Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.
Joel proposes this in the middle of a grim prophecy. Israel is about to be attacked from all sides. An army of locusts is heading her way to devour everything in its wake. They’ll obscure the sun, thrusting Israel into relentless night. There’ll be no stopping them. They’ll create such an uproar they’ll sound like chariots rumbling over the land. Their path will turn Israel’s green gardens into a desert.
Of course, Joel is speaking metaphorically. Yet we all suffer locusts—swarming pests, intent on ruining everything that sustains us. Alone or in small groups, they’re harmless. As their number grows, though, they’re a fearsome threat. They block all light of truth. They raise such a fury no voice of reason is heard above their racket. They destroy hope and confidence, unconcerned and unconscious about the impoverished conditions caused by their onslaught. If none of this resonates, watch cable news or listen to talk radio. It’s all locusts, all the time.
There are several aspects of locust behavior we should know. Overcrowding leads to proliferation. Constant bumping into one another excites them to reproduce rapidly. So the more there are, the more there will be—for a while, at least. Eventually, however, their numbers grow too large to feed and they have nowhere left to go. They begin dying off by the thousands. Then something truly fascinating happens. Their rotting carcasses make excellent fertilizer! The country they destroyed springs back, richer, greener, and more productive than before the swarm’s attack.
Joel’s prophecy turns on this phenomenon. God vows to drive the swarm “into a parched and barren land… its stench will go up; its smell will rise… I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… 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.”
When we feel besieged, stripped of all dignity and hope, it’s vital to know by faith that God will leave behind a blessing. Our short-term inconvenience is meant for our long-term improvement. What’s been taken from us will be repaid many times over. Our lives will be more productive. Our faith will thrive. Our confidence will grow deeper roots. These and many other blessings are why fertilizer happens.
(This post was inspired by a sermon of Bishop Randy White, Church Without Walls, Tampa, Florida.)
Fertilizer waiting to happen...
(Tomorrow: When the Spirit Prays)
Postscript: Mompriest & Company
Feminist Theology in an Age of Fear and Hope is an enormously rich blog I came upon via Here I Am Lord. It’s a product of the Women’s Ministry at the National Episcopal Church Center in New York and welcomes everyone to its conversation with this:
Here is a place for people of faith to ponder the various ways we know God in the world, and, in one another.
Its host, Mompriest, and numerous other writers offer a feast of faith. Its thoughtfully prepared meditations span subjects important to all believers, male and female. Much as Straight-Friendly’s content attempts to stress universal principles underlying its GLBT perspective, Mompriest & Company use a feminist prism to break forth the Bible’s full spectrum of meaning. Every post brings fresh insights and reinforces timeless truth. The writers there have a special gift for challenging the mind and soothing the spirit at the same time. Anyone seeking deeper knowledge of his/her faith should make Feminist Theology a regular habit.