The consequences of Israel’s disobedience in Joel’s day were hitting hard- for both man and animal. A combination of locusts and drought had destroyed the crops. Everyone was suffering. Additionally, the shortage of food had affected the cycle of temple sacrifices and festivals (Joel 1:16). The hungry cattle lowed pitifully, and the starving sheep bleated mournfully, mirroring the anguished cries of God’s people (Joel 1:18). Joel watched wild fires consume the land and crops. His call joined with this chorus of suffering (Joel 1:19).
God’s loving intention and design was that the suffering of Israel would heighten their awareness of their own sin and make them long for restoration. These sufferings led “the beasts” to “panting” or longing after God (Joel 1:20). It could only be hoped that God’s people would be as wise as the animals they tended. May we say with David, the Psalmist, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) Does your soul pant after God?