"Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning;Joel 2:12(NASB)
Joel is the prophet who compares the coming Day of the Lord with a succession of locust invasions, which sequentially devour every crop and all vegetation in an unrelenting, progressive destruction.
Both grain and fruit harvests fail due to the devastating onslaught of this four-pronged locust infestation. The total destruction of Israel's wheat and barley crops, along with the failure of the entire fruit harvest, causes farmers and priests alike to mourn and lament bitterly.
Not only were the priests instructed to mourn and call for a sacred assembly, but the entire nation was commanded to fast and to cry out to the Lord their God, in sincere repentance of heart.
Israel had failed to heed the past prophetic warnings of earlier prophets, and Joel's appeal for repentance and his warning of coming destruction, is one more demonstration of the nation's continued rebellion against the God of their forefathers, and their refusal to heed His Word and obey the covenant promises they made at Mount Sinai.
What the chewing locusts left was eaten by the swarming locusts. And what they did not devour, was taken by the crawling locusts and then the consuming ones. In like manner, the prophesied day of the Lord will be one of the greatest destructions to befall the rebellious nation of Israel. It will be a time such as the world has never seen, nor would ever see again. However, it will be a time when Israel calls out to the Lord and He will hear and rescue His people.
The entire passage compares the advance and destruction of this terrible locust invasion with speedy horses. It likens them to a vast army of marching men of war who advance with unrelenting menace, in strict formation - but who plunder everything in their path like a well organised band of thieves.
Israel's rebellion against the Lord, which included sloth and drunkenness, resulted in the barrage of these devouring locusts. And the consequences of their continued rebellion, apostasy, and disobedience, would result in judgement - the coming 'Day of the Lord'.
Joel's entire prophecy was given to the nation of Israel. Although it was partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when many men of Israel repented of their sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, the full and final fulfilment of Joel's prophecy, which begins with a day of thick darkness and progresses into the glories of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, will take place at the end of Daniel's 70th week i.e. the Great Tribulation, which is sometimes called the Time of Jacobs Trouble.
The continued grace and mercy of God can be seen in His divine appeal to the people of Judah to repent of their sins and return to the Lord - for we read: "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning." Both for the nation of Israel and for unsaved Gentiles alike, the precious truth of this passage is that it is never too late for sinners or backsliders to turn away from their sins, to return to the Lord with all their heart, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
It is a beautiful demonstration that the goodness, grace, and mercy of our long-suffering God, remains open to ALL who will simply trust in His Word, remember His goodness, genuinely return to Him with heart and soul - and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
It shows that fasting, with weeping and morning, is often associated with true repentance of heart. And although in this Church dispensation, there is no written covenant, set rules, or legalistic regulations which are required of Church-age believers, it is important and wise to take note of things that outwardly demonstrate an inward change of heart.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the book of Joel which bears witness of Your goodness and grace to all who will trust in Your Word. Teach me the lessons that You would have me learn from Israel’s history, and keep me from making the same mistakes. Help me to make my outward life a demonstration of a changed inner life which trusts You implicitly, in thought, word, deed, and motive. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.