A short 3 chapters. How bad can it be, right?
Oh ug!!!! The whole first chapter is the word of the Lord to the people. And it is not a good word. The harvest has failed. Nothing is good. The priest mourn. The trees are all dried up. "Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God! Grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God."
Then Joel goes on to say that the people should sanctify a feast and call a solemn assembly. Everyone should come, for the day of the Lord draws near.
Chapter 2 is even worse than chapter 1, at least in the beginning. A great and powerful army comes, laying waste to all it travels over. Imagine this sight: "Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, but after them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them." How frightening is that picture. And still, God says that if the people would turn from their wicked ways, with all their hearts, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning, God would show mercy. God says: "...rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing." They should gather all the people - young, old, newly married, just born - that they might pray that God would spare them.
And then the good news does come! God has pity on them: chases all the foreign armies away, brings back the grain, the water, the wealth of the people. And promises that never again shall his people be put to shame: "And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame." Then come the wonderful words we read every year at Pentecost: "Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and the old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." I LOVE this text! It continues on and is GREAT reading for us, because "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
In chapter 3, it seems that God is now calling down desolation for those who have scattered Israel. Remember back in Genesis, when God gave Jacob a new name, Israel? In that moment, God also made a promise that this would be a great people. God keeps coming back to that promise, that these are God's people whom God will love without fail. So in these short chapters, the Word is that God is loving, steadfast, and merciful, and remembers the promises God has given in times past.
You go, God!