We read the Little House on the Prairie series to our kids. Ingalls relates how locusts one annihilated their crops. A family that barely lived on a shoestring certainly couldn’t afford that loss. That same swarm swept much of the United States, causing horrendous loss of crops and farms.
When we read the story of the plague of locusts in Exodus, we can be very clinical in our reading of it. We can also be judgmental (they got what they deserved). Most of the Egyptians were probably not as anti-Hebrew as the leadership, certainly Pharaoh. Many innocent people suffered as a result of disobedience to God.
The story of the plagues was a story of victory to the Israelites for Generations. Even today, for both Jews and Christians, this story is still told as a victory for the glory of God.
We must remember, though, that one of the biggest issues for the pharaoh (and the Egyptians) was pride. Pharaoh’s pride (with and without God’s hardening) was a key factor of the whole story. It was a person’s pride against God.
By the time of Joel, the pride of Israel/Judah was the issue. It was their pride against God. Like other prophets, Joel was warning the descendants of Israel to turn to God. In Christian parlance, we’d say “REPENT!”
The devastation of locusts would directly affect any harvest festivals and worship. It threatens the lives of the people. It might well drive them to go outside of the lands of Israel to survive. It threatened the destruction of Israel by abandonment.
Through advanced agricultural science (and serendipity, supposedly), locust swarms like that from the late 1800s are no more in the US. It seems, then, that it is pointless to talk about locusts. Except that there are two major things to reflect upon.
The first thing is that the locusts are no longer six-legged creatures, but two-legged. Some are blatant despoilers of Creation. Others take advantage of others through perceived needs (politics and corporations both practice this). The locusts of being like the Jones (or, I guess, the Kardashians) despoil families and futures by over-consuming the money, time, and energy of people.
The second thing, and that which is, even more, the issue, is pride. Humans are full of pride. We are all too full of pride. Often the locusts are just the result of human pride, seeking to consume everything at others’ expense.
Often, we are unaware of our own pride and so sometimes become the locusts. We are quick to see such behavior in others; we always find it difficult to see in ourselves. As our culture (and the world’s) becomes more of a “throw-away” society, whether for convenience or the ability to reasonably fix something, the locust-effect increases in both potential and actual.
As convenience and throw-away become a way of thinking, it doesn’t take that long before we start to think that way about people or God.
1) How does pride “clear the earth” similar to locust swarms?
2) How does this behavior damage or hinder our relationship with God and with others?
3) How does John’s eating locusts give us an image of God’s actions in the world?
Creator, you have created all things. Help us to look at all things to learn more deeply about you and your love. Amen.