Money can be restored. Property can be restored—broken-down cars, stripped painting, old houses. Relationships can all be restored. But the one thing that can never be restored is time. Time flies by and it does not return. Years pass and we never get them back.
Yet God promises the impossible: “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). The immediate meaning of this promise is clear. In the days of the prophet Joel, God’s people had suffered the complete destruction of their entire harvest through swarms of locusts that marched like an insect army through the fields, destroying the crops, multiplying their number as they went.
William MacDonald writes:
“The severity of the locust plague was such that the elders could not remember anything like it. The plague was in four stages (or year), the four stages in the growth of the locust: The chewing locust, the swarming locust, the crawling locust, and the consuming locust.”1
The harvest was completely wiped out. God’s people were brought to their knees in more ways than one. But “the Lord became jealous for His land and had pity on His people.” God said, “Behold I am sending to you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied” (Joel 2:18-19). God said that in the coming years their fields would yield an abundance that would make up for what had been lost: “The threshing floor shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied” (Joel 2:24, 26). This wonderful promise for those people meant that years of abundant harvests would follow the years of desolation brought about by the locusts. But God has also put this promise in the Bible as an application for us today.
Lost Years of Our Lives
What do “lost years” look like for us? Lost years (or locust years) are years that we cannot get back, and they come in many varieties.
Lost years are fruitless years. A lot of hard work was done in the years the locusts had eaten. After everything was destroyed, the people must have thought, “All this work and what do I have to show for it?” Some of you know this pain in the world of business—a failed venture, a bad investment, a misguided policy. All the effort that you put in day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year led only to massive disappointment. You think, “What has come of all my time and all my effort?”
Lost years are painful years. It has been said, “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” You had plans, but now you fear the coming years may be empty. I’m thinking of those who perhaps have lost a loved one. I’m thinking also of those who live with illness in the body or the mind. You assumed that you would always be able to do what you used to do. You must find a way to live with the disappointment that you cannot change.
Lost years are loveless years. A division comes to a family, alienating loved ones. Children grow up, and those years cannot be recovered. A marriage quietly endures in which love has been burning low for many years. You see a couple who are really in love, and you say, “I wish I could be loved like that.” Or you have not yet met the person you would like to meet. It feels like the years are moving on. You can never get them back. The locusts have eaten them.
Lost years are Christ-less years. All Christ-less years are locust years. This point is worth thinking about if you have not yet made a commitment to Christ. Ask anyone who came to faith in Christ later in life, and they will tell you that they wish they had come to Christ sooner than they did: “How much foolishness I would have avoided. How much good might have been done for Christ through my life.”
How God Restores Lost Years
Take heart! There is hope because God can restore your lost locust years. He does so in three ways.
God can restore lost years by deepening your com-munion with Christ. The prophet Joel reminds Israel, “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and that there is no other” (Joel 2:27). The Jewish nation had endured so much, yet afterwards they would enjoy a communion with the Lord that is far greater than anything they had ever known before in their spiritual lives. Christ can restore lost years by deepening your fellowship with Him.
Why not ask Him for this? Tell Him, “Lord, I have spent too many years without You, too many years at a distance from You. Fill my heart with love and gratitude for Christ. Let the loss of these years make my love for Christ greater than it would ever have been. Restore to me the years the locusts have eaten.”
God can restore lost years by multiplying your fruitfulness. The harvests for these people had been wiped out for four years, but God restored the years that the locusts had eaten by giving bumper harvests. There is still time to dedicate yourself to the work of the Lord. Why not ask Him for this? “Lord, the locusts have eaten too many years of our lives. You have called us as Your disciples to bear fruit that will last. Too many fruitless years have passed. Now Lord, we ask of You, give us some years now in which more lasting fruit will be born than in all of our years of small harvests.”
God can restore lost years by bringing long-term gain from short-term loss. The effect of these great trials in your life will be that “the tested genuineness of your faith…may result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 5:8). The praise, glory, and honor go to Christ because His power guarded you and kept you through the hardest years of your life.
The Lord Jesus Christ was “cut off” (Isa. 53:8) while He was in the prime of His life, only after three years into His ministry, at 33 years old. You would think that a man launching a new enterprise at the age of 33 has everything in front of him. But Isaiah says, “He was cut off.” He was cut off because He came under the judgment of God, not for His own sins—because He had none—but for ours.
Our sins, our grief, our sorrows, were laid on Him. Our judgment fell on Him. The life of God’s tender shoot was “cut off.” Then, on the third day, the Son of God rose in the power of an eternal life. He offers himself to you, and He says what no one else can ever say: “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten.”
1. William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary, Joel (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1995), p. 1109
By David Dunlap