Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people of the land into the Temple of the Lord your God, and cry out to him there.
The day of the Lord is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be! Our food disappears before our very eyes. No joyful celebrations are held in the house of our God. The seeds die in the parched ground, and the grain crops fail. The barns stand empty, and granaries are abandoned.
How the animals moan with hunger! The herds of cattle wander about confused, because they have no pasture. The flocks of sheep and goats bleat in misery. Lord, help us! The fire has consumed the wilderness pastures, and flames have burned up all the trees. Even the wild animals cry out to you because the streams have dried up, and fire has consumed the wilderness pastures. (Joel 1:14-20)
Joel was a prophet to Judah, Israel’s southern kingdom. The book does not mention when Joel lived, but many believe that he prophesied during the reign of King Joash. The date of Joel’s book is not nearly so important as its timeless message, however: Sin brings God’s judgment—yet with God’s justice there is also great mercy.
The “Day of the Lord” is a common phrase in the Old Testament and in the book of Joel (see Joel 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). It always refers to some extraordinary happening, whether a present event (like a locust plague), an event in the near future (like the destruction of Jerusalem or the defeat of enemy nations), or the final period of history when God will defeat all the forces of evil.
Even when the “Day of the Lord” refers to a present event, it also foreshadows the final judgment. This final event of history has two aspects: (1) the last judgment on all evil and sin, and (2) the final reward for faithful believers. Righteousness and truth will prevail, but not before much suffering (Zechariah 14:1-3).
If you trust the Lord, looking toward this final day can inspire hope because it is then that all who are faithful will be united forever with God. Begin to pray for those you know who haven’t yet trusted Jesus as their Savior. Pray that they will find the hope that you have in God.