Lord, help us! Joel 1:19 nlt
In 1717, a devastating storm raged for days, leading to widespread flooding in northern Europe. Thousands of people lost their lives in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. History reveals an interesting and customary—for that time—response by at least one local government. The provincial authorities of the Dutch city of Groningen called for a “prayer day” in response to the disaster. A historian reports that the citizens gathered in churches and “listened to sermons, sang psalms, and prayed for hours.”
The prophet Joel describes an overwhelming disaster faced by the people of Judah that also led to prayer. A massive swarm of locusts had covered the land and “laid waste [its] vines and ruined [its] fig trees” (Joel 1:7). As he and his people reeled from the devastation, Joel prayed, “Lord, help us!” (1:19 nlt). Directly and indirectly, both the people of northern Europe and Judah experienced disasters that originated with the effects of sin and this fallen world (Genesis 3:17–19; Romans 8:20–22). But they also found that these times led them to call out to God and seek Him in prayer (Joel 1:19). And God said, “Even now . . . return to me with all your heart” (2:12).
When we face difficulties and disaster, may we turn to God—perhaps in anguish, perhaps in repentance. “Compassionate” and “abounding in love” (v. 13), He draws us to Himself—providing the comfort and help we need.
Why do people often turn to God when they face disaster? How can He use difficult times to draw us to Himself?
Heavenly Father, in the face of difficulty, help me to call out to You and find the hope You alone can provide.
God was to be the focal point of every aspect of life in Israel. Yet, despite enjoying God’s material blessings, the people forgot Him. They demonstrated their godlessness by taking His blessings for granted, repeatedly turning their bountiful grape harvest into an excessive lifestyle of drunkenness. So the prophet told them, “Wail, all you drinkers of wine; . . . for it has been snatched from your lips” (Joel 1:5). A horde of locusts would destroy all the grapes (vv. 6–7). In keeping with His character, God used this punishment to correct His people. From the context of the locust plague, Joel called the people to repentance: “Rend your heart and not your garments,” he said. “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate” (2:13).