Restoration & Healing
By Eric S. Love
I will restore to you the years the locust have eaten...
What does that mean?
Background: Joel is a prophet to Judah, the southern portion of what was Israel, following the split. He comes along encouraging Judah to repent right about the time Israel, the northern Kingdom, is being led away into captivity by the Assyrians.
Joel’s book opens with God, through Joel, explaining that an invasion of locusts (literal locusts it seems) has completely devastated the “vine” in Judah, has pretty much wiped out their agriculture - this devastation is horrible enough, but it’s prophetic symbolism of the people of Judah (which is what “the vine” represents) is even worse... destruction the result of their rebellion.
When Joel begins, the devastation has already taken place: but God offers this hope - that He would restore the years the locusts had eaten... He goes on to say they will eat (be filled) to the point of satisfaction and that their shame would be removed, that He would reverse their captivity and restore their fortunes. Full restoration.
Going a bit further in this book, God says He will bring the nations into the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” and deal with them there based on their treatment of Judah (3:2), He would stir them up us there and judge them (3:12) in the “valley of decision” on the “day of the Lord.” (3:14)
If you look back at the Valley of Jehoshpaphat, it’s the time when Judah is confronted with three enemies from their past (enemies they had actually shown mercy to during the campaign to take Canaan, enemies who were distantly related to them) came against them in force to wipe them out - which they would have easily done. They walked down the rim of this valley singing, praising God, and the enemy destroyed itself, thrown into confusion by the sound of their praise.
It is always in this valley - the valley of our praise (it was actually named Berecah after that, which means praise) - that the enemies of our hearts are crushed and we are restored.
Joel calls it the valley of decision because that’s what it is: fight in our own might, don’t fight at all, or praise God for being who He is - trust Him - and see our deliverance. Zechariah (14:1-9), picking up the concept of this valley on the day of the Lord, refers to this as being the same place that Jesus - as Messiah - returns bigger than life. He plants His feet on the Mount of Olives and it splits into two mountains, which he straddles, creating a massive valley between them - the valley of decision. It’s at this time that light will conquer darkness (no more night - even though the sun is darkened: the light will be Jesus Himself) and Jesus will bring retribution against the enemies of His people.
Zechariah, whose name means “the Lord has remembered” was a prophet to the exiles returning to Jerusalem from Babylon, after Judah fell to the Babylonians. The Lord has remembered...
God’s message is ALWAYS one of HOPE.
We follow the rabbit trail through O.T. prophets to follow God’s message to Judah all the way through into their captivity to see that God’s message is one continuous cry of HOPE. And He REMEMBERS!
What does full restoration look like? Remember:
First of all the years the locusts have eaten will be restored... Can you restore time? He says He will restore the “years” the locusts have eaten, not just the stuff. You can’t get time back, right? No. But you can experience restoration that advances you beyond where you would have been had the devastation never happened in the first place. That’s how God wants to do it. (Look at it this way: we see time in 1-dimensional, linear terms. Where ever we are, it is NOW - and that’s the only time we can be in. Time for God is 3-dimensional, and He reach in and out of it, taking our 1-dimensional thread of now and - like a balloon - inflate it with years worth of stuff.) He doesn’t give us those years back, He gives us NOW filled with more than we would ever dare hope for.
We will then eat to the point of satisfaction: WE WILL BE SATISFIED. Isn’t that what often messes us up in the first place, somehow we aren’t satisfied? God promises satisfaction (and I don’t think this is an empty, self-serving satisfaction but the kind that keeps.)
Our shame will be removed. There is nothing more liberating than standing full naked in the Light of God’s love and not being ashamed. That is absolute freedom. (What we don’t realize is that God’s blazing love burns away EVERYTHING that brings us shame, fear, disappointment, or death (kind of like a self-cleaning oven).
Our captivity will be reversed. What is holding us here? What has kept us all these years from being in a place of satisfaction without shame? God will reverse those things: our captivity will become the vehicle (or the fuel) of our freedom, a movement forward, finally.
He will restore our fortunes. Restoration is not just a return to a previous state: it is always, in God’s world, an advance. (If your life is a house and it burns down, God doesn’t just restore it by rebuilding it with the same moldy baseboards and leaky roof as before... it may be bigger - or smaller, it may be in a new location altogether, but in every way it is better. Maybe a version of the former house, but a better version - and He gets it right!)
That’s full restoration.
When talking about restoration and the role we play in it, there are a few things we’ve got to understand:
It isn’t cheep. And it isn’t easy. It’s work. It doesn’t happen automatically. It happens because of consistency in the right kind of choices. It happens because of commitment. It happens because of our deliberate intent to make it happen.
It isn’t quick. It takes time. There are no short cuts. And if you were to think you found one, it would probably slow down the process. Sometimes, big strides are made quickly and that’s good - but it is the things that happen deeper, that take longer that lead to complete restoration.
It is ALWAYS God’s intention. Without fail. No exceptions.
Another word that can be used for restoration is healing. God never wants you to be sick. We live fallen lives in a fallen world as part of fallen humanity, and the consequence of that is often times sickness - physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. But God’s will is never for us to be sick. His heart is always for us to be healed, to be restored.
Look at another Old Testament prophet: Hosea.
Background: The book of Hosea comes a little bit before Joel, at a time when we see the last glint of hope for Israel. Hosea is the last great prophet to Israel: the man who married a prostitute, whose prostitute wife rejected him, who then went and bought her back from her prostitution: this is all a prophetic image of God’s heart for Israel.
When the prophet Hosea comes along, Elisha has just died and Jehoash is King. Israel is about half way between the point it broke off from Judah and its total collapse into ruin. Just recently, God had delivered them from Aram (the Arameans). Then Jereboam became king. Bad.
Hosea is the last word of hope.
Hosea 6:1, 3
Come let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us;
He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds
Let us acknowledge [KNOW] the Lord;
Let us press on [be zealous, strive] to [KNOW] Him.
This knowing means to know and understand; it is the same that is used when talking about sexual relationship – which is intended to take place within an intimate relationship. This is shocking since Israel - represented by a prostitute - has “known” multiple partners... but it doesn’t just suggest sex but also intimacy.
The violence spoken of in this section (“he has torn us”, “he has injured us”) is not God smiting Israel with judgment for their sins. No, the judgement for their sins is a consequence. It has happened. Their hearts are hardened. Their eyes are shut. They are bleeding to death internally. They will not survive.
God’s tearing of Israel is to open her up, to expose the wound, to expose the infection that’s killing her, and to get it out. He injures her like a surgeon injures a patient he is trying to save.
If a gunshot victim is on a table before a surgeon, and that surgeon has opened him up, none of us would assume that the surgeon is the one who shot the man. Actually, it is far more probable that the wound was self-inflicted than a shot from the doctor performing the surgery. God lays us on his table to heal us from a self-inflicted wound (in most cases, even if we aren’t the ones who actually pulled the trigger).
Restoration, the healing process, will be painful. But that’s the only way to be healed. The root of your sickness has to be removed, and that is not pleasant - but it is far more pleasant than dying slowly from a broken heart. God tears you open as an act of mercy to heal you, to restore you, to make you whole.
And that HEALING, that RESTORATION, is ALWAYS God’s HOPE for you.
Eric Love, 3/11/2010
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