The Locust

I was in the field gathering grain, when the crackling, whooshing sound reached my ears. At first I thought that the field must be on fire, but when I straightened up to look, I saw a dark cloud on the horizon. The cloud was moving rapidly toward me. As it came, it blocked the light of the sun. In moments, mid-afternoon became dark. My heart pounded and icy fear slid over me. The strange sound grew louder.....then the locusts descended, devouring the grain, crawling all over me. The noise of their chewing and beating of their wings roared in my ears. Screams welled up in my throat. Shuddering, I brushed frantically at the insects that were crawling on my body and whimpered,  "Please...please...leave me alone."

I ran to my home trying to escape, but they were already there. A moving mass that covered everything and crunched under my feet as I entered. Across the room, freshly baked loaves of bread, placed on the table to cool, disappeared in seconds. As I watched, rage flooded my body. Shrieking, "No!!... I won't let you do this," I grabbed the broom and began swinging wildly at the buzzing insects.

I have no idea how long they were there. Terror seems to expand time. It seemed like an eternity. Then, at last, they were gone.

I was standing in the middle of the room, staring blankly at the mess, the broom still in my hand, when my husband and son came running in. Clutching at each other, we made a tight little circle of our bodies, and stood there trembling. Fearful that the locusts would return.

It was the pitiful bleating of the sheep, that brought us out of our stupor. Still clinging to each other, we struggled to the door and looked out. What we saw stunned us. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. It didn't seem possible. The fields, that had been filled with ripe golden stalks of grain, were bare. The ground looked as if it had just been ploughed. Those horrible insects had even devoured the roots of the plants, churning up the soil as they went. Nothing was left. Not even a morsel for the evening meal. The grain, the vegetables, the fruits, and my beautiful grapes, all were gone. As we looked at the barren fields, tears began flowing down our cheeks. In the distance we could hear the dismayed cries of neighbors, as they too surveyed the damage.

Later, in the village, the elders talked of joining together and buying seed from another land. But somehow, we couldn't seem to get organized. Everyone was so distraught. We were overwhelmed by a tidal wave of helplessness. Gradually talk ceased, and plans were dropped.

Someone discovered that the wine skins were still full and undamaged. For a brief time we felt better, but soon the wine skins were empty, and once more, a thick cloud of depression settled over us.

Weeks went by, we didn't even notice that it had not rained. When we discovered that the streams and the wells were drying up, we were shocked. Some of us tried to pray, and others shook their fists at heaven and cursed God.

The weakest of the animals died first, followed by the feeblest of the people. All of them died with bloated bellies and parched lips. We were paralyzed with despair. Everyone thought the end of our nation was very near.

It was during this terrible time, that the prophet Joel, came to our village. He was a welcome diversion, so we all went to hear him. Joel had only been speaking for a few minutes, when the crowd began to mutter. His words angered us. Joel recommended calling a national fast. Hmmp!! Was he blind? What did he think we were doing. When someone shouted, "None of us has eaten a decent meal in weeks." Joel answered calmly, "Being hungry and fasting are not the same thing." Then he added, "You must consider what has brought this calamity upon you, and repent."

That insensitive clod actually had the nerve to say that we had invited this devastation upon ourselves. He said, "The rituals of worship must be mixed with faith. You have taken your bodies to worship Jehovah, but not your hearts." His voice was like thunder, when he said, "It's not meaningless acts, mere rituals, that Jehovah desires of you. It's love." He was pointing his finger, looking right at me, when he shouted, "Your hearts are far from God." I was furious. I felt like shaking my fist and shouting back at him, "How dare you call me a heathen. You know nothing of me or of my family. You know nothing of the sacrifices we have made for Jehovah." But I didn't. Instead, I left, and so did many others.

On the way home, I was so angry that I grumbled out loud to myself. Mister high and mighty, Joel!! Just who does he think he is: Does he fancy himself to be the king.!! He has no right to speak to me like that. While others have slept, I've worked by the dim light of oil lamps, preparing our clothing and food for the Sabbath. Does 'Mister Joel' think I did that because it was fun?"  "We always pay our tithe and temple tax at the appointed time, even when it is difficult to do so. Does 'Mister Joel' think we do that because we don't honor God? That man certainly could use a few lessons on how to win friends and influence people."

That night, my pillow was as a stone. I did not sleep well.

I can not explain why, but the next day, I went back to hear him again. This time, Joel began by saying, "Learn a lesson from this disaster. Teach that lesson to your children and to your children's children."  When he said that, hope began to rise, in all of us. That sounded like....he didn't think we were all going to die. That sounded like... he thought that we would be around to teach our children... and even our grandchildren. The crowd grew quiet. We paid closer attention to his words. Maybe this man Joel really was hearing from Jehovah and had been sent to help us. Gradually, as Joel spoke to us, our attitudes began to change. What he said didn't make us angry anymore. Now his words warmed our hearts and encouraged us.

When our leaders set a date for a national day of mourning and repentance, everyone came. Even the newly married. After we were all assembled, Joel stood up and said, "You must turn your hearts toward Jehovah. You must repent. Then Jehovah will restore all that the locust have eaten. " We were united. In one voice, we called upon Jehovah to forgive us. What a marvelous time that was!! Revival raced across our land. New joy and energy filled our nation. The rains came. We laughed, and we sang as we worked.

Now, as I share this with you, it has been a number of years since all these things happened. Just as Joel said, Jehovah restored our land. Healthy animals now graze on lush green pastures. The grain bins and wine vats are full. I am a grandmother. Life is pleasant. Everything looks good. I should be content, but I am uneasy. I am concerned because things are changing. During the restoration of the land, and even after the harvests began, everyone served Jehovah with their whole heart. The Sabbath was anticipated with joy.

Then, little by little, we began to slip back into our old ways. Going to the temple, has replaced coming to God. Worship has become a duty, instead of a delight. I don't understand why it is so... but it is.

Sometimes when I am in the fields watching over the sheep, I lay on the thick green grass, look at the beautiful blue of the heavens and think of these things. I remember how inspired Joel looked when he said, "One day Jehovah will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh." When that day comes, perhaps our love for God will not fade slowly away, but will grow stronger.

Until then, I worry.... I worry, that the locusts will return.

The end