By Russ Ramsey
The book of Joel opens with bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Locusts, to be precise. And they are eating everything in sight. They are like a giant eraser, wiping clean the chalky fields of Israel. The Lord wants His people to know the plague is meant to wake them up to their need to repent. Devastation and desperation have this effect on people. It will cause us to cry out to the Lord for salvation (Joel 1:14).
Joel is one of the Minor Prophets in Scripture. What are the Minor Prophets, you ask? For starters, they are books, not people. There are twelve of them: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These books are called “minor” because of their length. Compared to the “major” prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel—they are relatively short. But they are no less important than any other part of God’s holy Word.
Books like Joel confront, head on, the fracturing effects of sin and present a God who is committed to rooting it out, no matter how deep it runs. We need that. Occasionally, as we see in these opening verses from Joel, God roots out sin by bringing us low. I don’t know about you, but I often need to be humbled before I have ears to listen to the Lord.
Joel and the other Minor Prophets talk a lot about judgment, but they also talk about hope. Today, we see the judgment of God from this side of Christ’s finished work on the cross. We take comfort in knowing God’s wrath has been satisfied through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
It is tempting to want to distance ourselves from really studying the wrath and judgment of God. It can be uncomfortable to look at. But when we turn aside from examining God’s righteous judgment, we lose sight of His holiness and majesty, and in the process also lose a sense of the magnificence of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.
The Minor Prophets help us with this. If we come to these books—books like Joel—with a humble posture, they will break our hearts in the best way. They show the darkness of sin and leave us desperate for a salvation none of us could accomplish on our own. The Minor Prophets remind us of our hope in Christ, as they also remind us that apart from Him, we have no other hope.
As you read through these books, perhaps a good verse to keep at the ready, in order to remember both our desperation and God’s salvation in Christ, is Joel 1:14:
Announce a sacred fast;
proclaim an assembly!
Gather the elders
and all the residents of the land
at the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord.
Written by Russ Ramsey