The Hand of God
Chuck Smith, in his commentary on the book of Joel, made a very insightful explanation of this book and its meaning.
Joel was a prophet to the nation of Judah at a time of the divided kingdom: 10 tribes (Israel) to the North, 2 tribes (Judah) to the South. Both nations went through lengthy periods prior to their ultimate captivity to foreigners, where they lived in open rebellion to the Lord.
Throughout the history of the Old Testament (and modern times for that matter), there is a cyclical nature to behavior of God’s people: Rebel, Repent, Restore. The people would turn from God, rebelling against Him and worshiping other gods. He would place hardships in their pathway, calling them to repent and turn back to Him. When they would, He would restore them to His family and way. As they lived in harmony with Him they would become comfortable and sinful and repeat the cycle.
At the time of Joel, we are seeing the stage of rebellion. Joel, as well as other prophets, such as Hosea, were sent to the people to highlight their sin, remind them of God and call them into repentance.
Chuck Smith pointed out that while other prophets were attesting to the “Heart of God”, Joel had the unique task of talking about the “Hand of God.”
He starts that discussion through an analogy to a past event. He begins with calling them to remember a time of a major locust infestation. He is using a real event of locusts to provide reference (starting in chapter 2) for the way, in the future, that the mighty hand of God will return – but with soldiers instead of locusts.
Through this reference we can get a picture of the might of the army of God. The strength of their numbers. The destructive power. But we also quickly get an understanding of the wrongness that they are coming to make right.
a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, like a coming mighty army such as never was, devouring, earthquakes, the sun and moon are darkened and the stars no longer shine, the Lord thunders at the head of his army
Rebellion by the people of God – following false idols. (there are 2 destructions described, a swarm of locusts that had occurred in the recent past as reference to the swarm of soldiers to come in the future)