It’s always weird to me when a writer tells me to set aside their own writing to pick something else up. But that’s precisely what I’m going to do here. If you were so kind as to open this link to read my thoughts, then surely you will be so kind as to open up your Bible (physical or digital) and take 5 or so minutes reading the book of Joel in it’s entirety. It’s only three chapters long and is mostly poetry (i.e. shorter verses). You can find it towards the end of the Old Testament (…Daniel, Hosea, JOEL, Amos, Obadiah…). Okay? Good.
The book of Joel describes a completely devastating locust infestation in the land. Swarms of locusts had descended and destroyed years and years worth of crops—nothing was left untouched. The prophet then uses the locusts to illustrate the devastation about to be inflicted on the Jews by an invading army. Both of these catastrophes served as judgment against the Jews, who had turned away from God.
God wasn’t simply punishing his people, however. The disaster was also meant to serve as a wake-up call. When life was going well for them, it was easy for them to think that they were living well. But God called his people back to himself through suffering in order for them to see that God and God alone could meet their needs. Though their lives, which they had lived without respect to God, seemed good, the catastrophe revealed it was all a mirage.
I want to be careful not to equate the current pandemic with God’s judgment. It is undeniable, however, that our present disaster has revealed many illusions of security. Whether or not God is currently judging the world (which is not unprecedented!), he is exposing the false idols that have promised us security and prosperity.
In the process, many people—even good, godly people—are experiencing REAL and SIGNIFICANT loss. Countless people have died. Millions of people have lost their jobs and millions more could be at risk as the economy teeters on the edge of a massive canyon. I think also of the thousands and thousands of students who have lost precious time, experiences, and memories with the shutdown. Time that they will never get back.
But God has promised that he will make up for lost time. Joel 2:25 is God’s promise to the people that he will restore the years the locust has eaten.
Of course, it is not the time itself that God will restore. We can’t travel back in time. And that’s okay; the locusts didn’t eat the years, but the fruit of the years. But God has promised to restore that fruit—and restore it abundantly. Joel 2:24 says, “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.” And Joel 2:26 says, “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.” The lost time, the missed experiences—the sorrow and pain and loss—they will all be overwhelmed by God’s goodness in the future. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).
The glory to be revealed to us is eternal life in and with Jesus Christ our Lord. A few missed weeks, or months, or even years of suffering and hardship, will be nothing compared to the glory of eternal life lived in the presence of God. Psalm 84:10 says, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” If one day is better than thousands, how much better will eternal days be? What in this life could possibly compare with eternal days spent in the courts of our Savior? Surely, God will restore the years the locust has eaten.