Pastor's monthly update from "The Concordian" newsletter.
A few weeks ago, I was staying at a family cabin in the sierras. It is close to a lake with warm water.
On one of the days, I decided to float in an inner tube in the water. I sat there looking at the view across the lake. It was peaceful. A prominent hill covered in trees was on the other side. The hillside was green and lush.
It wasn’t that way two years ago. There were patches of dead trees and open areas that weren’t green at all. It turns out that bark beetles had done the nasty work of eating away at the trees.
Many were destroyed. I couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t take years for the hill to regrow the beautiful green trees which had filled it.
Joel 2:25 states:
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
The prophet Joel wrote his letter of encouragement to the people of Israel. We don’t know when his book was written but we do know this portion gives a promise. It is Gospel.
He speaks of locusts. Locusts are very destructive creatures. They are a type of grasshopper with longer wings and they travel in large groups. They are bad news.
Locusts destroy the farmer’s work. The crops the farmer planted, watered, fed and cared for is wiped out in a short amount of time by these invasive creatures.
But the locusts have a deeper meaning. They represent anything destructive to whatever you have built. It could be the recession that whittles down savings or investments built over a lifetime. It could be the disease which robs us of memory, movement or freedom.
It could be a wasted youth or a shameful past. It could be the years that you felt you wasted in a career that went nowhere.
Yet, here, God gives a promise to those whose years have been eaten by “the … locust, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter”. God will restore those years. The Hebrew for restore is shalam (“shawlam”). It means to repay or pay back fully.
The losses you have suffered will be restored. But how? How can they be restored?
Your restoration began at the cross. Through Jesus’ death, payment for the lost years has been made. Through His suffering, the sins of wasted time are forgiven. Through His crucifixion on a hill of dead trees, you have been restored to life.
It is there that God launched the restoration of creation.
Some things won’t be fully restored until we are raised to be with Him. Other things may continue to erode and fail in this life. But Christ has overcome the world in His death and resurrection.
A resurrection where Jesus raised you to new life, too. A resurrection that has restored your relationship with God. A resurrection that has overcome all the destruction in your life and mine.
Christ is the beginning of the new creation. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:6-7:
God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the comingages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace (emphasis mine), demonstrated by His kindness to us in ChristJesus.
All things will be restored in Him. It’s already begun. There is nothing the world, the flesh, or the devil can do to stop it. You are part of that restoration in Him. God promises that your years will be fully restored. In fact, it is better than restoration, it is resurrection life. You are living that life (in part) now as the Holy Spirit lives in you.
As I reflect on the hill across the lake near the cabin, I am reminded of the super-abundant rain we had this past winter. The trees are green, healthy and full. It is like the devastation of the bark beetle had no effect at all. God has restored it. Bark beetles and locusts are no match for the overpowering grace He has given you in Christ Jesus.
And God will restore to you the years that were eaten. This is His Gospel promise to you, through His Son, Jesus Christ.