The invasion by locusts in some parts of the country brought to mind the days of the prophet Joel in historical Israel. The nation experienced an unusual series of calamities that totally astounded the prophet. He turned to the people to draw their attention to the seriousness of the events. “Hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land!” he posed. “Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?”
Using the analogy of a locust plague, he then went ahead to chronicle the devastation that had visited the land. He told them: “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.” Here was a coalition of locusts, determined to totally devastate the land!
This is especially significant because the locusts attacked the vines and the fig trees, two things essential to Jewish life. Having one’s own vineyard and fig trees was a symbol of success and contentment in the East. According to Joel, the consequence was that drunkards were left without wine, the farmers’ income was ruined, and the regular temple offerings were brought an end.
If the drunkards were the pleasure loving, the farmers were the hard working businessmen and professionals of Joel’s days. While the priests depended on what people brought into the storehouse, the farmers ate from their sweat.
But with this devastation, the farmer and the beggar were brought to the same level! According to Joel, there was such hopelessness that all that the people could do was to wail and weep like an engaged girl whose fiancé had died before the wedding day! Thus Joel concluded in great despair: “Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men.”
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Looking at the times we are living in, the picture mirrors Joel’s days. Whereas there may be nothing drastically wrong, all indications are that something is definitely not right. We have, in the recent past, experienced an unusual series of calamities in the land.
The prolonged drought, incessant rains, floods and landslides, are but a few of the challenges mother nature has visited on us in different parts of the nation, sometimes with devastating effects.
Like in Joel’s days, our challenges have become like a coalition of locusts determined to devastate us completely.
What corruption has left, drought has consumed, what drought has left, the floods have carried away, what the floods have left, the locusts have come to destroy.
You talk to many Kenyans and you are left with the gnawing realisation that, “Surely, joy has withered away from the sons of men.” What must we do?
Seeing the devastation that had hit the land, Joel challenged the people to a new sense of spiritual devotion. “Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”
He thus echoes God’s earlier promise to Solomon: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
It does appear therefore that in times like these, our first responsibility is to run back to God and renew our devotion to Him.
Of course, as Warren Wiersbe observes, in such seasons of crisis, there are all kinds of voices interpreting the times. The optimists will say: “This crisis isn’t going to last. Just be brave!” The pessimists will sob: “It’s going to get worse and there’s no escape! We’re done for!”
The alarmists will see a lion behind every tree, and the scoffers will question the news reports and shrug, saying: “What difference does it make anyway?” But Joel was a realist. He recognised that when such an unusual series of calamities hits the land, the first point of call must be the place of prayer. We do well to heed his call and follow his example.
- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]