Joel: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Swarms of Locust

The background of Joel’s prophecy was an invasion of locusts which devastated the land. In addition to the devastation caused by the locust, the nation also faced a severe drought that lasted several years.

Locusts and droughts were common in the ancient Near East, but the swarm of locusts and the long drought that occurred in Joel’s days were exceptionally severe. Joel mentions successive swarms of locusts (Joel 1:4) which devoured vegetation and crops. According to Joel 2:25, the devastation caused by the locusts went on for many years.

Joel gives a vivid report of the devastation caused by the locusts. The locusts destroyed the grapevines, they stripped the fig trees, not only of their leaves, but ate their bark and destroyed the trees, leaving the branches white and bare (Joel 1:7 NLT). The severe drought affected the animals of the land, “the animals moan with hunger! The herds of cattle wander about confused, because they have no pasture. The flocks of sheep and goats bleat in misery” (Joel 1:18 NLT).

According to Joel, the invasion of locusts was a judgment upon the sins of the nation. The calamity caused by the swarm of locusts prompted Joel to urge the people to repent, to humble themselves before God, to pray, and to ask God for mercy.

Joel said to the people, “rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him” (Joel 2:13–14).

The Restoration of the Land

As a result of Joel’s message, the religious leaders of Judah blew the ram’s horn, calling the people for a solemn assembly and for a time of fasting and prayer. All the people came together, young and old, and even the babies (Joel 2:16 NLT). They gathered for a time of worship and repentance.

During the solemn assembly, the priests came before Yahweh weeping from the entrance of the temple to the altar of sacrifice. They prayed: “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:17 NIV).

In response to the people’s act of repentance and because of their cry of anguish, “the LORD became concerned about his land, and he had pity on his people” (Joel 2:18 GWN). God’s compassion for his people and his concern for the land and the animals moved him to act and stop the devastation caused by the locusts.

Yahweh made a promise to remove the locusts and restore the land, “I am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations. I will remove the northern army far from you, and drive it into a parched and desolate land, its front into the eastern sea, and its rear into the western sea; its stench and foul smell will rise up” (Joel 2:19–20).

A Call to Rejoice

The end of the famine caused by the devastation of the locusts and the end of the drought which has afflicted both humans and animals became a reason to rejoice and to give praise.

Yahweh called his people and his creation to rejoice: “Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before” (Joel 2:21–23).

The people of Israel were suffering under the swarm of locusts. There were multiple years of famine and destitution as a result of the catastrophe caused by locusts. After the people repented, God spoke to them announcing that the hardship was about to end.

God’s assurance to the people teaches that all hardship and suffering are temporary. In this world every person will face all kinds of hardship. When confronted with calamities, one must persevere because there is light at the end of the tunnel. The upside of hardship is the assurance that God is good, or, as Joel puts it, that God “is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish” (Joel 2:13 NLT).

God Blesses the People

When Joel called the people to repent and return to God, he told the people, “Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him” (Joel 2:14). Yahweh left “a blessing behind.” Yahweh told the people that the moment of blessing was coming; better circumstances lie ahead. Yahweh told the people what would happen once the calamity was over. He said, “The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:24–25).

The end of the swarm of locusts would be unpleasant for a while. When Yahweh removes the locusts and drives them into the sea where they will die, “The stench of their rotting bodies will rise over the land” (Joel 2:20 NLT).

The unpleasant odor of the dead locusts would be noxious, but the bad smell was a good omen for the people of Israel because their problem was over. The invasion of the locusts was “a day of darkness and gloom” (Joel 2:2), but now the light at the end of the tunnel had arrived.

Joel 2:25 describes the blessings Yahweh will bestow on his people at the end of the scourge left behind by the locusts. First, Yahweh announces the end of the drought, “for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before” (Joel 2:23). With the end of the drought, the land would become fertile again, producing crops in abundance.

Second, Yahweh declares that the fertility of the land shall return, “The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (Joel 2:24). The land, the vineyards, and the olive gardens shall yield in such abundance that the people will rejoice in God’s blessing. The fertility of the land will be an indirect rebuke upon the people who, in their distress, began to doubt the goodness of their God.

Third, Yahweh promised to compensate the people for their loss, “I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Joel says that the plague had lasted more than one year. Since the damage to trees was extensive, it would take more than one year for seeds to be planted and produce a new harvest.

Joel proclaimed that God was promising the people that he will repay them for the loss, “I will repay you.” The idea that God repays that which was lost has staggering implications. God says that he will repay for the loss people suffered during the years of devastation. Through the bountiful harvests people will enjoy after the removal of the locust, God would repay the people with a bountiful harvest, with the produce of the land which the locusts ate.

The restoration of the people’s loss is a demonstration of God’s grace. God is not repaying them because they are innocent. The people were sinners; they deserved the judgment that came upon them through the swarm of locusts. God still will repay them for their loss because he had pity on his people and because he was concerned about the fertility of the land (Joel 2:18).


God promised to repay the people for their loss, but was God aware of how much the people had lost by the devastation caused by the locust? Was God aware of how much the people had suffered during the many months of calamities and drought? Many people lost their possessions, others lost their livelihood. Some lost family members. Many people died because of the hardship they faced during those tragic months.

God was aware of how much people had suffered; he saw their plight. Even though the people had broken the covenant and sinned against God, God had pity on his people. His grace and his mercy prevailed over his wrath. God was planning to repay the people with great blessings.

When God visited his people, he left “a blessing behind him” (Joel 2:14). Because God is a gracious and merciful God, the heart of God acts this way when dealing with his people. God is a God who blesses. Blessing people is what God does. He blesses now and he will continue to bless in the life to come.

When God removes the locusts from the land, the people will be greatly blessed. They will forget what they had lost. With God’s blessing there comes a time of prosperity. However, prosperity can become a dangerous time for some people. At times, prosperity can be more dangerous than the time of adversity.

Yahweh said, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me” (Hosea 13:6 NIV). In times of hardship people depend on God to provide for their needs. In times of prosperity people depend on themselves and forget God.

How can people avoid the danger of forgetting God in times of prosperity? The key to avoid spiritual demise in the times of prosperity is to celebrate the giver. Rejoice in the Lord God for he is the one who gives the autumn rains. The autumn rains come after a long time of drought.


My pastor, Jeff Griffin, Senior Pastor of The Compass Church in Naperville, Illinois preached a sermon on July 3, 2016 titled “A Light at the End of the Tunnel.” The sermon was based on Joel 2:20–25. Many of the ideas and concepts mentioned in the post above are based on Jeff’s sermon.

In his sermon Jeff emphasized that suffering is temporary. Because of the devastation caused by the locust, the people of Israel had to endure hardship for many months, but their suffering was temporary. By God’s grace, the people were able to endure suffering and the hardship of the people has much to teach people today.

Here on earth suffering and hardship may be only for a time; people can endure those challenging times in their lives. Sometimes, the end of suffering is in heaven, for in heaven “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4).

Jeff also emphasized that when people are in distress, they must remember that the Lord will repay them for their loss. God’s blessings come in different ways, but they always come as a demonstration of God’s grace. Blessings from God are all around us for every good gift comes from God.

When good times come, people should rejoice in the giver. The Lord is the giver, and he is the gift. People’s relationship with God should not be affected by their prosperity.

A Video Presentation

“Light at the End of the Tunnel.” A Sermon by Jeff Griffin.

Other Studies on the Book of Joel

An Introduction to the Book of Joel

Previous Sermons by Jeff Griffin

The Sermons of Jeff Griffin

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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