Thursday, May 28, 2015

Locust Years

I will restore to you the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25)
I think most of us can relate to ‘locust years’.  Days, months, and yes, years, which seem fruitless, ruined.  When no matter what we try to do, nothing goes completely right.  Failure is the norm, and pain is never far from the surface. The locusts come in and feast and we are left bare and barren.

Joel 2:25 is often used as a comfort, an assurance that God has promised to restore those lost years.  Joel gives us a picture of restoration which can bring hope in the midst of our famines.  We had it read at our wedding ceremony, and it is often quoted looking back after going through a valley.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. 
But, it is easy to overlook an important part of what the verse is saying.  God says the locusts are “my great army, which I sent among you”.  Why are the locusts there?  They didn’t just happen to appear, they were sent.  And sent by God Himself. 

We often think that all the difficulties we go through are contrary to God’s will for us. We think God’s purpose is for us to be happy and comfortable, and to have lives free of trials.  This verse (and much of the Bible) seems to say something different. 

The Israelites experienced their locust years due to disobedience and sin.  God had clearly told them that running after idols was going to cause problems.  That living defiantly, unrepentantly, would result in punishment.  The locusts came in the form of conquering armies, sweeping them away into exile. 
I believe that at times God sends us locusts, too.  Sometimes as punishment, or as a warning, or as a way to purge idolatry from our lives. 

The locusts come and devour everything.  Nothing is missed as they sweep through.  All of my defenses and strategies for pretending everything is okay disappear.  Raw and naked, I find myself crying out, not recognizing my idolatry and need for God’s correction. 
When I do, the pain overwhelms, driving me to my knees.  Against You, You only have I sinned... and sinned and sinned again.  The realization of my unfaithfulness reminds me again of the great faithfulness of our God.
And, oh, what consolation to know we serve a faithful, loving and just God!  Because even in the midst of the swarm we can trust that He knows exactly what He is doing.  He knows which type of locust is needed, and for how long they need to feed. 

For example, if it was up to me, I would be content with letting the locusts nibble on my sin, kind of weakening it, but nothing more.  What is needed, however, is the destroyer to come in and consume it all, tearing it apart, utterly obliterating it.  Only when it is killed will I find peace and restoration.
When the consuming swarm has passed and all has been stripped clean, I will be ready to be clothed once more.  And we are promised that God will do so, in garments of salvation and with a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

This is our great promise:  When the locusts have done their work, God will restore us.  He will restore us in ways not possible without the locusts' feast.  Because through them, those things that weigh us down are destroyed. 

The locusts clear the way and our shame will be removed.  Then, the lips which now groan will be able sing out praises to the Lord for the wondrous way in which He has dealt with us.

As difficult as it can be, I praise God for the gift of locusts years.  They consume, yes, but because of God's great mercy, we remain.  All glory to our great restoring, redeeming Lord!

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