The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten. Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.(Joel 1:1-7)
When the Prophet Joel saw an actual Locust invasion, He saw in it a coming day of the Lord for Judah. As the locusts came in four successive stages, devouring anything green, alive and fruitful, even so would the Babylonian captivity come in four stages.
The Babylonians stripped away everything from the Jews. First they took the King (the Son of David) and his family(Appointing another in his place). Then they came back and took captive the leaders, generals, statesmen, artisans, experts, and anyone of any value, warning Judah that they would be back should Judah rebel against them.
Jeremiah’s message was that this was the judgment of God and that they should submit to it, but for every Jeremiah there were dozens of false prophets, stirring up patriotic resistance to Babylon, and prophesying false hopes of a successful rebellion. The people preferred the false prophets and ignored Jeremiah.
The Babylonians came back, and broke down the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and destroyed the temple of God, (in which the people falsely put their trust ) and killing thousands of Jews. Again they warned Judah to submit or suffer more, and once again Judah rebelled.
Finally the Babylonians took whatever or whoever of value was left, leaving the former city of God an empty, smoldering heap of ruins, with only the lowliest of peasants scratching out a meager living.
But in many cases, prophecies are much like Mountain peaks. From a distance, a person sees what he thinks is one mountain. As he comes closer to it, he realizes that what he saw is in fact many peaks, and with much distance between the peaks. Many prophecies have multiple fulfillments.
Isaiah 61 for example, was quoted by Jesus in his sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth.
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.( Luke 4:17-19)
But soon the congregation grew so furious, they wanted to kill him! Why? In their view he quoted the verse but left out their favorite part.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;(Isaiah 61:1-2)
They were waiting to hear the rest of the verse, about the day of the Lord’s vengeance, (Upon the gentile oppressors of course). But Jesus cut off the verse at the “…Acceptable year of the Lord“. Why? Because there was a two thousand-year gap between the “Acceptable year” and the “day of vengeance”.
Joel saw the Babylonian invasion for sure, and it came shortly after, in the four stages that would strip bare Judah, leaving nothing. But there would be many, many, many other invasions, leading up to the very last and ultimate invasion of the Holy Land at the last day.
I believe Joel saw also the Locust invasions by the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, the deprivations of Antiochus Epiphanies, (Who outlawed circumcision, built a Gymnasium in Jerusalem, tried to stomp out the sabbath, and even to reverse circumcision), stripping bare the people and faith of Judah and Jerusalem.
I believe he saw the coming Roman invasion, which in the end would utterly destroy the nation, and take it out of existence for almost two thousand years, leaving almost nothing. There would also come the stripping away by the Arab Muslims, then the European Crusaders would come to ravage Jerusalem, and eventually the Turks, and the Ottomans. (The Ottoman empire put a tax on trees, prompting the Arab serfs who had taken possession of the land, to cut down trees in Israel, thus turning the “Land flowing with milk and honey” into an utter desert.
There would be many invasions for the apostate nation, ravaging, stripping and carrying off anything of value, leaving virtually nothing, as a consequence of sin and faithlessness, according to the Covenant revealed to Moses.
The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head. The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee. Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.(Deuteronomy 28:35-42)
The prophet standing so long ago, by the Spirit of God was able to see the Mountain peaks of future History, all the way to the very last day, as we will see in this study. The future of Israel, would consist of a series of devastating invasions, stripping away at God’s fig tree( A symbol of Israel’s blessing under God), leaving nothing.
But the Prophet saw another line of mountain peaks which offered a glimmer of more hopeful things ahead, which we will look at next.