Matins Devotion: January 23, 2023
In Joel chapter 1, maybe a hundred years before it happens, the prophet foretells of the destruction that Israel is going to face at the hand of the Assyrians, destruction that he compares to a swarm of locusts. Just as locusts cut and swarm and hop and destroy the crops they find, so the Assyrians are going to cut down Israel, swarm the people, menacingly hop around them and destroy everything they have–their fields, their families, their very lives. The Assyrian locust hordes will be God’s judgment against Israel for its unbelief and idolatry. The locusts will break Israel because Israel broke its covenant with God.
In our reading for today, Joel then speaks a word of hope. He promises his people that the day will come when they are restored, when God will no longer make them a reproach, when He will cast away the northerner, restore their fields and livelihood, when He will drive away their sorrow and fill them with joy. And when will that happen? We get the answer at the end of our reading. It will be the day the sun is turned to darkness and the moon to blood, the day of blood and fire and columns of smoke. The day when all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. In other words, the day of Christ’s crucifixion, the day when darkness comes across the land in the middle of the afternoon as Christ breathes His last, the day when the fire of God’s judgment is poured out on Christ, whose blood forgives our sins and gives us peace with God.
Now this day that Joel is prophesying wouldn’t take place until about 700 years after those swarming Assyrian locusts devoured Israel. The sorrow they shrieked into the air that day wouldn’t find its answer in history for several centuries. But because he speaks these words many years before Israel’s destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, Joel is teaching Israel that it can still have comfort. Through faith, the event seven hundred years in the future is the event that his people can still cling to right now. And so it is for us when we consider the Day of the Lord, the Crucifixion of Jesus, which took place two thousand years ago but is still happening this moment for all who believe.
The locusts of sin that have cut you to pieces, swarmed and hopped around you, that have destroyed you, they’ve all been driven away. They were, in fact, conquered before you even knew them. So don’t fear. The tears that you are crying have already been dried. Jesus dried them at Calvary. And now you’re just waiting to feel it. The sorrow escaping your lips has already been silenced with Christ’s forgiving words. Look to the cross, and you’ll see what is true. Your griefs, your guilt, your doubts and despair and condemnation? Those locusts that have refused to leave you alone? Through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on Good Friday, they’ve been driven underground forever.