If there was any one phrase that could sum up our relationship, it would be God’s promise from the book of Joel that He would ‘Restore The Years’. We want to share our personal story of restoration, but before we get to that, I think it would be helpful to understand what God meant by his promise in the original context. The next few posts will be a little breakdown of the book of Joel.
**Time for a little disclaimer here: Notice I said ‘a little breakdown’, not an in depth Bible study or a six week sermon series. I am no Biblical scholar. I have no formal seminary training. And honestly, most in depth, detailed Bible studies tend to leave me bored or confused. I am just an average someone. This is just my humble opinion. I love Christ and am always excited to learn more about him. I want to be able to share who He is and what He has done for us.**
The book of Joel begins with God’s wrath toward the people of Judah because they, as a nation, have continually lived in sin. Keep in mind that everyone of us messes up on a daily basis. Without Christ, we are all stupid-rotten at our core which makes it impossible for us to live without sin. What sets the actions of Judah apart is their refusal to truly repent. Time after time, they had screwed up, called out on their mistakes, been undeniably rescued by God, and then proceeded to march right back down the path towards trouble again. Over and over the prophets of the Old Testament had warned them to repent. They could not in any way claim ignorance to their situation. They consciously made the decision to disobey, to go against God’s commands. Like a stubborn child whose desire for candy outweighs the direction from his parents that it will make him sick.
The words of chapter one paint a heartbreaking picture. A swarm of locusts have destroyed Israel’s crops. Verse four says, “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.” First off, gross. Chewing, swarming, crawling, consuming bugs. Makes me shudder. One bug like that would be bad enough. I can’t imagine swarms of them. It was the worst swarming Israel had seen up to that point. There was absolutely nothing left. “The field is wasted, the land mourns…storehouses are in shambles; barns are broken down…how the animals groan!…The beasts of the field also cry out to You, for the water brooks are dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures.” Those were some serious bugs. Everything had been ruined. Not only had the current year’s crop been destroyed, but everything that had been set aside to provide for the future was gone too. The land was incapable of producing anything for many years to come.
A tragedy like that is not always God’s judgment. Sometimes terrible things just happen. However, in this case, it is very clear that the locusts were a kind of wake-up call from God.
I have always had a hard time with believing in a God that would cause bad things to happen. ‘What’s that about, God? I thought you were supposed to be good!’ However, after spending several years trying to raise two boys on my own, I’ve come to some realizations.
Our boys are amazing. They are smart, so handsome, and just plain cool. And sometimes they are terrible. Stupid, ridiculous, terrible. They’re kids. It is my job to lead and teach them, to train them to become responsible human beings that will be a benefit to this world. So when they mess up, I’ve gotta show them how to make things right. I can try explaining, reasoning, redirecting, or any other sort of tactic that all the experts say will work. But let’s be honest. Sometimes, after the thirtieth attempt at redirection, when I’m so frustrated that I wonder why creating and raising a person ever sounded like a good idea, it is necessary to resort to pain. *I don’t beat our children, no need to call DHS.* But we all know that pain can be a great teacher. Like learning to not touch a hot stove by touching a hot stove. There have been times when I’ve had to say no to an event one of the boys had his heart set on. Or times when I’ve had to take away some cherished something. There have been spankings and groundings. The boys have actually, on occasion, called me the ‘Fun Tornado’ because I come along and suck up all of their fun, leaving behind nothing but a trail of sadness and debris.
I know that I am not causing permanent damage. I know that when they are adults, all of this struggle will prove to have been worth it. But in the moment . . . it sucks. It hurts my heart to see the boys sad. And who wants to be known as a fun-sucker? Ouch.
I can only imagine the way God must feel having to punish his people. He is the creator and giver of all good things. He is so consumed with love for us that he was willing to sacrifice everything just to be with us. How heartbreaking it must be to watch us make stupid choices and then have to discipline us. That would be such a sad place to end this story. But it gets oh so much better! I am so grateful that, even though we have all screwed up so much and deserve death, He had a plan. He took the initiative and made a way to restore the years and to spare us from His judgment and wrath. More on that next time.