Joel 1:13–20 (NKJV)
13 Gird yourselves and lament, you priests;
Wail, you who minister before the altar;
Come, lie all night in sackcloth,
You who minister to my God;
For the grain offering and the drink offering
Are withheld from the house of your God.
14 Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
Into the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
The Lord speaks to the priesthood through Joel, instructing them to immediately call for mourning, fasting, and a sacred assembly. Sackloth was the garb of mourning, and he even told the priests to wear it. Worship is past, repentance is too late at this point. Lament and mourning are the only appropriate responses at this point. Repentance and worship can come later.
15 Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is at hand;
It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.
16 Is not the food cut off before our eyes,
Joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seed shrivels under the clods,
Storehouses are in shambles;
Barns are broken down,
For the grain has withered.
18 How the animals groan!
The herds of cattle are restless,
Because they have no pasture;
Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.
19 O Lord, to You I cry out;
For fire has devoured the open pastures,
And a flame has burned all the trees of the field.
20 The beasts of the field also cry out to You,
For the water brooks are dried up,
And fire has devoured the open pastures.
The Lord here describes the devastation that will be evident after the armies from the North come through. Three images–a swarm of locusts, drought, and the fire of judgment–describe how the land is to be robbed of its vitality. There is no food, and all the life is waning. The Day of the Lord has come to Israel, and it is a time of utter loss and fearful action which leads to a somber existence. When God’s people cease to worship, and do not offer repentant hearts, judgment comes. Judgment may be in the form of a retreat of the covering and blessings of God, or it may be in the form of actual vengeance by one’s enemies. Either way, an individual should not want to draw the ire of the Lord of Creation. Instead, cry out to God in repentance. Lift Him up in adoration, praise, and worship. Whatever you do, see Him as God and serve Him fully! If not, mourning will come.