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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Learning from Locust (Joel)

The book of Joel opens up with less than positive images. Locust of all kinds (swarming, hopping, stripping, cutting!) are moving through the land like a storm. A severe drought is swallowing up any life that remains. It is a bleak, dark season. The people are called together in a "solemn assembly" to weep, fast and pray.

And where is God? Evidently, He is actually behind the locust and the famine, using these plagues as instruments to bring about repentance and brokenness in His people. Sounds like some typical Old Testament prophecy.

What I find, however, is that in the dire circumstance prophets speak about, God is actually doing something quite amazing. In Joel 2:25, God makes an incredible statement to His people. "I will give you back what you lost to the locust." God boldly proclaims that everything they are currently experiencing will one day be a distant memory because life will again be good.

These words of encouragement can be tough to hear if we find ourselves in the midst of a dark place. Even more so if we believe God has brought the dark season on us! But I think this is the nature of our God- to redeem, restore and bless. And though we may not even be able to see how, He plans to give us even more than we had at first. Times of difficulty, conflict, and strife can actually become the gateway to blessing and joy. This is more than the silver lining in the cloud. This is the all-powerful God declaring that he will utilize His power to give you back what has been lost. The locust took it. God will restore it.

Is this some kind of magic formula? This almost sounds like a math problem: simply add up what you had before, subtract what you lost in the crisis, and then wait for God to add back more than you had before. Is it as simple as that? No, I think the key in avoiding this kind of formulaic thinking is the transition that occurs between famine and feast. You see, the people gather together, weeping, fasting and praying, and put their hope entirely in God. They cry out to Him in dependence. In other words, they choose to entrust themselves to the very one who appears to be inflicting the pain. They do what is counter-intuitive and put their hope fully in the One who stands behind the circumstances.

And in the end, the blessing they receive far outweighs the pain of their circumstances.

That's what God is like. One who seeks to give you back even more than you lost. But we must trust and wait for Him to do it!

May you know this kind of God on your journey today,
Nick

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