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The Days the Locusts Ate
Joel 2:25 - Restoring the Lost Years

This article came about from a challenge by my good friend Stacy on Facebook to share a Bible verse that has special meaning to me.  After much deliberation, I chose to write about Joel 2:25.

The Days the Locusts Ate

The biggest obstacle that I faced in responding to my friend’s challenge was to narrow my choice down to a single verse.  There are so many that have meant so much at various stages of my life.  As I’ve gotten older and my time on earth is growing shorter, I increasingly find myself reflecting on the value and proper use of time.  In addition, I often look back with regret at all the time that I’ve wasted over the years.  Therefore, I’ve chosen Joel 2:25, in which God is speaking to the Israelites through His prophet,

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.  Joel 2:25

The immediate context is a promise to Israel (Judah) to be fulfilled at the end times.  The exact time of Joel’s ministry to Judah is unknown, but the most likely date might be during King Joash’s reign near the end of the ninth century BC.  His original audience would have immediately recognized the meaning of the metaphorical expression “the years the locusts have eaten” since an unprecedented plague of locusts followed by a prolonged drought had recently devastated the land.  An invasion of locusts (similar to a grasshopper but larger and much more destructive) was one of the worst disasters that could strike a region or nation, and would require years of recovery.  Swarms could be so thick as to block out the sun (see further descriptions in Joel 2:1-11 and Rev 9:1-11).

So, how could God restore these lost years?  Once time is gone, it can never be restored literally.  Yet God would restore the fruit or the blessings that were lost during these years. For Israel, this meant that God would restore the fruit of the harvests and their blessings would be overflowing (see Joel 2:18-27), but what, if anything, does this mean for us today?

The Apostle Paul tells us that events in the OT were recorded as warnings, lessons and instructions for believers (1Cor 10:6,11; Rom 15:4).  Like He did for the Israelites, God will not literally restore the years for us, but He can restore the blessings.  When we go through periods that we’re out of fellowship with God, He tempers His judgment with compassion and mercy.  Once we repent and return to a proper relationship, God will again shower His “very great and precious promises” on us (2Pe 1:4).

While only God can restore His blessings, there is a sense in which we can aid our own cause.  By prayerfully reflecting on our past mistakes, and resolving to rely on the Holy Spirit rather than ourselves for the future, we place ourselves in a position to be better used of God.

If I might switch from the doctrinal to the personal for a moment (and this is the reason I chose this verse), I’d like to suggest another method by which God can restore the lost years.  I know that God works everything for good for all believers (Rom 8:28), but when I look back on my life, I can’t imagine how God could ever make anything good come from some of the things that I’ve done.  Yet as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen Him take many things that I meant for evil, things done for selfish reasons, and things done with no thought for God, and turn them around for not only the benefit of others, but also for my own.

Of course, I still don’t understand the full purpose of many things in my life.  Sometimes my life seems like a giant jigsaw puzzle that is missing the picture on the box, but I can be confident that God has the completed picture along with the power to accomplish His purposes (Is 14:24).  I’ve lost count of the times He has saved me from my own shortsightedness.  Some of the very things that I fought him hardest to avoid turned out to be some of the best things to ever happen to me.  Over and over again, I’ve watched Him bring abundant blessings from the time that I thought was totally wasted, and in that sense, I believe he has restored the time that the locust had eaten.

We would be negligent if we closed this article prior to mentioning the theological basis for God restoring the years and bringing good out of evil.  Yes, God is a God of love, but He is also a God of justice.  His Word says that we shall reap what we sow, but for those who have been adopted as sons and daughters based on our reliance on the finished work of Christ and are walking in fellowship with Him, God will turn those barren years into an oasis of blessings, even thirty, sixty or a hundredfold.

Related Article: Redeeming the Time – Making the Most of Opportunities - Eph 5:15-17

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