As Joel’s account opens, there is disaster in the land in the form of an invasion of locusts. They have destroyed everything in their path that grows; crops in the fields, grain in the barns; everything. The situation is dire indeed.
God has given him a message to the people, a message in five parts. Each of these contains a summons to a different group of people to come at once to the temple for lamentations. He begins in 1:2-4 with a summons to the elders of the land. In those days during the minority of King Joash, these are the men who would have served as regents over the land until the King was old enough to serve on his own. No doubt you have noticed that Joel has not mentioned who the King was when he wrote the book as the prophets normally did, and that would be explained by the minority of Joash.
In the next section, 1:5-7, Joel summons the drunkards of the land, those who would drown their sorrows about the disaster with wine. Notice that Joel points out that the locusts have destroyed the vines; their precious alcohol is about to run out.
Next he delivers his wake up call to those who live in cities (1:8-10). Here, he likens the city dweller to a betrothed young maiden who has lost her beloved; her joy and anticipation has been replaced with sackcloth and ashes. His reference to the lack of offerings made at the temple refer to the fact that the entire rhythm of the city had been set by the morning and afternoon offerings, announced citywide with the blasting of trumpets; they had ceased, for there was nothing left to offer.
Next, his warning goes out to the farmers who have lost everything (1:11-12). Next he calls to the priests (1:13) who can no longer mediate between God and the people. Everyone is to mourn and lament for God’s judgment is upon the land; they must come and cry out to God:
Alas for that day!
For the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty. (1:15)
In verse 15 the Prophet alludes to something even more dire, for not only has God’s judgment come upon the land in the form of an invasion of locusts with devastating results, there is the final judgment yet to come. The time has arrived for the people to repent and return to God’s ways.