Why is there evil in this world? Why is there so much tragedy? That is one of the haunting questions that people have asked throughout the ages. And as we take a look at the book of Joel, that’s what we see here. A swarm of locust swept down upon Judah and stripped the land of its harvest.
It’s uncertain when Joel wrote this prophesy. But there are a number of people who believe that Joel wrote this right about the time of King Joash, when he was an infant or young child and the priest Jehoiada served as his mentor and perhaps as his regent as well.
It was a time when the people were coming out of the rule of three ungodly leaders, Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah, all three of whom had led the people of Judah into idol worship.
And now this tragedy hit. And into this tragedy, the prophet Joel spoke. What did Joel tell the people to do?
Basically he told them to turn to the Lord. To wake up from their spiritual slumber and repent. He said,
Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. (5)
He particularly called on the priests, the spiritual leaders of Judah, to lead the people in repentance, saying,
Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God…declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord. (13-14)
Why did he call them to do this?
For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. (15)
Why is there evil in this world? Why do we see earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis? I think one reason God allows these things is to wake people up from their spiritual slumber. And I’m not just talking about unbelievers, but believers as well.
If there was no evil in this world, people would probably just live their lives in comfort, not even thinking of the judgment that is looming because of their sins. God would not even cross most of their minds.
But that judgment to come is far worse than any earthquake, typhoon or natural disaster that hits. Because once judgment is passed, there is no remedy and the consequences are forever.
And that’s what Joel was saying to the people. “Wake up! Do you think this tragedy is bad? It’s nothing compared to the judgment to come. Repent from your sins. Turn your face towards God, lest something worse happen to you.”
It reminds me of the words of Jesus that he spoke to a man he had healed. He said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)
In other words, “The suffering you endured from your disability is nothing compared to the suffering you will endure if you don’t repent of your sins. Being condemned to hell is far worse than suffering from being lame. So repent that your soul and spirit may be restored, not just your body.”
How do you respond when you see tragedy in this world? May the tragedies we see bring us to our knees. As it was in Joash’s day, so it is today. God calls us, his priests, to pray and repent of our own sins, and then to pray for the people around us, and to call them out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
Let us not be, as Keith Green once put it, asleep in the light. Let us be awake, and call the people around us to awaken too. And let us all turn our faces to God before the true day of judgment comes.