In the first two chapters Joel foretells, under the figure of an army, a most terrible plague of locusts. The palmer-worm, locust, cankerworm, and caterpillar are believed to have been locusts in four different stages, rather than different insects. ‘Though the primary reference be to literal insects, the Holy Spirit doubtless had in view the successive empires which assailed Judea, each worse than its predecessor, Rome being the worst.’ Note these lessons in the first chapter.
I. See God in all things—even in life’s plagues.—Either He sends them, or He permits them. ‘Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?’ (Amo_3:6). This very plague had been foretold (Deu_28:38-39; Deu_28:43). And is there ever any trouble in our lives that He has not either sent or permitted? We talk of ‘chance’: the Bible never does. It speaks of God; always of Him.
II. Seek God specially in the time of trouble (Deu_28:14).—This is the one thing to do first of all, and yet how often is it our last resort, if it is even that! Trouble comes either as chastisement or as chastening—as chastisement to correct; or as chastening to strengthen, educate, and beautify the obedient. In either case, the great end may be lost if we do not run to God in our sorrow, and ask directly of Him all the questions that pertain to it; and what a loss is that—to lose one’s affliction, to suffer all in vain! This is the one hope for us. We must gather before God in confession and prayer. We must cry to God for ourselves, and must plead with Him in intercession for others (Deu_28:14; Deu_28:19). It will never do to continue as we are in the hopelessness of despair, or in a fatuous surrender to our misfortunes.
‘Israel was still a kingdom when Joel prophesied; and as with Hosea, so with him, there are abundant allusions to the natural scenery and agricultural processes of the Land of Promise. How much do the children of the city miss in their aloofness from the illuminated missal of nature! Their speech is poorer for lack of the simple but beautiful images which adorn the language of a student of God’s oldest Bible.’