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VER. 8.]

A Dread Invader

43

5. Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine ; for it is cut off from your mouth. These are the evil servants spoken of by Christ the Lord who 'eat

and drink and are drunken' during the Master's absence (S. Luke xii. 43), and whom He will cut off at His dread and sudden coming, and set with unbelievers. These are they who live only for pleasure and therefore are 'dead while they live.' To them the world offers a fascinating draught composed of

All that fires the breast

And cheats the unstable soul.' In such a condition sin seems a trifle, death and suffering are unthought of. Merciful is God when He sends on such revellers a sharp awakening of adversity, while they can yet profit.

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6. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. So in the Revelation (ix. 8) the mystical locusts have teeth like

lions' teeth,' and 'the sound of their wings' is 'as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.' Travellers find no words to express to us the gigantic numbers of the locusts, or the terrible destruction they cause. They hide the sun, fill the air, choke the roads, stop the trains, extend for leagues, leave no living thing behind. O dread army, which moves onward irresistibly, as inspired with one purpose ! How little can man's power avail, in presence of such a scourge !

7. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. 8. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The locust plague spares nothing. Twigs are destroyed, as well as

leaves. The bark is stripped from the trees. Every kind of plant is entirely devoured. Not only this year's produce, but the hope of growth for coming years, is quite wiped out. For this dread calamity Israel mourns with the bitter hopeless tears of a maiden who has lost her espoused husband. He is torn from her by death before he has brought her home. She is left a widow before she is a wife, most desolate of all women. But if this ruin of field and garden deserves such tears, what sorrow shall we not feel when the branches of the True Vine are broken off by sin, when the fig-tree in God's ground bears no fruit, in spite of all the Divine Gardener's skill and patience !

44

God's Altar starved of Offerings

[Jo. I.

9. The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord, the priests, the Lord's ministers, mourn. 10. The field is wasted, the land mourneth ; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. 11. Be ye ashamed, 0 ye husbandmen; howl, o ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. 12. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered : because joy is withered away from the sons of men. Here was a rich garden, a farm filled with all manner of crops.

There were corn, vineyards, olive groves, every kind of fruit tree. From this land came fine four and wine for Jehovah's offering. Now all is left absolutely desolate. To me this rich land represents the good ground on which God has sowed good thoughts, good hopes, a holy calling. Its abundant produce is a wealth of holy prayers and good deeds. And the swarm of devouring locusts are vices, fierce passions, unworthy jealousies, which break up peace and leave misery behind. O grievous sight, to see a Christian soul so changed for the worse !

13. Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests : howl, ye ministers of the altar : come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God. Joel is greatly taken up with the duty of God's ministers in time of

public calamity. He bids them lament, watch, lie in sackcloth on account of the desolation of God's House and people. Priests should have hearts to feel for the losses sustained by God's Church, for His forsaken Altar, for the humiliations that His cause endures. If they are not touched by all this, who will be? O for some zeal in God's ministers to feel the true condition of things and not be content with mere formal duties !

14. Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord, 15. Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. 16. Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? Let all God's people come to His holy place where He has promised to hear prayer.

Let them forsake their wonted business or

VER. 20.]

Flocks and Herds crying to God

45

pleasure for this urgent duty. Let them contrast the present state of Israel with the peace and joy of other days. Is not the land ravaged ? Does not God's House lack offerings and praises ? O that we could gather together all ranks and conditions to pray God for reviving grace! We do not feel our sad condition. May God touch our hearts to perceive the coldness of believers, the widespread reign of indifference, the decay of old faith and love !

17. The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down ; for the corn is withered. Do not think that Joel is merely a farmer lamenting his lost seed,

his empty barn. O no: he thinks of other fields than human eye can see; he sees the good seed of God's Word lost, tares spreading, God's garner empty, angels of God wondering where to reap any harvest. The Bread of Life is ministered to few and is little re. garded. The sacred Corn of Wheat, Which was buried and rose to germinate for ever in believing hearts, is missed, and empty husks usurp His place. I am certainly amazed when I consider how minds feed eagerly on every kind of noxious error and mani. fest folly instead of the true nourishment of Christ's Gospel.

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18. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture, yea, the flocks of sheep

lesolate. 19. O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. 20. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee : for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness. Here is an animal prayer.' The creatures are heard lamenting over

their withered pasture. The Prophet's heart is moved by their distress. In Jeremiah (xiv. 2-6) is described a similar condition of drought and consequent distress among men and beast. There Jeremiah confesses sin and calls on the Hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble. He says, 'Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy Name.' He pleads with God by His covenant and ancient mercies. In an actual drought all creatures feel their need. They are pinched with hunger, parched with thirst; they wander over the dry, barren soil where was once their pasture. But our soul may be dried up, and we not know it. We may fancy ourselves rich and increased with goods and having need of nothing,' while the inward man is starving. Lord, show us our true condition, make us cry out to 46

A Day of Darkness

[Jo. II.

Thee who quickenest the dead and bringest water out of the finty rock. By Thee alone all things live. Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit and renewest the face of the earth.

CHAPTER II

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LOW ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in

tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand ;

2. A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains : a great people and a strong ; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. What is this cry in Zion? God's Voice warning of some dread

calamity that is near. What is this dark day, full of gloom and terror? It is the breaking down of our peace, the end of our joy ; a whirlwind sweeps away all wherein we fondly trusted. What is this mighty host which spreads as suddenly as the rays of dawn over the earth? First, it is the host of locusts. They darken the whole sky, they fill the air, they announce ruin to the land ; and behind them come other invaders, other woes, in long succession. O Lord, this Day of Thine is great and terrible; man has had his day, has rejoiced in his strength, thought to order all things after his fancy; but now he disappears and only Thy Hand is seen. Grant that I may discern Thy Day drawing near, and may prepare for it.

3. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth : the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness ; yea, and nothing shall

escape them.

Where the locust army has been, the whole land is black, stinking, dead. No living thing escapes them. They turn in two hours

a green and smiling plain into absolute desolation. But this Garden of Eden represents God's Church, planted and enclosed by Him, filled by Him with fair fruits of holiness, watered by Him with living streams. Yet even into that sanctuary the enemy has penetrated, divided and profaned God's heritage, turned its peace into strife. Again, the soul of each believer is like this Paradise ; deadly sin has wrought there worse ravages than the locust army on the rich soil.

VER. 11.]

An invincible Host

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4. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. 5. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. 6. Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. These swift horses, rattling chariots, crackling flames, mighty warriors,

are all figures for the locusts, hint of their irresistible host, their irretrievable mischief. Invaders, too, may be meant that followed them, desolated God's land with the sword, carried off His people for slaves. Let me, Lord, prepare for these or other enemies by careful meditation on Thy holy Word, by a humble confidence in Thy strength. Thy Son's Victory is so great that it gives me courage not to fear death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature. Nay, all these are but Thy servants, constrained to work out Thy bid. ding and my salvation.

7. They shall run like mighty men ; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks : 8. Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path : and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 9. They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses ; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10. The earth shall quake before them ; the heavens shall tremble : the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining : II. And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible ; and who can abide it? This invincible army penetrates all apertures, scales all heights,

defies all weapons, fills earth and sky. It is marshalled by God. He gives it commission to do such deeds. It is in vain that man raises walls, stops windows, sets watches, uses fire and weapons. Nothing avails against the locusts. So, too, it is with myself

. I may protect my crown'd estate 'with every precaution that human skill can devise or wealth procure, but in a moment all my vaunted guard falls to ruin. The Lord knows how to pierce my felicity to the very heart. Let me recognise His hand and discern His wise purpose in afflicting me. He is not really a foe, though He comes against me in armed array,

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