This devotional is about Joel 2.
The locust plague described in Joel 1 was a devastation brought by literal locusts.
Here in chapter 2, however, many commentators see Joel using the locust plague of chapter 1 as a metaphor for the invasion of the Babylonian army upon Judah.
After describing how horrible the invasion of the Babylonians will be (vv. 1-11), Joel urged his people to repent in verses 12-17. Verse 12 holds out the promise again that genuine repentance was still possible even with the Babylonian threat so close at hand. Verse 13 described the repentance God was seeking: “rend your heart and not your garments.”
It was not the symbol of repentance such as tearing their clothes or some other outward work that God wanted. Instead, God wanted a broken-hearted repentance, a complete turning away from the idolatry that was so common in Judah and a “return to the Lord your God” (v. 13). That was the way to avoid the judgment of God that the Babylonians would bring.
Verse 13 also described the reason to return to God: “for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
We have read so much in the prophets about the promise of judgment and the delivery of that promise to Israel and then to Judah. It is easy to conclude, from those prophesies, that God is difficult, hard to please, and unreasonable toward his people.
The truth is just the opposite: God wanted nothing more than to be reconciled to his people. The judgment they experienced was due to their absolute refusal to be reconciled to him.
Although Judah did fall to the Babylonians, verses 18-32 hold out a promise of much greater hope. God would allow his people to be punished, but eventually he would bless his people with abundance (vv. 18-27) and with the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 28-32).
The Lord began keeping this promise on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-21) but the consummation is still to come. While we wait for Christ to return and finish fulfilling the promises, the promise for today is, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved….” This is why we are still here and why the Lord has not returned. God is being reconciled to people as the Holy Spirit brings true conviction of sin and repentance and people put faith in Jesus Christ.