“The pastures are desolate and the land mourns, for the grain has been destroyed, the new wine has dried up, and the olive oil is but a trickle… the farmers wail, the vines wither, the fig trees fail. Pomegranate, palm, apple – every tree in the land have dried up, and our joy has dried up as well. Seeds shrivel under clods of dirt, and granaries stand desolate. Barns are torn down for lack of use…The cattle wander aimlessly for lack of pastures. Fires destroyed the pastures in the wilderness and the trees of the field have gone up in flames. Even the wild animals cry for the streams have dried up.” (Joel 1:10-12, 18-20)
What a disaster! The locusts are gnawing away at their security, devastating the crops, destroying the economy, and laying waste to homes and businesses.
What does a prophet say in a time so dry?
At the worst of the devastation Joel paints the people a future. It’s not a prediction. It’s not a conclusion. It’s a pastoral whisper, a prophetic “forth-telling.” Return with all your heart, he says.
Joel is not saying God sent the locusts to provoke the people to change. Joel is saying, hey, these are our circumstances so let’s see what God can work through them for greater good. Is this a time God is using to call you to radical transformation? Is this a time God is inviting you to be something new in your day? Is this a time God is calling you to let go and be more of who you really are.
“Is this the day of the Lord?” asks the prophet Joel, meaning all that!
There is a certain point in God’s radical transformation when we lose hope. Is this all there is? Are we there yet? Are we losing God precisely at the point we need God most? Is our comfort draining away like the water from a tub? Can’t we just move faster/ work harder/ and get where we don’t know we are going?
Hey, People of God, this is a process. This is a journey. Don’t stop now, this isn’t it. This is radical transformation. This is God inviting you to be something new in your day. This is God calling you to let go and be more of who you really are.
So Joel stands there with the locusts swarming and the fires crackling and the dust choking saying — There’ll be new spring crops, the rains will come, and the grain will grow. You will eat and be satisfied.
After that, I will pour out my Spirit on all humankind. Your daughter and son will prophesy, your elders will have prophetic dream and your young people will see visions. In those days I will pour out my spirit even on those in servitude, women and men alike. (Joel 3:1-2)
It’s the mirror opposite of the swarm of locusts.
The Spirit will be as invasive as the grasshoppers!
The restoration will be as significant as the destruction.
We will be the same only so very different.
This is the path of every spiritual journey.