Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Locust Plague and an Ancient Prophecy

City-dwellers may not have realized, but as well as drought-breaking floods, 2010 has seen the biggest locust plague in Australia for more than 30 years.

According to the Australian Plague locust Commission the peak time for hatching in New South Wales has been October-November, with plague swarms moving across the state and moving to egg-laying in December. Apparently the conditions that produced potentially the best crops in more than a decade (now significantly damaged by floods) are ideal for locusts.

Hearing about the Australian locust situation made me think of the Old Testament book of Joel, which recounts the invasion of Israel / Judah by locusts and the people's response to the consequent warnings from God passed on by the prophet.

The book of Joel is interesting because scholars have long had difficulty determining the date it was made – unlike most OT prophets there is no dating information based on the reining kings or historical events. The locust plagues Joel speaks of could have occurred at almost any date in the history of Israel – from the time of King Solomon to the time after the exile.

Nevertheless, Joel speaks powerfully on a number of topics, including the need to cry out to God in the face of calamity; the need for heart-felt repentance for those who have sinned; the need for communities to repent together and rejoice together when they are delivered. He also pushes us to understand the Biblical meaning of 'The Day of the Lord' and gives the definitive OT prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit in the 'last days' (quoted by Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2).

The final chapter of the prophecy paints the picture of the end time judgment in the 'Valley of Decision' (Jehoshaphat) on what will be the great and terrible 'Day of the Lord'. Yet the prophecy does not simply end with judgment but points to the fountain that will flow from the house of the Lord. This is picked up in the NT in Revelation 22:1-2 where John sees: 'the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.' We also ought to remember the words of Jesus (in John 7:37ff), who said: 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'

I am not suggesting that reports of a huge locust plague ought to have us jumping to conclusions about the end of the world being nigh – although some so-called 'end times experts' might want to interpret them this way! In fact, Joel's prophecy teaches us to understand every calamity - such as a locust plague, or a Tsunami or even a financial crash – as a kind of mini 'Day of the Lord' – something that ought to warn us to turn back to God and be ready, for the great 'Day of the Lord' is coming. The NT also calls it the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will return on that day as the judge of the earth. However that day will come 'like a thief in the night' at a time we cannot predict. (Check out 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10.)

The prophecy of Joel reminds us that the 'Day of Decision' is coming – when the world will face judgment. Yet those who have turned to the Lord will escape condemnation on that Day. We have also received the blessing of God's spirit poured out on us and since we live in the day of Salvation, can be part of that blessing flow out to the whole world.
If you would like to check out my sermons on Joel, they are available at our church website:
1.  Joel 1:1-20 'Cry to God'
2.  Joel 2:1-17 'Return to God'
3.  Joel 2:18-32 'Rejoicing in God'

No comments:

Post a Comment