Jehovah’s Day Is Near
“Hear this, you older men, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land.”—JOEL 1:2.
1, 2. Because of what situation in Judah did Jehovah inspire Joel to utter his powerful prophecy?
“ALAS for the day; because the day of Jehovah is near, and like a despoiling from the Almighty One it will come!” What a dramatic announcement! It was God’s message to his people delivered by his prophet Joel.
2 Those words of Joel 1:15 were recorded in Judah, likely about the year 820 B.C.E. Verdant hills then adorned the land. Fruit and grain were abundant. Pastures were broad and green. Yet, something was very wrong. Baal worship flourished in Jerusalem and in the land of Judah. The people engaged in drunken orgies before this false god. (Compare 2 Chronicles 21:4-6, 11.) Would Jehovah allow all of this to continue?
3. Of what did Jehovah warn, and for what should the nations prepare?
3 The Bible book of Joel leaves no doubt about the answer. Jehovah God would vindicate his sovereignty and sanctify his holy name. Jehovah’s great day was near. God would then execute judgment upon all the nations in “the low plain of Jehoshaphat.” (Joel 3:12) Let them prepare for war with the Almighty One, Jehovah. We too face the great day of Jehovah. So let us take a closer look at Joel’s prophetic words for our day and the past.
Invasion of Insects
4. How great would be the event warned of by Joel?
4 Through his prophet, Jehovah says: “Hear this, you older men, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land. Has this occurred in your days, or even in the days of your forefathers? Concerning it give an account to your own sons, and your sons to their sons, and their sons to the following generation.” (Joel 1:2, 3) The elders and all the people could expect something the like of which had not happened in their lifetime or in the days of their forefathers. So striking would it be that it would be recounted to the third generation! What was this remarkable event? To find out, let us imagine that we are back in Joel’s day.
5, 6. (a) Describe the plague that Joel prophesies. (b) Who was the Source of that plague?
5 Listen! Joel hears a distant roar. The sky darkens, and that eerie sound increases as the darkness extends overhead. Then a smokelike cloud descends. It is an army of millions of insects. And what devastation they cause! Now consider Joel 1:4. The insect invaders are not limited to the winged migratory locusts. Oh, no! Coming, too, are hungry hordes of creeping, wingless locusts. Brought on the wind, the locusts arrive suddenly, and their sound is like that of chariots. (Joel 2:5) Because of their voracious appetite, millions of them can quickly turn a virtual paradise into a wilderness.
6 Also on the move are caterpillars—the larval stage of moths and butterflies. Vast armies of hungry caterpillars can shear away the leaves of vegetation piece by piece, leaf by leaf, until plants are nearly denuded of their greenery. And much of what they leave, the locusts eat. And what the locusts leave, fast-moving cockroaches are sure to finish off. But notice this: At Joel chapter 2, verse 11, God identifies the locust army as “his military force.” Yes, he was the Source of the locust plague that would devastate the land and cause severe famine. When? Just before “the day of Jehovah.”
“Wake Up, You Drunkards”!
7. (a) What was the condition of Judah’s religious leaders? (b) How are Christendom’s leaders today in a state similar to that of Judah’s religious leaders?
7 A disreputable crowd, Judah’s religious leaders are singled out when the command is uttered: “Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; and howl, all you wine drinkers, on account of sweet wine, for it has been cut off from your mouths.” (Joel 1:5) Yes, the spiritual drunkards of Judah were told to “wake up,” to sober up. But do not think that this is merely ancient history. Right now, before the great day of Jehovah, Christendom’s clergy are figuratively so full of sweet wine that they are barely conscious of this summons from the Most High. How surprised they will be when they are aroused from their spiritual drunken stupor by the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah!
8, 9. (a) How does Joel describe the locusts and the effect of their plague? (b) Today, whom do the locusts represent?
8 Look at that great locust army! “There is a nation that has come up into my land, mighty and without number. Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the jawbones of a lion. It has set my vine as an object of astonishment, and my fig tree as a stump. It has positively stripped it bare and thrown it away. The twigs of it have become white. Wail, as a virgin girded with sackcloth does over the owner of her youth.”—Joel 1:6-8.
9 Is this just a prophecy about “a nation” of locusts, a locust swarm, invading Judah? No, there is more to it than that. At both Joel 1:6 and Revelation 9:7, God’s people are represented by locusts. The modern-day locust army is none other than the military force of Jehovah’s anointed locusts, now joined by some 5,600,000 of Jesus’ “other sheep.” (John 10:16) Are you not glad to be part of this great throng of Jehovah’s worshipers?
10. What is the effect of the locust plague on Judah?
10 At Joel 1:9-12, we read of the effects of the locust plague. One swarm after another bring about complete desolation of the land. Lacking grain, wine, and oil, the unfaithful priests cannot continue their functions. Even the ground mourns, for the locusts despoiled it of grain, and fruit trees were left without fruitage. With the grapevines ruined, there is no more wine for those Baalistic wine bibbers who were also spiritual drunkards.
“Beat Your Breasts, You Priests”
11, 12. (a) Who claim to be God’s priests today? (b) How are Christendom’s religious leaders affected by the modern-day locust plague?
11 Listen to God’s message for those wayward priests: “Gird yourselves, and beat your breasts, you priests. Howl, you ministers of the altar.” (Joel 1:13) In the first fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, Levitical priests served at the altar. But what about in the final fulfillment? Today, Christendom’s clergy have assumed authority to serve at God’s altar, claiming to be his ministers, his “priests.” However, what is happening now that God’s modern-day locusts are on the move?
12 When the “priests” of Christendom see Jehovah’s people in action and hear their warning of divine judgment, they become frantic. They beat their breasts in vexation and rage at the devastating effect of the Kingdom message. And they howl as their flocks slip away from them. With their pastures being denuded, let them spend the night in sackcloth, mourning over their loss of income. Before long, they will lose their jobs too! In fact, God tells them to mourn all night because their end is near.
13. Will Christendom as a whole respond favorably to Jehovah’s warning?
13 According to Joel 1:14, their only hope lies in repenting and crying “to Jehovah for aid.” Can we expect Christendom’s entire clergy class to turn to Jehovah? Of course not! Individuals among them might respond to Jehovah’s warning. But the spiritually famished state of these religious leaders and their parishioners as a class will continue. The prophet Amos foretold: “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and I will send a famine into the land, a famine, not for bread, and a thirst, not for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah.” (Amos 8:11) On the other hand, how grateful we are for the rich spiritual feast that God lovingly provides through “the faithful and discreet slave”!—Matthew 24:45-47.
14. Of what is the locust plague a harbinger?
14 The locust plague was and is a harbinger of something. Of what? Joel plainly tells us, saying: “Alas for the day; because the day of Jehovah is near, and like a despoiling from the Almighty One it will come!” (Joel 1:15) The worldwide forays of God’s locust army today clearly indicate that the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah is near. Surely, all righthearted ones long for that special day of reckoning when divine judgment is executed against the wicked and Jehovah comes off victorious as Universal Sovereign.
15. In view of the sad condition of the land, how do those who heed divine warnings react?
15 As Joel 1:16-20 shows, food was cut off in ancient Judah. So was joyfulness. Storehouses were laid desolate, and barns had to be torn down. Lacking pasturage because the locusts had stripped the land of vegetation, cattle wandered about in confusion and droves of sheep perished. What a calamity! Amid such conditions, what happened to Joel? According to verse 19, he said: “To you, O Jehovah, I shall call.” Today, too, many heed the divine warnings and cry out to Jehovah God in faith.
“The Day of Jehovah Is Coming”
16. Why should “the inhabitants of the land” be agitated?
16 Listen to this command from God: “Blow a horn in Zion, O men, and shout a war cry in my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land get agitated.” (Joel 2:1) Why react in that way? The prophecy answers: “For the day of Jehovah is coming, for it is near! It is a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick gloom, like light of dawn spread out upon the mountains.” (Joel 2:1, 2) There is a real sense of urgency attached to the great day of Jehovah.
17. How were the land and the people in Judah affected by the locust plague?
17 Imagine the impact of the prophet’s vision as the relentless locusts turned a veritable garden of Eden into a desolate waste. Listen to the description of the locust army: “Its appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like steeds is the way they keep running. As with the sound of chariots on the tops of the mountains they keep skipping about, as with the sound of a flaming fire that is devouring stubble. It is like a mighty people, drawn up in battle order. Because of it, peoples will be in severe pains. As for all faces, they will certainly collect a glow of excitement.” (Joel 2:4-6) During the locust plague in Joel’s day, the anguish of the Baal worshipers mounted, and the flush of anxiety could be seen on their faces.
18, 19. How has the activity of God’s people today been like a locust plague?
18 Nothing stopped the orderly, tireless locusts. They ran “like powerful men” and even scaled walls. If ‘some of them fell among the missiles, the others did not break off course.’ (Joel 2:7, 8) What a vivid prophetic portrayal of God’s present-day army of figurative locusts! Today, too, Jehovah’s locust army keeps on going straight ahead. No “wall” of opposition deters them. They do not compromise their integrity to God but are willing to face death, as did thousands of Witnesses who ‘fell among the missiles’ for refusing to heil Hitler during Germany’s Nazi regime.
19 God’s modern-day locust army has given a thorough witness in “the city” of Christendom. (Joel 2:9) They have done so throughout the world. They are still climbing over all obstacles, entering millions of homes, approaching people on the street, speaking to them over the phone, and contacting them in any way possible as they declare Jehovah’s message. Indeed, they have distributed billions of Bible publications and will distribute many, many more in their ceaseless ministry—both publicly and from house to house.—Acts 20:20, 21.
20. Who is supporting the modern-day locusts, and with what results?
20 Joel 2:10 shows that a very large swarm of locusts is like a cloud that can blot out the sun, moon, and stars. (Compare Isaiah 60:8.) Is there any doubt who is behind this military force? Above the roar of the insects, we hear these words of Joel 2:11: “Jehovah himself will certainly give forth his voice before his military force, for his camp is very numerous. For he who is carrying out his word is mighty; for the day of Jehovah is great and very fear-inspiring, and who can hold up under it?” Yes, Jehovah God is sending forth his military force of locusts now—before his great day.
“Jehovah Is Not Slow”
21. What will result when ‘Jehovah’s day comes as a thief’?
21 Like Joel, the apostle Peter spoke of Jehovah’s great day. He wrote: “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.” (2 Peter 3:10) Under the influence of Satan the Devil, the wicked governmental “heavens” rule over the “earth,” that is, mankind alienated from God. (Ephesians 6:12; 1 John 5:19) These symbolic heavens and earth will not survive the heat of divine anger during Jehovah’s great day. Rather, they will be replaced by “new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:13.
22, 23. (a) How should we react to Jehovah’s merciful showing of patience? (b) How should we react to the nearness of the day of Jehovah?
22 With all the present-day distractions and tests of faith, we could lose sight of the urgency of our times. But as the symbolic locusts press ever onward, many people are responding to the Kingdom message. Though God has allowed time for this, we must not confuse his patience with slowness. “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9.
23 While we await the great day of Jehovah, let us take to heart Peter’s words recorded at 2 Peter 3:11, 12: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved and the elements being intensely hot will melt!” These acts and deeds certainly include that we keep up with Jehovah’s locust army by having a consistent and meaningful share in preaching the good news of the Kingdom before the end comes.—Mark 13:10.
24, 25. (a) How do you respond to the privilege of sharing in the work of Jehovah’s locust army? (b) What meaningful question does Joel raise?
24 God’s locust army will not stop its work until the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah breaks out. The very existence of this unstoppable locust force is remarkable proof that Jehovah’s day is near. Are you not delighted to serve among God’s anointed locusts and their companions in the final onslaught before Jehovah’s great and fear-inspiring day?
25 How great the day of Jehovah will be! No wonder the question is raised: “Who can hold up under it?” (Joel 2:11) This question and many others will be considered in the next two articles.
Can You Explain?
□ Why did Jehovah warn of a plague of insects on Judah?
□ In the modern-day fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, who are Jehovah’s locusts?
□ How do the leaders of Christendom react to the locust plague, and how can some of them escape its consequences?
□ How extensive has the locust plague been during the 20th century, and until when will it keep on?
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The insect plague was a harbinger of something even worse
Barren tree: FAO photo/G. Singh
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Jehovah God is behind the modern-day locust plague
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Locust: FAO photo/G. Tortoli; locust swarm: FAO photo/Desert Locust Survey