Disciples of Christ-Visalia
August 31, 2009
Joel 1: 11 Despair, you farmers,
wail, you vine growers;
grieve for the wheat and the barley,
because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
12 The vine is dried up
and the fig tree is withered;
the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—
all the trees of the field—are dried up.
Surely the people's joy
is withered away.
Joel tells the story of a locust plague. Some folks think that the locust plague is an allegory, a symbol of a great army. I do not think so. I think initially that the story was about locusts and as time went people who edited Joel’s writings starting seeing the menacing armies of the north like locusts. As they edited the texts, the texts had this view point. We can differ on this interpretation and that is alright, but living in the Valley the notion of hardship for agriculture makes sense. Living in a large city might give us a different perspective.
I have lived in the Valley for two years now and one of the most shocking scenes for me is the uprooting of an orchard. From my car it catches me by surprise but on those morning when I run down a road through an orchard the lack of trees shocks my senses. The greenness of the trees is gone and all that remains is the dirt. My understanding is that the orchard is intentionally uprooted for many good reasons. The trees matured and are no longer producing in quality or quantity. The trees may have become diseased. They maybe uprooted to put in another crop. The shock to the system is all that remains. Across the Valley on the west side there are whole fields and orchards barren due to the lack of water, towns with 40% unemployment and a drought of Biblical proportions, bees dying, bugs destroying the citrus, and on and on.. The loss of an orchard opens the landscape and the sandy light brown dirt shows no life or is filled with choking weeds. What once bore life now lies fallow.
There is this line out of Joel and I thought about the crops of the Valley. Apples, palms, vines, pomegranates, they are all within a view miles of the house. (Maybe not the palms, but there are palm trees in the neighborhood.)
There is also this impending threat about farming in California. There is a drought. Milk Prices plummet and herds are sold off to make hamburger. There is a threat of a foreigner, an outside force that cannot be controlled. The joy of farming, a way of life, becomes chore not joy. Of course, when there is prosperity things are easy to enjoy, and when the cycle goes down it is difficult. People leave the farm were foolish or unlucky. In the midst of such difficulty, life becomes apocalyptic. So, a drought, locusts, or an army to the north can shake the confidence of folks who live by the land. But, one can live in a city and feel the same thing. It can be Apples and PC’s, homes, oil fields drying up, or a sea once teeming with shrimp now has boat riding high in the water, because they do not bear a load. For those who are facing their own plague of locusts, a drought in their own life, a time when the sweetness of joy has become ashes Joel has a word.
Are you in a drought now?
Do you have an impending Army overlooking you?
Will you trust God’s hesed (steadfast love) to water you and to see you throw the swarm?