Joel: A Leader Who Knew What to Do Next

by Max Dawson

"So, what are we supposed to do now?" I have heard that question so many times over the years. Leaders may be faced with a moral issue within the church, or maybe a budget shortfall, or possibly a disaster (like a hurricane?) has come upon them. What to do next?

Joel was a leader who knew what to do next. He opens his book by discussing the terrible plagues of locusts that have ravaged Judah (Joel 1:1-12). These awful plagues were out of the ordinary. It was not the normal course of nature to have such devastation. This was a judgment of God! And it was a preliminary to what lay ahead for the people of Judah (Joel 1:15-18). A day of darkness and gloominess was on the horizon (Joel 2:1-11). As bad as things were, it was about to get worse!

"So, what are we supposed to do now?" Joel called for the leaders in Judah to hear his message. "Hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! (Joel 1:2). In times of trouble, God's people must hear God's message. That's the first thing to do! The judgment on Judah was because they had not listened to Heaven's message! O, how we bring awful problems upon ourselves because we refuse to hear God's word!

Joel knows what to do next. It is time for repentance! He calls upon the older men of the land to hear (Joel 1:2-4). These men could remember better times before the plagues came. He calls upon the wine drinkers to weep (Joel 1:6-7). He calls the farmers to lament and wail (Joel 1:8-12). With each group he calls, he talks about what the particular locusts had done to destroy all they had! It looked hopeless for everyone!

Next, Joel calls upon the priests to put on sackcloth and lament (Joel 1:13-18). The plagues of locusts impacted everyone in Judah. There was no grain for the offerings in the house of God, and even the animals suffered because of God's judgment.

The people must repent, humble themselves, and pray to God for help. They had offended God; God was their only hope of relief. If they do not turn back to Him, things will only get worse. Joel urges the priests to call for a fast and to cry out to God (Joel 1:14).

Joel knew what to do in this terrible time. And it is what wise leaders always know to do in bad times--even if our disasters are not the result of God's judgment. Joel's call to turn back to God would serve the nation well for centuries to come -- if only the people would listen! But would they? Will we listen to Joel's advice when hard times come to us?

So, what do we do when there is a moral issue within the church? Do we turn to God in prayer? Do we insist that God's word be plainly taught and obeyed? Do we address the problem in the way God teaches? (See I Corinthians 5.) And what do we do with a budget shortfall? Do we turn to God in faith and trust that He will get us through difficult days? And when faced with a natural disaster, is our first thought to pray to God and ask for His help? That's what Joel did (Joel 1:19). "O Lord, to You I cry out..."

When in trouble, Joel knew what to do next! What was next was what to do first! It was to cry out to God for help for his people. Kingdom leaders know to do that, don't they?

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