“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My Great army which I sent among you.” Joel 2:25 NASB
Make up – Have you faced the great army of God? It is an army that eats away your possessions, creeps into your home, strips what you treasure and gnaws at your heart. In Hebrew, you can see the multiplication of God’s army in the parallel words for locust. The great army of God, those natural disasters that affect our lives but which are entirely under His control, are sometimes used to drive us back to Him. When they become the motivation for restoration, God promises satisfaction (see the next verse). God promises to “make up” for the years of tribulation. The Hebrew verb is shalam (to be safe, to be complete). It is not primarily about some eternal residence in heaven. It is about being free from injury and harm here and now. God’s version of salvation starts right where the trouble began.
How would you like to be safe and satisfied? I know I would. I am acutely aware of the years of the locust in my life. I remember all those years of stripping, gnawing, cutting and creeping. Sometimes when I look back at the decades I spent pursuing my own agenda, battling with locust, I wonder if there are enough years left to restore any of the damage I caused and the damage I experienced. I remember all that time feeling at risk, feeling unfulfilled, feeling in trouble. As much as I wanted to be safe and satisfied, I kept on trying to fight God’s great army through my own efforts. I failed.
When I read this verse in Joel, I have hope. God does promise to restore those years. I don’t know how He will do this. I can’t even imagine how it can happen. But if He can command the great army that took me down, I am quite sure He can command life circumstances to bring me back. The locusts are there to remind me that God is in charge of my life. Therefore, I can trust Him to do what He says He will do.
Of course, this promise is conditional. The prophet Joel tells us that our hope for shalom must be preceded by weeping, crying out, turning to Him with all our hearts, fasting, mourning and blessing Him with the prescribed offerings. In other words, transformation of act and attitude come first. Then God promises to restore.
I know this is true, but I also know is how insidiously the yetzer ha’ra attempts to get us to compromise. The evil inclination is there, just as it was in the Garden of Gethsemane, suggesting there must be an easier way, a way that doesn’t require so much sorrow, regret and remorse. How long did it take for us to arrive at the “eaten by locust” point? Will it take any less time to restore what has been eaten? Will it take any less effort than all the energy we put into protecting ourselves? Shalam is a long process of perseverance and diligence – and God’s assistance. But every step away from being eaten alive is a step toward safe and satisfied. “Walk this way,” He says, and the great army will be gone.
Topical Index: locust, make up, restore, shalam, safe, satisfied, Joel 2:25