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Devotional: October 23, 2020

“I’ll make up for the years of the locust,     the great locust devastation— Locusts savage, locusts deadly,     fierce locusts, locusts of doom, That great locust invasion     I sent your way. You’ll eat your fill of good food.     You’ll be full of praises to your God, The God who has set you back on your heels in wonder.”

         Joel 2: 25-26

Many of the prophets in the Old Testament ministered during times of crisis and stress. Often, the people they spoke to did not listen to them. Nor did they heed God’s warnings. Thus, the prophets forecast the impending judgment of God. So… it is kind of depressing to read many of the prophets in the Old Testament.

Yet every so often, the prophets offered a glimmer of hope.  Perhaps, many of us can empathize with those addressed by the Old Testament prophets. It seems like one bad thing after another has happened this year. These words from the prophet Joel seem tailor-made for us. Joel is talking about how plague after plague continued to happen. Yet he also promised that there will come a day when the years of devastation will only be a memory. 

The Israelites were apparently devastated by an invasion of locusts. I did not know that much about locusts prior to going to Seminary, other than the fact that they were grasshopper-like creatures. I did know that they would occasionally just take over an area, stripping it of all vegetation.

In 1987, when Jeana and I were living back in New Jersey, there was a hatching of Cicadas. This particular species of Cicadas only hatches every 17 years. Cicadas are not locusts. They are more like crickets, while locusts are more like grasshoppers. Cicadas are not nearly as devastating to crops and vegetation as locusts.

It was an amazing process to experience this hatch of cicadas. They were all around us in the trees. We could hear them humming in a low pitch all the time. By some accounts, they are the loudest of all insects! Their humming or “singing” was the sound they produced while searching for a mate. They were so numerous that all of the tree trunks were literally surrounded with a thick ring of dead Cicadas carcasses, where they would accumulate after dying off. Living through a cicada hatch gave us some sense of what it must have been like to experience a plague of locusts. Thankfully, we did not have nearly the devastation, except for some defoliated trees and shrubs. Plus, our food supply was unaffected.

Yet the sudden infestation of the Cicadas must have been a bit like the sudden arrival of a swarm of locusts. Like many plagues, it seemingly arises seemingly out of nowhere, and it is not fun!

Why did God send a plague upon the people, or allow the swarm of locusts to invade? Perhaps because He had warned them of what would happen if they continued to sin. Unfortunately, they refused to turn away from their many sins.

Please do not misunderstand me here. I am not saying that everything that has happened in 2020 is because of the sin of the world. God is not punishing the world. Yet I believe the Lord does want us to remember that we must lean on Him for strength. This is especially true when we are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or frustrated. What I want you to learn from this passage is the promise, and the hope in knowing that our present afflictions will not last forever. God will keep His promises to shower blessings upon us in due time. 

The future promises plenty of reasons to praise the Lord. Like Joel, we long for a future when we can sing praises to God for getting us past this year. We look forward to a day when we can enjoy things we have been denied. Joel speaking to a people suffering in the midst of a famine. His future vision of being able to eat one’s fill of good food must have been very inspiring to his original audience.

May we derive similar inspiration from the scriptures.  May we find the hope and reward that God will be with us during losses, not just in 2020, but always. When we find those joyful moments being restored, let us not forget to give God praises for all that He has done, and the many blessings He continues to provide for us. 

Prayer

God of grace,

At times, it does feel like we have been overwhelmed with swarms of unknown and unfamiliar situations. While others are despairing, may we be examples of Your faithfulness to those who live in fear. Thank You for being with us, with every step that we take. May we always look for your guidance, as we walk with You. Thank You for the joyful part of our journey. Please help us to remember to give You thanks for those blessed moments. We pray this prayer in the name of the one who will wipe away every tear, Jesus Christ. Amen


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