“Even Now” by David Peterson
All I can see are the spoils
From the locust’s feast
All I can feel are the wounds
From the lion’s’ teeth
All I can hear are the cries
As the people weep
Though I brought this on myself,
My heart is harder than any stone
Still, I sit upon it as my throne
And I’m too weak to stand again
Oh my child
Open up, open up
And let me in
Just return to me with all of your heart
Because I won’t quit till I have every part
There’s still time, even now
Let me satisfy every single need
And I will show you everything you’re meant to be
There’s still time, even now
Everything is gone. No grapes in the vineyards, no crops in the fields; the trees of the orchards have been stripped of fruit and leaf and even bark. The Kingdom of Judah has been completely devastated by locust. Swarm after swarm invaded until the very lifeblood of their agrarian society had run dry. No one can go about his or her life as usual.
Everything is gone. No grapes in the vineyards, no crops in the fields; the trees of the orchards have been stripped of fruit and leaf and even bark. The Kingdom of Judah has been completely devastated by locust. Swarm after swarm invaded until the very lifeblood of their agrarian society had run dry. No one can go about his or her life as usual. The drunkard (1) cannot continue drinking because there is no more wine. The farmers (2) cannot sow or reap because nothing is left. Even the priest (3) cannot continue on with business as usual because there is no grain or wine for the offering.
It is in these circumstances that the prophet Joel speaks, and his message is not one of comfort. He calls the locust not just a tragedy but a wakeup call. Where the people see a natural disaster, Joel sees a divine act of judgment and unless Judah changes course, the worst is still to come (4). Although Joel never lays out the specific sins of his people, he calls them to wholeheartedly repent. He knows from the words of Moses that locust is a direct consequence of breaking the covenant (5), but not the final consequence. Joel sees impending doom for Judah not in the form of more locust, but an approaching army (6). He sees them as already on the horizon, and like a swarm moving with precision and destroying everything in their path. He then drops the bombshell; the commander of this destroying army is the Lord himself (7).
Yet even though Joel sees the armies as just over the next hillside, and the very next sunrise as the possible beginning of the Day of the Lord, it is not too late for Israel to repent and avoid judgment. It may seem insensitive or even barbaric to refer to such tragedies as a plague of locust or an invading army as the hand of God, but there is a great comfort in knowing that it
is God behind these forces. If God is responsible for the destruction, they can be assured that the evil of the army to come can be avoided, and that even the past judgment of the locust can be reversed. They are not facing bad luck or a haphazard universe, but a personal God who will hear their prayers. Joel calls for a unified and national response, even the infants are to join in the fast (8). The priests are to plead for the people. They cry out. God hears and responds.
At this point in the book (9), the whole tone changes from words of doom to words of hope. The northern army will be routed and destruction avoided (10) but God says he is going to do even more. God promises to restore the land, to bring back the grain, wine and oil. In fact, he promises to do it in such a way that it will be as if the years of the locust, with all their harm and setback, never even happened (11). If God is sovereign, then certainly he can fix what he has broken. Destruction has been averted, the past harvests have been restored but God says he has even more in store. God had originally chosen Israel as his people for a universal purpose,
that he would bless all the nations through them (12). Joel points to God fulfilling these words in a future harvest, marked by the very Spirit of God falling upon all classes of people (13). The apostle Peter, on the Jewish Holiday of Pentecost, which celebrated of the first fruits of the harvest season, pointed to these very words being fulfilled in the birth of the church (14). As people come into God’s Kingdom through Jesus, that harvest continues to be reaped.
There is one last harvest spoken of by Joel: the final Day of the Lord when all nations will be gathered and held accountable for their sins. As Joel called Judah to consecrate a fast, he now calls the nations to consecrate for war (15). As he called the trumpets to summon all for a fast, they now summon all to battle. Joel does not present God’s judgment as falling on the good instead of the bad, but falling on those who are not his, while those who belong to him find refuge in him (16). The final harvest is imminent, but it hasn’t happened yet. Even for those nations, Joel would remind them it’s not too late.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.