If we look back at the beginning of this series, we'll remember that it started by talking about the pests which God would send to get Israel's attention: the palmerworm, the locust, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar (Joel 1: 4). We mentioned how, after everything dried up and died, their joy had withered away (Joel 1: 12).
Each week, we've been adding a verse from Joel 2, building to the wonderful promise of restoration found in Joel 2: 25: "And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you."
I think that it's interesting that the order of pests is different here than in Joel 1: 4. That is not an inconsistency in the word. It shows the order of departure and the different order of restoration.
When we fall from fellowship with God, often it is the small things that initiate it, the little daily things that take our attention away from Him (palmerworms). Then something overwhelming (swarm of locusts) will come in and knock our feet out from under us. We look to something else to bring relief, often a harmful substance, and our fruitfulness and testimony is marred (cankerworms). Finally, things that appear harmless fill our lives, but there is an absence of the reality of God (caterpillar).
When God restores to us what we've lost, spiritually speaking, He brings the big things first, totally restoring us to full fellowship (what the locusts ate). Then He works on our fruit-bearing and testimony (what the cankerworm ate), restoring our ability to live according to His will. Then He transforms the things that appear nice and good (caterpillars) into that which is truly good—His beauty in us. And, finally, He helps us with all the daily little chores and problems that try to distract us (palmerworms).
The next few verses in Joel 2 list many other blessings to follow, including praise and assurance and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which happened on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2). These things point to a renewal and restoration of joy. As we saw in part 1, "The joy of the Lord is your strength"—Nehemiah 8: 10.
Jesus came to give joy, among other things. In John 15: 11, He says, "These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." He repeats that desire for their joy to be full in John 16: 24 and 17: 13.
The apostle John wrote in his first letter, "We write these things to you that your joy may be full"—1 John 1: 4. In the Greek language, the word means "cheerfulness, calm delight." Its root word means "to be cheerful, calmly happy or well-off; to rejoice."
Thus, this is not the giddy high that comes from substance abuse. It is the sense of well-being and peace that comes from the assurance that God is in control and has blessed you abundantly, that He cares for you, and that you are safely in His hands, no matter what may come.
When talking about the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle Paul starts with the trilogy of "love, joy, peace" (Galatians 5: 22). Joy is nestled there in between love and peace.
Peter talks about how the trials perfect us for the "appearing of Jesus Christ, whom, not having seen, you love; in whom, though you have not seen, you believe and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory"—1 Peter 1: 7, 8. We who live two thousand years after Christ lived can still love Him, believe in Him, and have his joy fulfilled in us.
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