I like to think of the "palmerworm" as the larvae of a moth—most likely the little white butterflies / moths that flit all around my garden. On plants of the cabbage family, the little green larvae just seem to show up one day as an army.
They are small, varying in length from ¼ inch to 1 inch or so. (I'm just guessing: I've never taken a ruler out to measure them.) But enough of them on one leaf can pretty much fill it with so many holes that it is basically devoured. And, in fact, the Hebrew word means "devouring; a destroying larvae," and its root word means "to devour or cut off." And that's just what they do.
In the Bible, though, they are presumably one stage of the locust, equivalent to what we call "grasshoppers" here in Kansas. According to English dictionaries, they are a larvae or "caterpillar" that is destructive to fruit trees. But whether it is fruit trees or cabbage family vegetables or fields of grain, the palmerworm is destructive.
Since they are small, I like to think of them as the little things that devour our time and draw our attention away from what is really important, consuming our minutes and hours and days, and limiting our fruitfulness and productivity. In the little booklet Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel says, "We spend hours on the impulse of an unexpected opportunity or demand. Then we complain that our time flies away, leaving some important tasks unfinished."
I find that to be true all too often. Sometimes, I spend half my morning opening, reading, and responding to emails, many of them unsolicited or forwarded messages. I spend additional time browsing Facebook comments or comments on LinkedIn groups, responding to some, "liking" others, and ignoring most of them. The phone rings, and I answer it. There's another 30 minutes, if it's someone I know, or 3 minutes if it's a pesky salesman or fund raiser that I can't get rid of politely.
Other times, it may be the well-meaning opportunities or invitations to go places with friends, attend meetings or functions, or (for writers) to enter a contest the deadline of which is today or tomorrow.
I find that for me, all these things can eat away at the "leaves" of my time. They limit my productivity. They destroy my resolve to get the important things done. They cause me to postpone things on my to-do list that have already been postponed so long that I'm ashamed.
And when I think about them and dwell on this loss or waste, I begin to lose my peaceful and joyous spirit and adopt an attitude of anger. (That's when I get up, go out to the garden, and start smashing the little palmerworms on my Brussels sprouts leaves.)
The palmerworms of life come to distract, distress, destroy, and depress. They are the little things that set us on a detour and retard our progress.
But they are something which God allows to come into our lives. We can deal with them promptly, dismissing the demands or opportunities that are not in line with God's will for us and our time; we can refuse to give in to their incessant gnawing and can move forward with the tasks we have determined to be of prime importance.
And our primary task is to do what the Lord wants us to do, what He wants to do in, through, and with us. The palmerworms are a test of sorts, to see if we will easily be distracted or if we will remain firm in our purpose. Amos 4: 9 speaks of the palmerworms as something God allowed in order to bring the people back to him; we see the same idea in Joel. But we shall also see a great restoration to come (when we get to Part 6).
For now, let's find encouragement in Joel 2: 21: "Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the LORD will do great things." Not only will He do great things for Israel, He shall also do great things for us who believe in His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Next week: "Locusts"
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Lessons from My Garden - Part 5
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Lessons from My Garden - Part 4
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Lessons from My Garden - Part 3
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Part 2 - Where will I go when I die?
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Deliverance from Falling
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The Significance of Death
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"Bad Things" - Part 4
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