Summary: Undealt with sin can destroy us, but God offers us a way out.

It's A Bug's Life

Text: Joel 1:1-20


1. Illustration: When we were pastoring a church in Yellville, AR, there were some structural problems with the building that concerned me. There was a dip in the floor of about 2 or 3 inches that ran across the sanctuary. So I contacted the insurance company and so they sent out an insurance adjuster to assess the situation. He crawled under the church and discovered the problem. There were several support pillars that held up the floor joists that had collapsed causing the floor to drop. The cause, the pillars were wooden and had been eaten through by termites. These bugs had not only eaten through the wooden pillars but had eaten a large percentage of the underneath of the church building, and no one knew it because no one bothered to look. Later I emailed one of my professors from Bible college and told him about the situation. His response was, "Did you ever imagine bugs would have so much to do with your ministry?"

2. There is a spiritual lesson for all of us to learn from this story. Like termites, sin can eat away at our spiritual life and cause us to collapse even though no one can see it from the outside.

3. The spiritual truth of this story is...

A. Sin Destroys

B. A Call To Repentance

C. A Call To Prayer

4. Let's stand together as we read Joel 1:1-20.

Proposition: Undealt with sin can destroy us, but God offers us a way out.

Transition: We must all come to grips with the truth that...

I. Sin Destroys (1-7).

A. Army Of Locust

1. This opening chapter to the Book of Joel shows us the danger of not allowing God to deal with the sin in our lives.

2. The book begins with, "The LORD gave this message to Joel son of Pethuel."

A. We know very little about Joel the prophet or his father Pethuel, other than Joel prophesied to the Southern kingdom of Judah during the reign of Joash (New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible, 1078).

B. Joel began his prophecy, as did his contemporary Hosea and his later contemporary Micah (and as did Zephaniah in the seventh century), by identifying himself and his lineage.

C. More important, he clearly declared the divine source of his prophecy and therefore the need for readers to heed his utterance.

D. Since the message was God's, not man's, it was to be followed implicitly (Patterson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary – Volume 7: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, 237).

3. He prophecy begins with, "Hear this, you leaders of the people. Listen, all who live in the land. In all your history, has anything like this happened before? 3 Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation."

A. Joel therefore commanded his people—from the eldest citizen downward—to give careful attention to what he had to say.

B. None could recall such an intense and devastating calamity as the locust plague that had fallen on them.

C. For this reason Joel's message and instructions based on the locust plague deserved to be handed down successively to the generations that followed (Patterson, 237).

4. Then Joel talks about the devastating effects of the locust attack. He says, "After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops, the swarming locusts took what was left! After them came the hopping locusts, and then the stripping locusts, too!"

A. Several theories have tried to account for the four different Hebrew words for locusts that appear in v.4.

B. Probably the point is that the various Hebrew words are used to indicate the intensity of the locust plague.

C. There had been a successive series of locusts that had made a thorough devastation of the land, a destruction indicated rhetorically by four distinct names.

D. That there were four successive invasions may bear some relationship to the concept of thorough judgment.

E. Amos, Joel's contemporary, mentioned the utter destruction left behind by a locust plague (Amos 4:9); but he noted that there had been no turning to God by the people of the northern kingdom.

F. Joel recognized the seriousness of the situation. The locusts were God's army in judgment on Judah (Patterson, 237).

5. Now Joel issues a call for the people to wake up from their spiritual slumber when he says, "Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you wine-drinkers! All the grapes are ruined, and all your sweet wine is gone. A vast army of locusts has invaded my land, a terrible army too numerous to count. Its teeth are like lions’ teeth, its fangs like those of a lioness. 7 It has destroyed my grapevines and ruined my fig trees, stripping their bark and destroying it, leaving the branches white and bare."

A. Joel told the people to wake up from their sleep of drunkenness.

B. In so doing he called attention not only to the shameful nature of society but to the people's insensitivity to their own condition, a moral decadence that if unchecked would bring on national disaster. Times of ease too often result in depravity (Patterson, 239).

C. The locusts, here likened to a great nation with a powerful and invincible army, had stripped bare the vines and fruit trees of the land.

D. Joel amplified his hearers' need to cry out by describing the hungry locusts as having teeth like those of a lion.

E. The accuracy of Joel's description of the great cutting power of the locusts has often been recorded. Pliny (Natural History 1.2.12) reported that they could even gnaw through doors (Patterson, 239).

F. All the land lay waste before that hostile army. The vine and the fig tree, symbols of God's blessing on his people, lay stripped even of their bark.

G. All this greatly alarmed the prophet of the Lord. The conditions that necessitated the divine judgment must have grieved even more the Lord himself who still viewed Judah as "my land" (Patterson, 239).

6. This is the devastation that sin brings to our lives. It eats always at us spiritually, emotionally and even physically. It's like cancer to our bodies or rust to a car, and the results are disastrous unless we allow the Lord to deal with it.

B. Sin Eats Away At Us

1. Illustration: How does a worm get inside an apple? Perhaps you think the worm burrows in from the outside. No, scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside. But how does he get in there? Simple! An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Sometime later, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple, then eats his way out. Sin, like the worm, begins in the heart and works out through a person’s thoughts, words, and actions.

2. Sin begins inside of us and eats away at our spirits.

A. James 1:13-15 (NLT)

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death."

B. Notice that the desires are not the sinful actions. It's when those desires are left unchecked and undealt with that they become sin.

C. It's not that bad thought that you have that's sin, it's not dealing with that bad thought that leads to sin.

D. When we let that thought roll around in our mind and not matching it up to the Word of God that it becomes sin.

E. There's a reason that Paul says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind," and "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ."

F. When we allow that to roll around in our mind and allowing it to take control of our hearts that we are lead away into sin.

G. When we are lead away sin begins to rot our hearts and spirits, and most of the time we don't even realize it.

Transition: That's when we need...

II. A Call To Repentance (8-13).

A. Weep Like A Bride Dressed In Black

1. Whenever God points out our sins to us his aim is always to redeem us and bring us back into a right relationship with him. However, this is more than just saying you're sorry because you got caught, but it requires true repentance that comes from the heart.

2. For this reason Joel tells his people, "Weep like a bride dressed in black, mourning the death of her husband."

A. Joel had emphasized the seriousness of the cutting off of the source of wine and the attendant economic crisis.

B. He reminded them that there were greater issues at stake. Far worse was what the locust plague meant to their spiritual lives.

C. The very worship of God was compromised. This should be a deeper cause of grief.

D. They would no doubt howl over being deprived of their luxuries; far better would it be to imagine the consequences of the disaster from God's point of view.

E. Joel instructed the people to mourn like an engaged virgin whose intended husband was taken from her before the wedding. How great would be her tragedy and sorrow!

F. So also the people of Judah and Jerusalem should weep over the loss of vital religious experience through the devastation of the land (Patterson, 239-240).

3. He further illustrates this point by saying, "For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of the LORD. So the priests are in mourning. The ministers of the LORD are weeping. 10 The fields are ruined, the land is stripped bare. The grain is destroyed, the grapes have shriveled, and the olive oil is gone."

A. The loss of agricultural produce meant the early cessation of the meal and drink offerings. Both were offered in connection with the daily burnt offerings.

B. These offerings spoke of the very heart of the believer's daily walk before God: the burnt offering, of a complete dedication of life; the meal offering, of the believer's service that should naturally follow; and the drink offering, of the conscious joy in the heart of the believer whose life is poured out in consecrated service to his God.

C. The observance of these offerings had degenerated in Joel's day into merely routine ritual. Still worse, the Israelites had made these times an occasion for drunkenness or had even offered the sacrifices to pagan gods.

D. Therefore, as he had warned, God had taken away the privilege of offering that which symbolized purity of devotion.

E. The cutting off of the sacrifices was a severe step of chastisement, but it should have been a warning to the people of their grave condition.

F. The loss of opportunity even to offer the sacrifices should have symbolized to them their breaking of the terms of the covenant bond between themselves and the Lord. Nothing could be more serious!

G. Joel continued the description of this tragedy by noting that the priests, the ministers of the Lord, were mourning; the once productive fields were utterly laid waste; and the very ground, the custodian of the elements necessary for the sacrifice, grieved like the priests.

H. Mourning: is a verb that occurs nearly 40 times and describes mourning over a death, over sin, or over tragedies of Jerusalem. In the present context it describes the reaction of the godly priests to the plight of the Lord's people (New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible, 1081).

I. Grain, wine, and oil were all chief products in Israel and considered objects of God's blessing. These blessings, however, could be withdrawn as punishment for their sins (Patterson, 240).

4. Not only was the plague of the locust effecting their worship it would also effect their economy. In vv. 11-12 it says, "Despair, all you farmers! Wail, all you vine growers! Weep, because the wheat and barley— all the crops of the field—are ruined. 12 The grapevines have dried up, and the fig trees have withered. The pomegranate trees, palm trees, and apple trees— all the fruit trees—have dried up. And the people’s joy has dried up with them."

A. Joel next turned to the ones who were most directly affected, those who cared for the yield. He called on the farmers and keepers of the vineyard to "despair" and to "wail" (cf. v.5).

B. The words Joel used signify an intense disappointment that is revealed in a terrified look and a cry of despair.

C. They were to lament the loss of the products of the field (v.11) and of the vineyard and orchard (v.12).

D. The vine and the fig tree are first singled out for notice. These were often used to symbolize the blessings of the relationship between God and Israel.

E. Joel also mentioned the pomegranate, the palm, and the apple trees, all of which were not only important to the economy but were symbols of spiritual nourishment and refreshment and of the resultant joy and fruitfulness of life in the trusting believer.

F. All these trees, so vital to the economy and so expressive of Judah's relation to her God, were withered up.

G. The full joy of life that should have been theirs as God's children had been put to open shame (Patterson, 241).

5. So Joel tells them, "Dress yourselves in burlap and weep, you priests! Wail, you who serve before the altar! Come, spend the night in burlap, you ministers of my God. For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of your God."

A. Joel closed this section with a special plea to the second specially affected segment of society—the priests.

B. They were commanded to dress themselves with sackcloth and to mourn and wail.

C. The prophet had noted their sorrow (cf. vv.8-9). He now demonstrated the urgency of the situation by pleading with them to spend the whole night in their garments of sackcloth in deep sorrow and repentance, because of the loss of the daily sacrifices, the implications of which they should know full well (Patterson, 242).

B. Repent And Believe

1. Illustration: If there is no repentance, there can be no pardon. Some years ago a murderer was sentenced to death. The murderer’s brother, to whom the State was deeply indebted for former services, besought the governor of the State for his brother’s pardon. The pardon was granted, and the man visited his brother with the pardon in his pocket. "What would you do," he said to him, "if you received a pardon?" "The first thing I would do," he answered, "is to track down the judge who sentenced me, and murder him; and the next thing I would do is to track down the chief witness, and murder him." The brother rose, and left the prison with the pardon in his pocket. Because of what this man had done, death penalty was waiting on him. The opportunity was granted to him, but it called for repentance. Since there could be no repentance, there also could be no pardon.

2. God's purpose in calling us to repentance is so that we can be brought back into a right relationship with Him.

A. Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

B. God is calling us to come to him in humility and acknowledge that we have done wrong.

C. God doesn't want to condemn us; he wants to redeem us.

D. God is not mad at you; He's mad about you!

E. But sin puts up a wall that prevents us from have a right relationship with Him.

F. Sin prevents us from living in a victorious and abundant life.

G. God is calling us to come to Him and say, "Father, forgive me, I've messed up and I need your mercy and grace!"

H. God says that if we do this from the heart that He will forgive us, cleanse us, and make us right again.

I. Don't wait until tomorrow, take God up on his offer today and allow him to forgive you!

Transition: Not only does God call us to repent he also gives us...

III. A Call To Prayer (14-20).

A. Cry Out To Him

1. What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and grief’s to bear

And what a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit

Oh, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer

2. In order to repent, we have to pray. So Joel pleads with the people, "Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people of the land into the Temple of the LORD your God, and cry out to him there."

A. Joel began his plea for prayer by continuing his address to the priests.

B. These spiritual leaders were called on to convene the entire assembly of people at the temple for a solemn fast and a season of heartfelt prayer.

C. The call for national fasting was an extraordinary event. But dreadful times called for decisive measures.

D. It was to be a holy fast, on the part of a solemn assembly. Led by the elders, all were to come and cry to the Lord (Patterson, 242).

3. Joel then stresses to them the seriousness of their situation. He says, "The day of the LORD is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be!"

A. He warned his hearers very strongly that all the available evidence pointed to the fact that the Day of the Lord stood near at hand.

B. Joel's use of the term here seems clearly related to the historical situation. The locust plague was a dire warning that the day of the Lord's judgment for Judah was imminent.

C. Joel's message was in line with this same picture of life found in the early eighth century B.C.—a scene of spiritual bankruptcy, despite great political and economic assets.

D. Not only was the Day of the Lord imminent, but it was certain—"like destruction from the Almighty."

E. Joel intended a play on words here. The words "destruction" and "Almighty" are from the same Hebrew root.

F. The verb is also in an unusual position. One might paraphrase it this way: "Like a shattering from Shaddai, it will surely come!" (Patterson, 243).

4. Then in vv. 19-20 he prays, "LORD, help us! The fire has consumed the wilderness pastures, and flames have burned up all the trees. 20 Even the wild animals cry out to you because the streams have dried up, and fire has consumed the wilderness pastures."

A. As an example to the people and yet in sincere identification with his own people to whom he had been called to deliver God's message, Joel broke forth in a cry to the Lord who alone could forgive and deliver his people and all creation from this calamity and the still greater one that seemed certain to follow.

B. The prophet spoke of the loss of pasture land as well as of the trees. What the locusts had not destroyed, a severe summer's heat and drought ruined.

C. Likewise, the beasts of the field made their ascent with longing desire to God. They had to seek higher ground because of the loss of pasture land and because the channels of water had dried up.

D. Joel also insinuates that they were more sensitive to the basic issues at hand than were God's own people.

E. To Joel, God's message was plain. The barrenness of the land reflected the dryness and decay of the hearts of the people.

F. Accordingly, God had judged them. Even the animal world seemed to sense this. How much more should the people!

G. If, however, the hearts of God's people remained unmoved and unrepentant, a worse judgment loomed ahead (Patterson, 244).

B. Power of Prayer

1. Illustration: Today it's not about repentance; it's about our feelings.

It's not about prayer; it's about going out for coffee.

It's not about sanctification and righteousness; it's about making money.

It's not about discipleship; it's about book/CD sales.

It's not about cleaning our hearts, but keeping the carpets clean.

2. God is calling us to pray for restoration!

A. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT)

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

B. God doesn't want to condemn us; he wants to restore us.

C. He's not pointing a finger; he's holding out his hand.

D. He doesn't want to send us away; he wants us to draw near to him.

E. He doesn't want to hold sin over our heads; he wants to throw sin into the sea of forgetfulness and remember it no more.

F. But he is waiting for us to pray prayers of repentance.

G. He's waiting for us to say, "Forgive me, Lord, I blew it!"

H. What a friend we have in Jesus

I. All our sins and grief’s to bear

And what a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit

Oh, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer


1. Like termites or locust, sin can eat away at our spiritual life and cause us to collapse even though no one can see it from the outside.

2. The spiritual truth of this story is...

A. Sin Destroys

B. A Call To Repentance

C. A Call To Prayer

3. Are you ready to pray a prayer of repentance?