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24th May 2009 PM

I will restore the years the locusts have eaten1

25 “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.
26 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.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

28 “And afterwards,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.

JOEL 2 25-32

Let there be no doubt about it – the New Testament use of these verses
reinforces in terms of our Lord Jesus Himself the promise of RESTORATION
that is given here.

1
AV
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24th May 2009 PM

I guess there will be a few churches next Sunday when this prophet will get
an airing – because this is the prophet who describes Pentecost. Joel is
widely quoted in the New Testament.

When my son Mark was alive there was a period of several months
when he was living at a Christian rehabilitation unit near
Sevenoaks.2 We went to visit him there and he showed us round
with pride – the parts of the grounds he had helped to prepare –
he showed us how that he had been encouraged to paint again
and we still have the evidence of those productive months.

What struck me on my visit was a wooden plaque on the wall at


the door of the house with the words of my text on it:

“I will restore to you the years which the locust has eaten…”
Joel 2 v 25

The “locusts” of alcoholism ate up many of Mark’s years. At that time we


really hoped that the treatment would work. It certainly worked better
than any other programme he was on. No, it didn’t cure him. God in His
wisdom took Mark to himself now over eight years ago – and I know
absolutely that God is busy restoring to Mark so much that was laid waste.

But does God only do it in glory?

Is it wrong to claim this promise made to Judah so long ago to ourselves?

Does God really offer this kind of RESTORATION?

The years that the locust ate in Mark’s life have spilled over into our lives –
Val and mine and Carol’s and Stephen’s his brother and sister – in different
ways.

Has God failed?

God cannot fail! He is God. And you may wonder for a moment at the
wisdom of applying this old prophecy from the eighth century BC to the
year 2009 – but I believe it is true. God is in the business of RESTORATION.

God takes great pleasure in RESTORING. He delights to take that which is


spoiled and make it again. To take the broken, stained, spoiled and

2
http://www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk/welcome/health-information-new/Maidstone/?entryid16=11766
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devastated – and transform them into a new creation that pleases Him and
honours Him.

The heart of the gospel then is in these words –

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

or as the AV puts it:


25
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten,

So let’s look at the promise – against the background of the prophecy as a


whole, always taking into account the fulfilment of the central promise in
the light of the Holy Spirit:

ℵ Life’s Locusts
ℵ God’s Grace
ℵ Our Response

Face up to Life’s Locusts

I have only a limited experience of real locusts. When I was living in Africa
there would be times when one or two would land on the stoep – or fly into
the window. Usually it was the big ones – and what a contrast to the
friendly, if noisy little relatives that sang in the bushes! But the locust
devastates. It comes in great swarms – and leaves nothing behind!

In JOEL the locust plagues are described graphically:

CHAPTER ONE

Hear this, you elders;


listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your forefathers?
3 Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.
4 What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
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what the young locusts have left


other locustsa have eaten.

Joel had seen it himself.

An Army of Locusts
2 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
It is close at hand—
2
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was of old
nor ever will be in ages to come.
3
Before them fire devours,
behind them a flame blazes.
Before them the land is like the garden of Eden,
behind them, a desert waste—
nothing escapes them.
4
They have the appearance of horses;
they gallop along like cavalry.
5
With a noise like that of chariots
they leap over the mountaintops,
like a crackling fire consuming stubble,
like a mighty army drawn up for battle.
6
At the sight of them, nations are in anguish;
every face turns pale.
7
They charge like warriors;
they scale walls like soldiers.
They all march in line,
not swerving from their course.
8
They do not jostle each other;
each marches straight ahead.
They plunge through defences
without breaking ranks.
9
They rush upon the city;
they run along the wall.
They climb into the houses;
like thieves they enter through the windows.
10
Before them the earth shakes,
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the sky trembles,


the sun and moon are darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
11
The LORD thunders
at the head of his army;
his forces are beyond number,
and mighty are those who obey his command.
The day of the LORD is great;
it is dreadful.
Who can endure it?

and the results of their coming are awesome:

10 The fields are ruined,


the ground is dried up;
the grain is destroyed,
the new wine is dried up,
the oil fails.
11 Despair, you farmers,
wail, you vine growers;
grieve for the wheat and the barley,
because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
12 The vine is dried up
and the fig-tree is withered;
the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—
all the trees of the field—are dried up.
Surely the joy of mankind
is withered away.

As we look back over our lives we may see years in which we have made
no progress, or years marked by emptiness or despair. Happy indeed is
the person who can look back without any regrets!

The world freely recognises such things – but it offers as a remedy a hope
that the future will be better. Only GOD can actually make up for those
wasted times. Only GOD can deal with the root problem of sin.

Recognise though that there are forces at work today that will rob you of
your peace, your prosperity, your hope and your purpose. That is part of
the process. For restoration to work we have to accept the need.

JOEL says this is the result of the peoples’ apostasy and disobedience. In
particular when the religious life of the people was empty. In our own lives
the pattern might be similar:
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(a) Years before conversion

Those who come to conversion later in life often look back on the years
before they met the Lord and feel that those earlier years were wasted.
Certainly they are humanly speaking irretrievable – in that sense years
that the locust has eaten.
Looking back on such years can be painful.

These were years before real service to God could be given. We cannot
relive them – but such is the wonder of God’s grace that he promises to
make up – to restore them.

(b) Times of disobedience

We can all look back – even the younger ones amongst us – to times we
would dearly like to reclaim. If only life were like a video-recorder we
could reverse!
There are times too when we were challenged to a deeper spiritual life, or
a kind of service – but we did not respond – and sometimes years pass
before we realise how serious was our mistake.

In family life you will sometimes find a parent who tries to live out their
own lost opportunities through their children – that very rarely works. And
the older we get the more inclined we are to look back – not only with
gratitude – but with regret. Some disobedience cost us a time of spiritual
poverty.

(c) Times of particular darkness

This would be true for the people at the rehab hostel. Folk whose lives are
blighted by a habit or manner of life which has taken its toll on their lives.
True too for relatives who have watched such things and felt the pain.

Times of deep sadness – even depression. When the valley of the shadow
has deprived us of our peace and taken away for a time our usefulness or
our Christian witness.

Modern technology can show us the events at the high spots of our lives –
a reel of film or a spool of tape, a set of photographs, a sound recording…
but the times themselves are lost. The scars remain in our lives and we
seem helpless to repair them.
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This is God’s territory. He can resolve the dark places of doubt even
despair. Give us again the years that the locusts have eaten.

(d) Times of backsliding

That’s an unfashionable word isn’t it? None the less real for that though.
We do not remember now how it began – but we know that perhaps
imperceptibly at first it crept up on us … we fell back, we compromised, we
failed, we sinned – we became pre-occupied with other things.

We failed HIM
We failed others
We failed ourselves

We cannot reclaim it – but God can restore it.

The locusts have been busy in my life and in yours – and the landscape of
our experience is scarred like some battlefield. Here are great gaps in the
path of discipleship, diversions made. Here are the deep rut marks where
Satan has made inroads into our spiritual life. These things trip us up still.

Yet God delights to REBUILD


RESTORE
REPAY

God’s Grace vv 25 and 26

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

26 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;

ONLY God can do this.

His power in creation is wonderful enough

But His work in Grace surpasses

- He delights to surprise and renew


- He loves to prove the impossible possible
- He loves to make up a loss
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- He who reforms the clay welcomes the prodigal transforms


the ugliness of the cross into the glory of forgiveness.

He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten

To demonstrate His grace


To bring praise to His Name
To reveal His power

“who has worked wonders for you…” v26

To protect:

“never again will my people be shamed” v27

Is this only His work in glory?

No – as Peter reminds us in Acts from this very place

28 I will pour out my Spirit


30 I will show wonders in the heavens
32 And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved.

And truly the world has never been the same since that day called
Pentecost when the Christian Church was born!

God’s grace at work – and His amazing grace is still with us!

Our Response? back to Chapter 2: 12 and 13

12
“Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
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and he relents from sending calamity.

None of those who passed that carved text at the rehab centre did so
without facing up to their need.

There were those there who had little alternative. The court had ordered
them there – but that was how they would face up to their state.

And so must we.

But there is so much FALSE PENITENCE

There was in Joel’s time

The prophet makes it plain:

“Rend your hearts and not your garments”

Are there areas in your life like those we have described?

Only my Lord Jesus is able by the work of the Holy Spirit to do this.

He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten

The power for this change is in the Holy Spirit

It is available because Christ Jesus died and rose again

It is mine – if I will truly turn to God in repentance.

Sometimes a light surprises


the Christian while he sings;
it is the Lord who rises
with healing in his wings:
when comforts are declining,
he grants the soul again
a season of clear shining,
to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
we sweetly then pursue
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the theme of God's salvation,


and find it ever new;
set free from present sorrow,
we cheerfully can say,
let the unknown tomorrow
bring with it what it may,

It can bring with it nothing


but he will bear us through:
who gives the lilies clothing
will clothe his people, too:
beneath the spreading heavens
no creature but is fed;
and he who feeds the ravens
will give his children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither


their wonted fruit should bear,
though all the fields should wither,
nor flocks nor herds be there;
yet, God the same abiding,
his praise shall tune my voice;
for, while in him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.