“…I will make up to you the years that the locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25, NASB)
This verse may be sound familiar if you’ve spent some time in Christian teaching. It’s a quote from the second chapter of Joel in the Old Testament. Out of context, it can lose the truly life-changing message of the book – God delivers and restores.
In the first chapter of Joel, the writer uses the imagery of locusts to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment. The second chapter delves into what their – and consequently our – reaction to a Holy God should be – repentance. Joel is speaking to a nation that needs to acknowledge and receive God’s mercy and to repent (turn away from) their sin. God’s deliverance and blessings are named starting in verse 19, leading into the familiar saying shown above. In a merciful response to our repentance, the Lord promises to provide our every need (v. 19), protect us from our enemies (v. 20). We will rejoice at what He does, giving us joy in life instead of fear (v. 21-22). Even the rain is evidence of God’s faithfulness (v. 23). The effects of the locusts will be reversed (v. 25). The Lord continues to prove all of this.
26 Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the Lord your God,
who does these miracles for you.
Never again will my people be disgraced.
27 Then you will know that I am among my people Israel,
that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other.
Never again will my people be disgraced. (Joel 2:26-27, NLT)
After restoring what was destroyed, the Lord goes on to promise even more.
28 “Then, after doing all those things,I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants—men and women alike. (Joel 2:28-29, NLT)
Though Joel is speaking to a nation (a message our culture could stand to hear today), it’s important to reflect on these promises from God on a personal level. Not only are we – as a society – resurrected from sin because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are – corporately and individually – given life in the Holy Spirit. In the midst of judgment, God shows His mercy. He goes beyond saving us from our wretched sin; the Lord forgets we ever wronged Him, granting us access to Himself (Ephesians 2:17-18) and pouring His Spirit into our renewed lives.
When we allow God to work in our souls, we give Him the access He needs to clean out what the locust (the invading enemy of our souls – sin) destroyed and build up what the Spirit delivers. The Holy Spirit, in effect, redeems what was lost by working through our lives.
Each of us who have called on the name of the Lord understands this completely. It’s further evidence that Romans 8:28 is true.
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. (Romans 8:26-30, NLT)
Our sin makes us weak, but it is Christ in us that makes us strong in spirit. God works every thing together to restore what sin has cost us. It does not matter what the “locust” have done to destroy your testimony or the life of a prodigal you know; the Lord, through His mercy and grace, is ready to redeem.