The sound of locusts has disappeared. We no longer have to walk through our back yards ready to swat the flying pests. What an experience it has been the last few weeks living in the midst of the external effects of the seventeen-year life of the cicada. When the Summer heat came, the crawling shells came out of the ground. What an amazing thing to watch as each stage of transformation took place. From the shell coming out of the ground to the eggs dropping upon the ground, the process caused me to proclaim more than ever “There is a God!” How can an egg the size of a grain of rice fall to the earth and burrow into the ground and remain there exactly 17 years? How does it know it is 17 years? There is a God! As annoying as they were, it was truly amazing. I might add the birds and squirrels were appreciative of the extra carb-free gluten-free morsels of food as well. Thankfully the locusts we witnessed were of a different variety than those we read of in the Bible.
The prophet Joel especially exemplifies the destructive work that biblical locusts could perform. The first chapter of Joel describes the damage of the locusts. The crops were annihilated. The trees were stripped bare. The fields were laid to waste. The fruit was withered. The livestock was in need of food. Even the waters had been dried up. Chapter two describes the swarm of locusts as if they were men of war. God had divinely allowed the destruction upon the land. Why? The consequences were due to a people that had turned from God to earthly idols.
Our land, our nation, has experienced an increase in storms, floods, famines, fires, and pestilence. Worldwide and national disasters have increased every year. In 2010, America declared 81 Federal Disaster Declarations. In 2011, that record-breaking number was broken again with 99 Disaster Declarations costing over 32 billion dollars. Dr. Robert Hartwig states “The number of U.S. Disaster Declarations has been trending sharply upward, particularly over the last 15 years.” When Jesus was asked what the signs of the end of the world would be, one of the indicators were “famines, earthquakes, and pestilences in different places” (Matthew 24:7). Whether we agree on whether the signs are consequences of a people turning away from God or not, we must agree that the signs of the last days are evident world wide. The security of man in riches has been shaken over and over again including the most recent event of the United Kingdom desiring to exit the European Union.
Let me interject the truth at this point that our security is in Christ and we need not fear. Jesus said, “He that shall endure to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). That word saved means safe and protected. Psalm 91 is a vital Scripture to be proclaiming over ourselves and our family. It is only 16 verses long, but it is 16 verses of Holy Ghost inspired promises that every believer should be proclaiming with confidence. Our congregation recently sang aloud together “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds my future. And life is worth the living just because He lives!” What a joy to know we are safe and secure in Christ and we need not fear.
I would like to address another aspect of the last days that has been on my heart lately. Jesus states it this way. “The love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12); “The very elect shall be deceived” (Matthew 24:24).
It has been nearly two years ago that I had a vivid dream concerning the Church and the temptations of believers to allow their love for Christ to decrease even to the point of being lost. In this dream, I witnessed four young men enter the front doors of the church with a prideful arrogance about them. After I had awakened from the dream, the Lord had spoken to me what these four men represented.
The following is an excerpt from the November 2013 Rhema Grace Devotional explaining what these four men represented :
#1. THE MAN OF DOUBT
We are men and women of faith and we continually proclaim that nothing is impossible with God; yet there is still a part of us that trusts in the mountains and the strength of man (Amos 6:1). The alarm is sounding clear for us to be sure our complete trust and faith is in God in all things. He is Faithful and we must wholly believe in Him in all aspects of our life. Our lack of faithfulness to Him can be an indication of a lack of trust in Him and that we are trusting in ourselves. Jesus said the Church in Laodecia stated to Him by their lifestyle, “We have need of nothing.” That is a form of doubting in God (Proverbs 3:5-10; Psalm 20:7; Zechariah 4:6; 1st Corinthians 2:5).
#2. THE MAN OF EASE
We, as the Church, cannot allow ourselves to enter into a spiritual comfort zone, lie in our ivory beds of luxury, stretch out on our couches of comfort, and ignore the alarms to awaken and love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and strength (Amos 6:1,4). There is a rest that the Lord gives us, but resting in Him does not mean that we live in our own selfish, non-productive ease. There is a person close to you that needs to see the love of God in action. There is no inactive ease in true faith. Make yourself available to love the lost .
(Ephesians 5:14; Romans 13:11)
#3. THE MAN OF APATHY
Apathy is defined as “a lack of emotion, cold, indifferent, unconcern.” Apathy is evident when we no longer have passion for vital spiritual truths. When we are no longer stirred by John 3:16, when we no longer pray for the salvation of unbelievers, when worship is only through our lips and not our spirit, when our prayer life is virtually non-existent, when gathering with other believers is not a priority, then apathy exists. Yes, we all have bad days and we all may feel like we fall short in one or all of these areas, but apathy is a consistent, constant, comfortable unconcern that the vital part of our spiritual life does not matter. (Amos 6:6)
#4. THE MAN OF FAMILIARITY
You may or may not be familiar with the term familiarity, but there is a good chance you have experienced it in your life toward someone else or someone else toward you. There is a danger in any relationship that if we have known someone for a length of time, we will begin to take them for granted. The relationship may become common and ordinary and we may even develop a lack of respect for them. Many marriages have been dissolved due to a familiarity that has developed and resulted into a lack of emotion. You can now see how apathy and familiarity go hand in hand. Jesus spoke through John to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 about the issue of familiarity. He said their works were many and they were doing great things, but that their First Love had become familiar to them, their First Love being Christ Himself. They were going through the motions and had forgotten for Whom those motions were for. They were religiously busy, but relationally destitute. (Amos 6:5)
Every one of these “men” are a danger to our spiritual well being. As you look at the first letter of each word, you will find it spells the word “DEAF” – Doubt, Ease, Apathy, Familiarity.
At the end of each address to the seven churches in Revelation Chapters two and three, Jesus says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Church.” I am confident that if you are still reading this then you are hearing the alarm. Be thankful you are hearing it. It is the sound of our Father’s love and grace. If God did not care, He would let us go on our merry little wandering way, but He loves us enough to warn us. We must love Him enough and love ourselves enough to respond. It is up to you. It is up to me.
It has been nearly two years since this word came forth and I still hear the alarm sounding. In the midst of the damaging locusts in the book of Joel, God speaks the following through Joel.
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm in my holy mountain.” I pray you hear the alarm and you are aware of any of the temptations before you to draw you away from Christ. The solution is found in Joel 2:12. Let us examine our hearts deeply and return unto the Lord. Let us return to Him individually and corporately. As we do, we will experience the promises of the Lord fulfilled. His Word will not return unto Him void, but will accomplish that for which it has been sent. (Isaiah 55:11)
Now look at the promises God spoke to His people through Joel Chapter 2:18-27. “Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savor shall come up, because he hath done great things. Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. ”
“And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.”
This same declaration that God spoke through Joel to His people then can be received by His people today. We need not fear, but we can rejoice that our God will not only provide all that we need as we live in this world of turmoil , but He will restore that which the enemy has taken from us. He is still Sovereign God. He is still in the midst of His church. And we need not be ashamed.
As we close this Devotional, we come to a place of self examination, divine assistance to live the righteous life and a complete trust in the Lord that we are overcomers. Let us search our hearts once again for any or all of these “four men” that may have crept into our lives and let us be rid of them completely. Let us proclaim that we love God with all of our heart, mind and strength. Let us rejoice in the Name of our Lord Who has blessed us beyond measure. Let us not be ashamed to live holy, righteous lives in His grace and truth. Let us dwell in the secret place of the Most high together.