… 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. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.(Joel 1:6-8)
The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.(Joel 1:10-12)
The Prophet Joel Saw the future of Judah and Jerusalem. The visions of Joel ran along two lines; He saw that there would be invasions by foreign powers, who would strip the land and the people of Judah of every blessing and benefit that God had given them. Like locusts they would descend and devour, leaving almost nothing.
But Joel was also shown that it wouldn’t have to be so, for Judah and Jerusalem, for in his vision he saw the people repent. Joel saw Priests, brides and grooms, drunkards, the careless and indifferent, all turned in humble repentance back to God, “rending their hearts and not their garments“, until God poured out the blessing from on high.
Joel’s vision went far beyond the time of the Babylonian invasion, which was the first fulfillment of the Word of the Lord to Joel. Like mountain peaks, there would be constant fulfillment of both the “locust” vision of Joel as well as of the “repentance and restoration vision”.
Joel saw far off into the future until the day of Pentecost and beyond, as the Apostle Peter testified, in Acts 2. In fact what Joel saw was not only the future of Judah, but also of the church. Both the vine and the fig tree are portrayed in Joel’s vision.
The fig tree is the symbol of the Divine Blessing upon Israel. Remember, that Jesus cursed the fig tree as a warning of the impending judgment upon Israel? This was a prophetic act. Within 40 years of Jesus cursing the fig tree, Jerusalem would be besieged, the temple would be destroyed and the Jews would glut the slave markets of the world.
Truly, “The fig tree would be cast out into the sea”, ie Israel would be cast out among the raging gentile nations.
The Vine is the prophetic symbol of the church.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.(John 15;1-5)
Joel saw the Vine languish as well as the fig tree.
The prophet saw that the locusts would come in times of apostasy and strip her of everything, leaving almost nothing.
Church history has shown Joel’s prophecy to have been realized.
Consider how the early church morphed into the Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox hierarchies. Ecclesiastical “locusts” took the Word of God from the people of God, they stripped away the priesthood of every believer, the doctrine of justification by faith, Grace and the assurance of salvation! Self serving Popes, Bishops and Cardinals, and local priests persecuted real faith wherever it broke out, that they might erect an abominable religious system that bore no resemblance to the “Little flock” Jesus spoke of.
In our own times we have seen this phenomenon.
One hundred fifty years ago, one could enter almost any main-stream Protestant church and very likely would have heard the gospel. Baptist, Presbyterian, or Methodist, you would have been able to hear the gospel, in almost any mainstream church. How did we end up with the women-led, gay affirming, abortion supporting Christless “churches” of today?
Locusts entered in as a Judgment of God. First the seminaries began denying Genesis, and teaching higher criticism, also denying miracles, the resurrection and the Deity of Christ. This corrupted the ministry, which cast about for new sources of “Relevance”, for how “relevant” could the message of a “mythical Christ” be?
The search for worldly “Relevance” has opened the mainstream church unto worldly movements, philosophical and otherwise, thus the ordination of women ,(feminism), homosexual “Civil rights”,interfaith multi-culturalism and other abominations.
Many fled from these mainstream churches into more orthodox and evangelical expressions of Christianity, just as many fled the apostate ten tribes of Israel into a more orthodox Judah in the days of the Kings. But after a while as the prophet Ezekiel preached, Judah became worse than her sister.
The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. Then the Lord said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. (Jeremiah 3:6-11)
There are trends in the Evangelical and Charismatic church which will take many further away from the Lord than the mainstream church. The locusts have come to us also; in the Emergent church, the Spiritual drunkenness revivals, Kingdom Now teaching and the False prophets of the Charismatic movement. Consider the many convulsive spiritual movements which have rocked the churches in the last three decades.
Books are being written by Evangelicals ,such as “Love Wins”, which is nothing less than a denial of the doctrine of eternal punishment, Rob Bell, which become best sellers. The search for “relevance” which grips so many ‘hipster’ pastors and congregations, has been leading them away from the courtroom evangelism model of the letter to the Romans, and into a more therapeutic, seeker friendly “relational model ” which is producing false converts.
What am I saying? The locusts have come to strip the Vine also, and not just the fig tree. Joel’s message reached past his day, remember, Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost that Joel was speaking into the church Age as well.
There has always been apostasy, the stripping bare of the church, leaving the remnant congregation with almost nothing. Church history from one aspect is depressing, for there has always been apostasy. From the beginning the Locusts descended, often making real Christianity just one option among dozens of false forms of the church.
Ultimately the depression lifts when we realize that the ongoing existence of the church and gospel is a miracle, only God could have preserved it.
“I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it…”.
Joel’s other vision has been a counter factor also in church history. Wherever groups of believers have seen the stripping, and been grieved and sought the Lord in humble repentance, the promise of Joel has come to pass, for church History is but a series of renewals and revivals. God can deal with locusts. He wants our hearts and souls.
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.(Joel 2:23-27)
The last promise of Joel 2 is a promise of revival, especially at the last days, immediately before the ominous end-times manifestations . We are told that “Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”.
This precedes Joel’s final vision, in chapter 3, which is a high definition , stunningly relevant view of the very time we find ourselves in right now.