God redeems and restores

Farmville Enterprise January 16, 2019

The Old Testament, written almost entirely in Hebrew with a few chapters in Aramaic, is divided into three sections. There are the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Prophets consist of the “Former Prophets” and the “Latter Prophets,” so labeled because of the order in which they appear as opposed to their chronology. In general, the five longer prophetic books come first in the English version of the Bible and are called the “Major Prophets” due to their length as opposed to their importance. They include 183 chapters. For the most part the twelve shorter prophetic books are called the “Minor Prophets” and include 67 chapters.

From the Old to the New Testament we see God’s plan of redemption unfold and find its culmination in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Throughout Scripture we see how God sets captives free, pays our ransoms and loosens our bonds. The Bible is the story of the Triune God as Redeemer. “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6) “Our Redeemer – the Lord Almighty is his name – is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 47:4) “This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17)

One of the minor prophets, Joel, writes in the midst of a devastating locust plague – reminiscent of one of the ten plagues of Egypt- which caused a horrible crisis, leaving virtually nothing growing on the vines or in the fields. ”What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.” (Joel 1:4)  “The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest is destroyed. 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 humankind is withered away.” (Joel 1: 10-12)

Although bad circumstances in Scripture are often not a result of divine judgment, the prophet Joel sees this plague as God’s punishment on the people who have left the Lord. Mired in sin, they need redemption. On God’s behalf he urges them to repent. “’Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ 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, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing – grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.” (Joel 2: 12-14)

The wonderful news in Joel 2:25a is that if they turn back to God, he will redeem what has been taken away in chastisement. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

In the 1800’s Charles Spurgeon writes, “It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years: the locusts ate the fruits of the years’ labor, the harvests of the fields; so that the meaning of the restoration of the years must be the restoration of those fruits and those harvests which the locusts consumed. You cannot have back your time; but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned. The fruits of wasted years may yet be yours.”

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