Scripture Reading: Joel 1:15-20, Joel 2:1-11, Psalm 43:4, Romans 10:13
You’re probably tired of hearing about the locusts. Welcome to the club.
Well, I’m definitely not interested in talking about “cicadas,” a term which, until today, I thought was Southern slang for the locusts we read about in Joel chapter 1: “What the devouring locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten…” (v. 4). For the record, they’re not the same. But they’re still creepy and crawly, and although I’m probably hurting a scientist’s feelings right now, they’re the same in my book.
Not long ago, the 13-year cicadas took over our city, which is why I can say for certain that the worst part about these little pests is the swarming noise. And while we’ve moved on in today’s Scripture passage without mention of locusts, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We’ve just needed to focus on other things Joel tells us will signal the day of the Lord—and it’s quite a list. Compared to food shortages and moaning cattle, the locusts are nothing.
That’s what I was beginning to think a few week’s into our recent cicada invasion: Maybe things weren’t so bad! In fact, the swarming sounds were sometimes soothing, like white noise, compared to newer frustrations like recent headlines, car repairs, and dental surgeries. Then, just when I was beginning to consider the cicadas old news, someone sent a mass email to our neighborhood with the subject line, “High-Pitched ‘Whirring’ Noise Throughout Neighborhood.” It read:
Does anyone know where the noise throughout the neighborhood over the past few days has been coming from? It’s loud over here! Hoping it will cease in the near future, but just wondered if anyone else is aware of the source?
I’m not sure how our neighbor had successfully avoided them for weeks. But as I recalled my own miserable first encounter with the swarming bugs, I felt the urge to send her a sympathy casserole.
With the ever-increasing list of destruction headed our way in Joel, I think we, too, need a reminder of exactly how bad things actually are. Sin is real, and it is devastating.
Something I’ve learned about the locusts in Joel, versus the cicadas of my own experience: their swarming results from a collective desperation to be fed, and it is extremely damaging to crops in their path. The hungrier they get, the louder they become.
Isn’t it the same for us? We are willing to destroy almost anything in the name of satisfaction. We are are willing to worship almost anything for a promise of fulfillment. Sin rages, and we continue to turn up the volume.
We cannot be counted on to stop and listen on our own, which is why it’s so beautiful that, above all the terrible noise we’ve grown accustomed to, God still makes Himself heard.
“The Lord makes his voice heard
in the presence of his army.
His camp is very large;
those who carry out his command are powerful.
Indeed, the day of the Lord is terrible and dreadful—
who can endure it?”
- Joel 2:11
He doesn’t just make His voice loud as the day of judgment approaches. He makes sure it’s heard by those who love Him, and beckons to those who don’t yet know the sound of His voice. Upon hearing Him, may our hearts respond in love and in praise, echoing the sentiment of the psalmist:
Then I will come to the altar of God,
to God, my greatest joy.
I will praise you with the lyre,
God, my God.
- Psalm 43:4