We don’t like to find these concepts in the pages of Scripture. We cringe inside and skim over the passages that chronicle the details of God’s righteous judgment on His people. If I’m being honest a plague of locusts doesn’t seem very “nice,” and it makes me cringe inside to think that this type of buggy encounter would be brought about by God himself.
When I was young, my parents served as missionaries in West Africa. We lived in a rural village made up almost entirely of subsistence farmers. A subsistence farmer is a farmer who farms their own food purely for self-sufficiency. Their job from sun up to sun down is merely to grow the crops that sustain their own families. The men and boys spent long, hot days in the dirt fields coaxing their crops of millet to grow in order to sustain their family for the next year. The women spent the day working with the grain - removing it from the stalk, blowing the chaff in the wind, grinding the seeds into flour (many did this by hand). Finally, the women would make the flour into millet cakes or porridge for each family member to have a small portion of food each day.
The sound of the locust’s wings caused a dull hum of treachery, but the worst noise of all was the sound of the locusts eating the crops. All of them.
Now imagine in a context like that, the day the locusts come. A cloud formed in the distance and its ominous darkness gets closer and closer. The locusts are large, the length of a human thumb and they’re fat with all the millet they had already consumed. The thing was in this situation, the cloud did not just pass over with ominous darkness. Instead, the bugs one by one landed on everything and destroyed anything in the wake. The sound of the locust’s wings caused a dull hum of treachery, but the worst noise of all was the sound of the locusts eating the crops. All of them. When they finished, they all rose up as one and moved onto the next town to devastate the crops found there. And by the end of it all, nothing was left. Everything was destroyed. Devastated. Dead. Gone. The silence that settled over each town post-ravishing was worse than the hum of the locusts.
After having seen the devastation locusts can bring, I will never read Joel’s words the same again. I cannot skim over these few short chapters unscathed. My breath catches in my throat as I hear God’s judgment on the Israelites described as a plague of locusts.
We don’t like these concepts of death and destruction because they simply aren’t pretty. We don’t frame verses and quotes from these prophets and hang them in our homes. We don’t want to hear about the sad state of the consequences of an unrepentant heart. However, when we skim over these words, we are doing ourselves a major disservice. We need to instead read this portion of the Word and then weep. We need to feel the destruction, the hum of the locusts, the sickening sound of them eating away at our livelihoods. We need to understand that our sin does the same thing - it descends like an ominous cloud, consumes our entire livelihood, and steals life. Sin destroys not only our life here on earth, but also our relationship with God. It rises without a second notice, leaving only destruction and devastation behind it. And when we understand the full weight of this, we should weep. We stand in a shocked silence that awakens within us the core need: to repent. We need to Repent and Believe. Not just believe and reap the glorious, wonderful benefits. But first, we must repent. Repent and be aware of the choices that we make that can lead to destruction. Then, we can understand even deeper the beautiful words that come in Joel 2:12- 14:
this is the Lord’s declaration-
turn to me with all your heart,
with fasting, weeping and mourning.
Tear your hearts,
not just your clothes
and return to the Lord your God.
For he is gracious and compassionate
slow to anger, abounding in faithful love,
and he relents from sending disaster.
Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave a blessing behind him,
so you can offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God.”
Suzanne Hines wants to live in a world where sunflowers bloom in eternal summer, where her children play instead of argue and where her family has an endless budget for travel. When she's not loving her husband, training and teaching her three children, and spreading education on the foster care system, you can find her writing, reading or running outside!
Her favorite Scripture is Romans 12:12 "...be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer..." (NIV)