Tell Me a Story, Grandpa

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Hear this, you elders;
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
or in the days of your fathers?
Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation.
(Joel 1:2-3)

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the wheat field… LOCUSTS! Okay, maybe it will not be a blockbuster thriller hitting the big screen anytime soon, but in ancient Palestine an invasion of locusts brought sheer terror. The prophet, Joel, gives a vivid description of their destructive power and tells us that the assault came in waves:

What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
(Joel 1:4)

A December 1915 article in National Geographic recounts details of a locust plague that occurred in Palestine in March of that year:

  1. The first swarm of adult locusts arrived in a thick cloud. The females would each lay about a hundred eggs into the ground. A square meter of soil could hold as many as seventy-five thousand eggs.
  2. Within a few weeks, the young locusts emerged. They resembled ants and had not yet sprouted wings. They advanced in formation hopping like fleas, covered 400-600 feet per day, and cleared all vegetation within their path.
  3. In the next stage, their wings were fully developed but not yet utilized. They walked like other insects and continued their destructive course.
  4. Finally, at the flying stage, they attacked the trees, clearing them of leaves, fruit, and even tender bark.

Joel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, informed the people that this attack was the judgment of God against the sinful nation. They were to recount the story of the locusts, their destructive force, and the devastation and suffering they produced. They were to tell their children, who were to pass the story on to their children, and so on to future generations. Living under God’s common grace, they might easily forget that there is a final Day of the Lord approaching. The account of the locust invasion was to be a reminder of a much more severe judgment to come.

We are not likely to experience an invasion of locusts. Where I live, the threat comes in the form of a tornado in summer or a major snow storm in winter. We cannot assume that these are God’s judgment against those specifically affected. They are the general result of God’s curse upon creation due to Adam’s sin. However, we often see our sin exposed through these acts of God.

It does not even take a major weather event to set us grumbling. We will complain if the rain or lack thereof extends beyond what seems appropriate to us. We complain when it is too cold or too hot. Complaining about the weather is a common occurrence, and we shrug it off as innocent banter. Yet, it is unquestionably a disparagement of God’s wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty. The next time we are tempted to complain about the weather, we should remember who controls the weather.

When major events happen and our vulnerability is exposed, what is our reaction? I have to admit that often mine is to find refuge in my own resourcefulness. When experiencing the treacherous roads on an icy, winter’s day, I think, “I should get a four-wheel-drive vehicle.” Or when a storm knocks out the power, I think, “I should buy a generator.” There is nothing wrong with having a four-wheel-drive truck or a backup generator, but where am I placing my hope? Is my ingenuity my refuge in time of disaster, or is God? Do I really think I can outsmart the Almighty if he wants to remind me of my weakness and dependence on him?

So when the next natural disaster (or natural inconvenience) strikes, let us receive it as a teachable moment. Remember that we will pass something on to the next generation. A humble dependence on God is a better legacy than a proud or complaining attitude.

When the big events occur, remember the locusts. They remind us that the Day of the Lord approaches. On that day, if we are trusting in our own resourcefulness we will be ruined. However, if we are trusting in Christ, we have a sure refuge.