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The years the locusts have eaten 16 Feb 03 PM

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I will restore the years the locusts have eaten

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

the great locust and the young locust,

the other locusts and the locust swarm —

my great army that I sent among you.

26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,

and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has worked wonders for you;

never again will my people be shamed.

27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,

that I am the Lord your God,

and that there is no other;

never again will my people be shamed.

The Day of the Lord

28 “And afterwards,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your old men will dream dreams,

your young men will see visions.

29 Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

30 I will show wonders in the heavens

and on the earth,

blood and fire and billows of smoke.

31 The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

32 And everyone who calls

on the name of the Lord will be saved;

for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem

there will be deliverance,

as the Lord has said,

among the survivors

whom the Lord calls.

JOEL 2 25-32

 

Let there be no doubt about it – the New Testament use of these verses reinforces in terms of our Lord Jesus Himself the promise of RESTORATION that is given here.

When my son Mark was alive there was a period of several months when he was living at a Christian rehabilitation unit near Sevenoaks.  We went to visit him there and he showed us round with pride – the parts of the grounds he had helped to prepare – he showed us how that he had been encouraged to paint again and we still have the evidence of those productive months.

What struck me on my visit was a wooden plaque on the wall with the words of my text on it:

“I will restore to you the years which the locust has eaten…”    Joel 2 v 25

The “locusts” of alcoholism ate up many of Mark’s years.  At that time we really hoped that the treatment would work.   It certainly worked better than any other programme he was on. No, it didn’t cure him.  God in His wisdom took Mark to himself now almost two years ago – and I know absolutely that God is busy restoring to Mark so much that was laid waste.

But does God only do it in glory?

Is it wrong to claim this promise made to Judah so long ago to ourselves?

Does God really offer this kind of RESTORATION?

The years that the locust ate in Mark’s life have spilled over into our lives – Val and mine and Carol’s and Stephen’s – in different ways.

Has God failed?

God cannot fail!  He is God.   And you may wonder for a moment at the wisdom of applying this old prophecy from the eighth century BC to the year 2003 – but I believe it is true. God is in the business of RESTORATION.

Just lately, as some of you know, the locusts have been busy in our lives. Satan, doing what he enjoys most – trying to destroy the peace and security of God’s people. 

The prophet himself is something of a mystery – his work like many other prophets is a mixture of judgement and promise. We know him because he is quoted by Peter and because it was Joel who prophesied the sending of the Spirit.  It is clear that any interpretation of his words must take into account that same Holy Spirit’s work.

God takes great pleasure in RESTORING.   He delights to take that which is spoiled and make it again. To take the broken, stained, spoiled and devastated – and transform them into a new creation that pleases Him and honours Him.

The heart of the gospel then is in these words –

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

or as the AV puts it:

25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten,

So let’s look at the promise – against the background of the prophecy as a whole, always taking into account the fulfilment of the central promise in the light of the Holy Spirit:

À    Life’s Locusts

À    God’s Grace

À    Our Response

Face up to Life’s Locusts

As we look back over our lives we may see years in which we have made no progress, or years marked by emptiness or despair.

Only for the young people amongst us things may be different: they may have to interpret the “years” as periods of a different length – but I daresay if you are honest you will recognise the waste, the spoiling influences, the mistakes.

The world freely recognises such things – but it offers as a remedy a hope that the future will be better.   Only GOD can actually make up for those wasted times. Only GOD can deal with the root problem of sin.

Recognise though that there are forces at work today that will rob you of your peace, your prosperity, your hope and your purpose.   That is part of the process. For restoration to work we have to accept the need.

In JOEL the locust plagues are described graphically:

CHAPTER ONE

Hear this, you elders;

listen, all who live in the land.

Has anything like this ever happened in your days

or in the days of your forefathers?

3 Tell it to your children,

and let your children tell it to their children,

and their children to the next generation.

4 What the locust swarm has left

the great locusts have eaten;

what the great locusts have left

the young locusts have eaten;

what the young locusts have left

other locustsa have eaten.

Joel had seen it himself.

An Army of Locusts

2 Blow the trumpet in Zion;

sound the alarm on my holy hill.

Let all who live in the land tremble,

for the day of the Lord is coming.

It is close at hand—

2      a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and blackness.

Like dawn spreading across the mountains

a large and mighty army comes,

such as never was of old

nor ever will be in ages to come.

3 Before them fire devours,

behind them a flame blazes.

Before them the land is like the garden of Eden,

behind them, a desert waste—

nothing escapes them.

4 They have the appearance of horses;

they gallop along like cavalry.

5 With a noise like that of chariots

they leap over the mountaintops,

like a crackling fire consuming stubble,

like a mighty army drawn up for battle.

6 At the sight of them, nations are in anguish;

every face turns pale.

7 They charge like warriors;

they scale walls like soldiers.

They all march in line,

not swerving from their course.

8 They do not jostle each other;

each marches straight ahead.

They plunge through defences

without breaking ranks.

9 They rush upon the city;

they run along the wall.

They climb into the houses;

like thieves they enter through the windows.

10 Before them the earth shakes,

the sky trembles,

the sun and moon are darkened,

and the stars no longer shine.

11 The Lord thunders

at the head of his army;

his forces are beyond number,

and mighty are those who obey his command.

The day of the Lord is great;

it is dreadful.

Who can endure it?

and the results of their coming are awesome:

10 The fields are ruined,

the ground is dried up;

the grain is destroyed,

the new wine is dried up,

the oil fails.

11 Despair, you farmers,

wail, you vine growers;

grieve for the wheat and the barley,

because the harvest of the field is destroyed.

12 The vine is dried up

and the fig-tree is withered;

the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—

all the trees of the field—are dried up.

Surely the joy of mankind

is withered away.

Perhaps we would not use the same analogy. Perhaps today we would look for a modern plague to describe the same devastation – but in those parts of the world where this ancient army still works – you may find the evidence still.

JOEL says this is the result of the peoples’ apostasy and disobedience. In particular when the religious life of the people was empty.  In our own lives the pattern might be similar:

(a) Years before conversion

Those who come to conversion later in life often look back on the years before they met the Lord and feel that those earlier years were wasted. Certainly they are humanly speaking irretrievable – in that sense years that the locust has eaten.

Looking back on such years can be painful. 

These were years before real service to God could be given. We cannot relive them – but such is the wonder of God’s grace that he promises to make up – to restore them.

(b) Times of disobedience

We can all look back – even the younger ones amongst us – to times we would dearly like to reclaim.   If only life were like a video-recorder we could reverse!

There are times too when we were challenged to a deeper spiritual life, or a kind of service – but we did not respond – and sometimes years pass before we realise how serious was our mistake.

In family life you will sometimes find a parent who tries to live out their own lost opportunities through their children – that very rarely works. And the older we get the more inclined we are to look back – not only with gratitude – but with regret. Some disobedience cost us a time of spiritual poverty.

(c) Times of particular darkness

This would be true for the people at the rehab hostel.  Folk whose lives are blighted by a habit or manner of life which has taken its toll on their lives.  True too for relatives who have watched such things and felt the pain.

Times of deep sadness – even depression. When the valley of the shadow has deprived us of our peace and taken away for a time our usefulness or our Christian witness.  

Modern technology can show us the events at the high spots of our lives – a reel of film or a spool of tape, a set of photographs, a sound recording… but the times themselves are lost.   The scars remain in our lives and we seem helpless to repair them.

This is God’s territory. He can resolve the dark places of doubt even despair. Give us again the years that the locusts have eaten.

(d) Times of backsliding

That’s an unfashionable word isn’t it?  None the less real for that though.  We do not remember now how it began – but we know that perhaps imperceptibly at first it crept up on us … we fell back, we compromised, we failed, we sinned – we became pre-occupied with other things.

We failed HIM

We failed others

We failed ourselves

We cannot reclaim it – but God can restore it.

The locusts have been busy in my life and in yours – and the landscape of our experience is scarred like some battlefield. Here are great gaps in the path of discipleship, diversions made . Her are the deep rut marks where Satan has made inroads into our spiritual life.   These things trip us up still.

Yet God delights to     REBUILD

                                RESTORE

                                REPAY

God’s Grace   vv 25 and 26

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,

and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has worked wonders for you;

ONLY God can do this.

His power in creation is wonderful enough

But His work in Grace surpasses

-         He delights to surprise and renew

-         He loves to prove the impossible possible

-         He loves to make up a loss

-         He who reforms the clay      welcomes the prodigal         transforms the ugliness of the cross into the glory of forgiveness.

He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten

To demonstrate His grace

To bring praise to His Name

To reveal His power

“who has worked wonders for you…”

To protect:

“never again will my people be shamed”

Is this only His work in glory?

No – as Peter reminds us in Acts from this very place

28     I will pour out my Spirit

30     I will show wonders in the heavens

32     And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved.

Our Response?    back to Chapter 2: 12 and 13

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart

and not your garments.

Return to the Lord your God,

for he is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love,

and he relents from sending calamity.

None of those who passed that carved text did so without facing up to their need.

There were those there who had little alternative. The court had ordered them there – but that was how they would face up to their state.

And so must we.

But there is so much FALSE PENITENCE

There was in Joel’s time

The prophet makes it plain:

“Rend your hearts and not your garments”

 

Are there areas in your life like those we have described?

Only my Lord Jesus is able by the work of the Holy Spirit to do this.

He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten

 

 

 

The power for this change is in the Holy Spirit

 

It is available because Christ Jesus died and rose again

 

It is mine – if I will truly turn to God in repentance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes a light surprises
the Christian while he sings;
it is the Lord who rises
with healing in his wings:
when comforts are declining,
he grants the soul again
a season of clear shining,
to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
we sweetly then pursue
the theme of God's salvation,
and find it ever new;
set free from present sorrow,
we cheerfully can say,
let the unknown tomorrow
bring with it what it may,

It can bring with it nothing
but he will bear us through:
who gives the lilies clothing
will clothe his people, too:
beneath the spreading heavens
no creature but is fed;
and he who feeds the ravens
will give his children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
their wonted fruit should bear,
though all the fields should wither,
nor flocks nor herds be there;
yet, God the same abiding,
his praise shall tune my voice;
for, while in him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

 

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