I’ve touched on this before, but one of the main benefits I get from the prophetic writings is their open windows into God’s heart. The Torah certainly displays his values and priorities and standards, and the New Testament contains the complete revelation of the Lord’s plan of redemption. The Gospels give us insight into his character, since it’s the story of God-in-the-flesh walking among us. And the Epistles of Paul and the others give us explicit instruction for modern believers in this A.D. world. But the prophets--in a unique way--seem to be where God. . . unburdened himself, for lack of a better word. It’s like we’re invited into his Throne Room where he discusses his plans, thoughts, emotions, and whatever else is going on in his mind.
We aren’t going to spend a lot of time in the book of Joel, so here’s the background. God’s people (as typical) were being unfaithful to the Lord, and he sent his prophet to warn them that he (God) would send a horrible locust swarm to punish them. Today in the West we don’t worry too much about locust swarms, especially with modern technology and much more efficient food production. But in that time, a locust swarm could mean that whole populations could starve. This was a very severe punishment.
The prophet predicted all this and warned them of the coming judgment, urging them to repent. But he also predicted something else in today’s passage, and that’s what I want to focus on for today.
Please read it again. The prophet speaking on behalf of God, says that the Lord will bring them back to himself and he will. . . “repay” them for what the locusts have eaten. What?! He was punishing them for their stinking, rotten, abominable sin. That’s why the locusts were coming. As punishment. Which is all that he owed them. He didn’t owe them for what the locusts took. But to help us in our human understanding, the prophet uses the word “repay” or “make [it] up to you” (NASB) for what the Lord plans to do for them.
Think about this. Let’s work out this scenario. The locust swarm comes. You lose all your crops, so there’s no harvesting that year; you’ll only be able to eat what you’ve stored or what you can get elsewhere. You wise up and repent. So you plant the next year, and this time there are no locusts. That might be what we’d expect. But you don’t harvest what comes up that year. You harvest double what you planted, because he’s “repaying” what you lost last year. That’s what he’s talking about.
When they repent, he’ll do much more than merely forgive. He’ll do much more than merely restore what they had before.
As the title said, this is a great picture of grace. We’ve sinned, and we deserve nothing from God but judgment. We suffer some consequences in this life for what we’ve done (of course, not what we ultimately deserve). We come to our senses and he forgives us. But oh, he gives us so much more. He adopts us as his children. He makes us a co-heir with Christ himself. He gives us his Holy Spirit. He gives us access to his Throne of Grace anytime, day or night. He doesn't just pull us out of the pit; he crowns us with love and compassion.
Think of a person who A) receives Christ as an older person vs. B) someone who received him as a young child. Person (A) has spent years doing things his own way instead of God’s way. When he gets saved, he’s forgiven, adopted, etc. But what about those years in rebellion? Well, the bad news is that there might be temporal consequences for our lifestyle before we become his. If you slept around, you might have a child you’re paying for in supporting. Or there might be issues in your marriage later on. If you used drugs or abused alcohol, the Lord never promised that he’d spare you all the physical consequences of your behavior; he might decide not to heal that cirrhosis of the liver.
But that’s not the end of your story. I believe that when we get to our Eternal Home, in some way those years “eaten up by the locusts” will be given back to you. Everything that you lost will be more than made up to you.
That’s the type of God we serve. That’s our Father. That’s our Savior.
Father God, right now I regret every second I’ve wasted by not serving and walking with you. But I thank you that in the end, the word “regret” will be erased from my vocabulary.