verse 5 reads, "Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth." Joel called for the drunkards to wake up and weep because all the grapevines were destroyed! The drunkard waking up from his stupor is a picture of Israel waking up to her own sinful condition. Sin lulls us to sleep. It dulls our senses! This visitation was a slap in the face and a cold shower!

The "day of the Lord" should cause us to weep in godly sorrow. Notice verses 8-12. "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. 9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn. 10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. 11 Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. 12 The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men." Once they woke up, it should cause them to weep and lament like a virgin who had just consummated her marriage, only to lose her husband to death on the same day. This describes a most tragic and bitter experience, the deepest sorrow because of the awareness of the loss! In these verses it speaks of priests, farmers, vine dressers, in godly sorrow.

Paul rebukes the church at Corinth, because they were not grieving over sin in their midst. I Corinthians 5:2 he says, "And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you." Later in I Corinthians 7:9-10 we read, "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."

The "the day of the Lord" is a call to repentance! Verse 13 reads, "Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God." Sackcloth was the attire of repentance. Sackcloth was most often made of coarse, black goat's hair. It was customarily worn by mourners or as a sign of deep repentance and humility. Ashes were often included as a further symbol of personal abhorrence and humiliation.

Repentance speaks of more than a change of clothing. It results in a change of direction. It results in action! In verse 14, Joel gives direction to the nation. Notice his instruction to a nation.

"Consecrate a fast." Verse 14a says, "Sanctify ye a fast." Demonstrate that getting right with God is more important than eating!

"Call a sacred assembly." Verse 14 continues, " a solemn assembly." Call for God's people to come together and seek His face!

"Gather the elders into the house of the Lord and cry out to God." Verse 14 concludes, "...gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD." Cry out what? Cry, "Lord turn away your wrath! We get the message and we are changing our ways!"

We need to remember the message of Joel, and learn the lessons of the locusts.

On January 23, 1996, Joe Wright the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, Kansas was guest chaplain in the Kansas House in Topeka, Kansas that day. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Paul Harvey has shared the story and the prayer with his audience several times, and received a great response.

The prayer is as follows:

Heavenly Father,

We come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ''Woe to those who call evil good,'' but that's exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that; we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word, and called it pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multi-culturalism. We have endorsed perversion, and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor, and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy, and called it self preservation. We have rewarded laziness, and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn, and called it choice. We have shot abortionists, and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children, and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power, and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions, and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography, and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers, and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of this state and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state of Kansas. Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your Will. I ask in in the name of your Son, The Living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

America is already being judged by God for her sins! What about your life? Will you repent or face God's judgment? God's arms are always open to forgive and restore. Come!

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