I love watching those home restoration (reno) shows where they take an old house and restore it to its former grandeur. They take out the aged, rotting, malformed timbers and appliances and replace it with something new and often better. This reminds me that this is exactly what God promises us.
AN “ALL YOU CAN EAT” BUFFET
Joel 2:25 (ESV)
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you
In 1915, a plague of locusts covered Palestine and Syria. The first swarms appeared in March. These adult locusts moved in clouds and were so thick that they obscured the sun. Then the females immediately began to lay eggs by digging holes in the soil, depositing about 100 eggs in each.
Within a few weeks the young locusts hatched, resembling large ants. They had no wings, and within a few days they bega hopping along the ground like fleas devouring any vegetation before them. The hopper, the cutter. Then they grew wings and flew, becoming the destroyer.
The eighth plague that was unleashed in Egypt (Exodus 10), shows us that locusts can travel at tremendous speeds and are known for their voracious appetites.
One Old Testament scholar writes, “Locusts have been known to devour every green herb and every blade of grass in an area almost 90 square miles. The ground gave the appearance of having been scorched by fire.”
The destruction of locusts represents the losses of life. Some of you have been swarmed by sin and been left reeling. Others of you are dealing with a recent diagnosis, death, disappointment, or depression. Current events like COVID, the war in Ukraine, high petrol prices, interest rates, and now the threat of Global warming have led to deep despair.
The devouring of the locusts pictures the devastation slowly eating away at our lives, until there’s nothing left but despair.
If any of that describes you, then you’re in the right place because our topic is “Restoration.”
The Hebrew for restore used in Joel is SALAM, which means to complete, to pay back, to make safe and to reward, and it also is the word for a peace covenant.
Some of you here today have large swathes of your life, eaten out by locusts, and you need restoration and peace. Maybe a sin you’ve done, perhaps a decision you’ve made. Maybe a sickness or a job or a bad relationship, and it’s like you’ve been banished to the wilderness for years. God is in the restoration business! Today He restores lives.
According to the world, restoration means bring back something that is old, worn out, dilapidated, or broken back to its former state. Things that have, over time, been allowed to slip into a state of neglect and disrepair need restoration. An old building, an old car, me, etc.
But restoration according to the Word of God is different from worldly restoration. While the world says that restoration is bringing something back to its original state, the biblical definition of Godly restoration goes beyond that, it means bringing something into a state where it is even better than the original. It’s not restoring you to what you were, but to what you should always have been.
Restoration can be applied to every area of life. Your finances, your health, your family, your relationships, your walk with God. God can restore anything in life that has broken down, if we bring it to Him.
THE WASTED YEARS
Pastor Colin Smith describes how “lost or wasted years” come in many varieties. Perhaps you can relate with one or many of these.
- Fruitless Years: You’ve worked hard only to have something fail, leading to massive disappointment.
- Painful Years: Maybe you’ve lost a loved one or you are living with illness in body or mind.
- Selfish Years: As you reflect on your life, you regret all the time you spent just living for yourself.
- Loveless Years: A relational rupture or a wayward child have caused great pain. Or maybe you feel you’ve not yet met the person you’d like to meet. All this makes you feel time is slipping away and the locusts have consumed much of your life.
- Rebellious Years: Maybe you grew up with many blessings, but you rebelled, which has brought you great guilt and perpetual pain. Your regrets are palpable.
- Misdirected Years: You wonder where you took a wrong turn. Statements like: “If only…I wish I would have.” plague you. That moment has passed. It has gone. You can’t go back to it. The locust years is all that remains.
- Christ-less Years: All years spent without Christ are locust years.
If any of these are you, take heart. There is hope. Today you can ask God to restore to you the years the locusts have eaten. Surrender to Him and ask Him to multiply your fruitfulness in your remaining years.
AND DRIFT AWAY
Let’s face it, all of us have times when life just seems to crawl on top of us. When this happens, we should draw nearer to God, but most often we pull away.
Hebrews 2:1 (ESV)
Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
We don’t set out to walk away from God, we don’t abandon the faith, we just drift. Overwhelmed by cares and concerns, church attendance, which was once mandatory, has now become optional. Vibrant worship has now become tired and scattered. We choose TV shows over quiet times and make decisions without even thinking about the Lord.
We have become what the Bible defines as lukewarm. Jesus said,
Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
God hates our lukewarmness.
If we want to be restored, we cannot just float along. We must make decisions that show God we mean business.
As a youth leader we had many excursions to the local, cemetery. I remember hiding behind a scary tree when my friend led his group to the darkest part of the cemetery. Then I jumped out saying, “Don’t be scared,” But they were!
The death of the Queen, reminds me that cemeteries are sad and miserable places. This is partly because of the dead who lie there, but especially because of the lost destinies represented. How many dreams and hopes lie dead among the caskets and headstones? We don’t want to live our lives with regret and die with our destiny and dreams unfulfilled.
THE NOT SO WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOCUSTS
Satan has orchestrated a world system designed to rob you of your blessings, and your destiny.
Locusts gobble up relationships, where the world tells us to fight for our rights even if it destroys our relationships. The world says, if you’ve been wronged, don’t forgive, get even! But the Lord says,
Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Locusts gobble up our joy because Satan has designed a world that promotes and even rewards poverty mentality. This world wants to place you into a system of unbroken debt, where we spend, money we haven’t got on things we don’t need but want, but God says,
Luke 6:38 (ESV)
give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
We know we have years the locusts have eaten, and we know we need restoration, but still, even as we sit here today, even as we are aware that God is speaking to us, we hesitate.
THE WAYS GOD WOOS
For some of you, the years you have wasted have paralysed you with regret. It’s not uncommon for people to think it’s too late, or they’ve been away too long, or they’ve done too many bad things. We don’t want others to see us responding to the Lord, so we sit still and hope the sermon finishes soon.
Joel does not name the people’s specific sin but a careful reading of the book shows they had slipped into a state of complacency and apathy about the things of God. As a result, God worked to get their attention in four ways as He wooed their wandering hearts back to Him. In Joel there are four devastating ways God judges but also woos the people back to Himself.
“What the cutting locust left; the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.”
The “cutting locust” eats the top of plants. The “swarming locust” eats the stalks. The “hopping locust” eats the stubs. The “destroying locust” eats the roots of the plants.
We see the destructive power of locusts…
Joel 1:7 (ESV)
It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white.
By stripping these plants white to the roots, the locusts are destroying not only this crop but future crops. How many know that your sin is not only destructive for you, and those around you, but also for future generations. This led to…
Joel 1:10-12 (ESV)
The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns because the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up, the oil languishes. Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished.
The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, and apple,
all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man.
Sin is so destructive in our lives, it dries up blessings, futures, destinies, joy and gladness. Utter desolation. Locusts can make a fertile valley look like the surface of the moon, devoid of life and devoid of joy.
Joel 2:3 (ESV)
Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.
Because of how His people were living, God disciplined them by sending locusts and promising judgment to come as we see in verse 15:
Joel 1:15 (ESV)
Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
God may not cause tragedy, but He uses it in our lives to bring us back to Him. Those years the locusts have eaten, God can use them to bring us to our knees before Him, and when we repent, He can restore those years.
We as individuals, and our nation, need to hear the heart of a God here. Just as in the time of Joel, the Day of the Lord is approaching, and we need to listen and come back to the Cross. Today we can be described thus…
Isaiah 5:20-21 (ESV)
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light
and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
If God doesn’t punish Australia, He will have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah.
THE HEART OF GOD TO RESTORE
With all this talk of sin, locusts and destruction, please understand the heart of God in all this. He’s not out to destroy you, that’s the devil’s brief. He’s not even out to punish you, because the wasted years of pain the locust has caused in your life is more than enough.
No, God is not out to hurt you, He wants to restore you!
A brief survey of several passages shed light on how the Bible defines “restore.”
“He restores my soul.”
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”
“For I will restore health to you…”
“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.”
“Until the time for restoring of all things…”
1 Peter 5:10
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
2 Corinthians 13:9
“For we are glad when we are weak, and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.”
God’s heart is for restoration, and if it takes even years of pain and desolation to get you to that point. That’s our decision, not His. It’s worth it to be restored to what God has destined for us.
Let’s look at God’s heart to restore us now from Joel.
1. THE PLAN FOR RESTORATION
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
God’s plan is restoration. He doesn’t want you staying where you are, wasting years of your life and having them eaten by the locust. He wants to restore you.
2. THE PLEA FOR RESTORATION
It’s essential that we respond to God’s plea so that he can restore us.
Joel 2:12-13 (ESV)
“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.
What’s with the rending bit? People use to rend their garments as a show of repentance, but God is saying, forget the outward display, rend your heart. God’s plea is for you to be honest and open. Unless you honestly and openly repent and turn back to God, you will never restore the year the locust have eaten.
3. THE PROMISE OF RESTORATION
In the middle of devastation, destruction, desolation, and discipline, God longs to graciously deliver His people.
It’s not too late! It’s not over! There is hope even though you might feel hopeless. He will take pity, protect, and provide for His people yet again. Some of you desperately need to hear this promise from…
Joel 2:24-26 (ESV)
“The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
The promise to the people was that the threshing floors that had been barren for several years would become “full of grain” again. The word “full” means, “to complete what was empty, to finish to capacity.”
Their vats shall “overflow with wine and oil.” The idea is these containers would burst with abundance. God’s people went from scarcity, to satisfaction, to supersized, to overflowing. As we obey, He provides.
God promises to reverse the devastation caused by the locusts.
In the last part of verse 25, God refers to the locusts as “my great army, which I sent among you.” The locusts were not a surprise to God because they were His servants, sent by Him as part of His judgment on His people.
Psalms 105:34-35 (ESV)
He spoke, and the locusts came, young locusts without number, which devoured all the vegetation in their land and ate up the fruit of their ground.
God is God, and you are not.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Some of us are way too quick to judge God, forgetting He is the One who sits in judgment of us. His heart, His purpose and His promise, is to restore us.
Charles Spurgeon: “God alone can do for you what seems impossible. And here is the promise of His grace: ‘I will repay you for the years the swarming locust ate.’ By giving to His repentant people larger harvests than the land could naturally yield, God could give back to them, as it were, all they would have had if the locusts had never come…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.”
What has been ruined, God can restore.
4. THE PRIZE OF RESTORATION
Not only does God love to restore, but He also gives us prizes in the process.
Joel 2:26 (ESV)
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
He gives us superabundance. We can praise Him. And there is no regrets and shame in the restoration. Instead of living with regret, you can be restored! Rather than focusing on all your problems, God has given you His peace. Instead of being gutted by guilt, His grace sets you free. Instead of being paralysed by shame, you are propelled into future blessings as God erases all the shameful stains caused by sin.
Romans 8:1 (ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And then a few verses later we can see the greatest prize of all…
Joel 2:28 (ESV)
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
God promises to pour out the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives, and He promises to save us.
Joel 2:32 (ESV)
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
THIS IS A DAY OF RESTORATION
Today we have seen that, despite wasted years of hurt and pain, despite the destruction and devastation of the locusts of sin in our lives, God is very willing to restore unto us the joy of our salvation. As Peter said,
1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
And it all starts with a decision to repent, a decision to turn back to God and ask Him to restore the years the locusts have eaten, and a commitment to walk in obedience.
If you have years of your life that you feel have been wasted or you have regrets, or if you are suffering for decisions you’ve made, then this is for you.
QUESTIONS ON RESTORATION
DO YOU HAVE WASTED YEARS IN YOUR LIFE?
WHAT WAS THE LOCUST THAT CAUSED THE YEARS TO BE LOST?
WHAT STEPS CAN YOU TAKE TO RESTORE THE YEARS THE LOCUST HAVE EATEN?