By David Faust
Unless you understand some things about agriculture, it’s hard to appreciate the difficulty of farming. How would you like your livelihood to depend on the weather? Too much rain (or too little), higher (or lower) temperatures than normal, fluctuating fuel prices, unpredictable consumer demands—farmers have to deal with all of these variables and more. It takes a lot of trust in God to plant and harvest as a way of life.
Ancient farmers had it even harder. They had no tractors to make the work more efficient, no manufactured fertilizers to help their crops grow. Droughts, fires, and floods could wipe out their crops and eliminate their food supplies. Without pesticides to fight back, farmers watched in desperation when locusts swarmed through their fields. These aggressive insects could ruin acres of grain in a few hours while their wings made a terrifying sound.
The prophet Joel foresaw the results of a plague of locusts in Judah. “The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed” (Joel 1:10, 11). Even worse, the army of locusts foreshadowed an upcoming military invasion that would devastate the land.
What’s Consuming Your Dreams?
Most of us don’t wake up in the morning worried about locusts, but life still has a way of demoralizing us. What do you fear? Have you experienced any devastating events? What “locusts” are bugging you? What plagues your emotions and eats away your confidence?
Modern-day locusts come in different forms. A layoff causes unemployment. A once-happy marriage disintegrates. Former friends prove unfaithful. The church disappoints. Health gives way to disease. Youth yields to old age. You don’t need to be an ancient farmer to feel Joel’s despair: “Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes—joy and gladness from the house of our God?” (1:16).
What Should We Do?
What should we do when locusts threaten? Joel pointed out some important responses.
Corporate prayer. Joel said, “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord” (v. 14). When things get tough, God’s people need to gather for fasting and prayer.
Individual repentance. “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (2:13).
Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Foretelling the Day of Pentecost, Joel quoted the Lord: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. . . . Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (vv. 28, 29).
Joel’s dire prophecies include an encouraging promise. God said, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten . . . . never again will my people be shamed” (2:25, 26).
God can restore the years the locusts have eaten, either in this life or the next. The lonely will find fellowship. The brokenhearted will find comfort. The disappointed will experience fulfillment. The aching will find relief. Dark shadows will fade in the bright light of eternity. Earth’s misery will be replaced by Heaven’s joy.
Meanwhile, don’t be surprised when some locusts show up. I recommend a large flyswatter.
1. What locusts have been eating away at your life lately?
2. Has God ever restored something you have lost?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 6, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Job 25, 26
Hosea 7, 8
Hosea 13, 14
Joel 2, 3
Amos 1, 2