Last April I wrote about locusts in the bible and a sort of spiritual locusts that function in our lives today in a post entitled Frenzy. However, I missed something in that post: the grasshoppers.
In nature, locusts start out as grasshoppers. The non-threatening loners of the garden seem like a far cry from the plague-potential within them. Even in the biblical narrative, grasshoppers don’t have a big part to play compared to the locusts. Though the grasshopper’s part is small it does show up at a key part in the bible.
In the book of Numbers Israel sends out twelve spies to assess the situation in Canaan, the Promised Land. When they return they bring some of the produce of the land to show that it is indeed a good and plentiful land. That is where their unity ends. When it comes to the people and the likelihood of success in battle Joshua and Caleb put their trust in the LORD and His ability to deliver them from their enemies. The other ten say, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. […] The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, so we were in their sight.” (Num. 13:31-33 NKJV emphasis added)
As a result of this bad report the Israelites decided not to go up and take the Promised Land. Because they rejected themselves, and God, and His blessing, they spend 40 years wandering the wilderness while that generation died out. It is a chilling example of wasted potential, lost opportunity, and self-defeat winning long before any other defeat or hope had any chance. They gave themselves a false identity rather than accepting the identity God was trying to give them and it brought loss into their lives.
The external defeat from locusts is devastating. The internal defeat from grasshoppers is equally devastating.
I love the book of Joel. Nearly the whole of it is underlined in my bible, many colors, many notes in the margins, I love it. It is about loss, repentance, and restoration. I can’t talk about locusts or grasshoppers without bringing in Joel, since it’s one of the main themes of the book. One of my favorite verses in this book is, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts has eaten…” (Joel 2:25 NKJV) He goes onto list out the three other types of locusts, but I think you get the idea. I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.
Why is it years and not crops though? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say crops? Or years’ worth of crops? The whole passage around this verse is about agriculture and crops failing or thriving. Yet God promises to restore the years that were lost. The prophet specifically addresses the issue of locusts in his book, with no mention of grasshoppers at all. But I wonder if there is a link to the grasshoppers of Numbers.
I read all of my commentaries, dictionaries, and surveys on Numbers and Joel looking for this link. There is none that I could find. In fact, when I looked up grasshoppers in my bible dictionary, it referenced me back to the locusts. In this arena of biblical studies, grasshoppers represent such smallness that they are hardly worth a mention. No wonder that was the metaphor of choice for the insecure Israelite spies.
Still, God sees the small and uses the insignificant. I can’t help but wonder if He was promising restoration that stretched back to the beginning of Israel as a nation. They lost 40 years to grasshoppers in their souls, who knows how many years to the locusts referenced by Joel. Some scholars aren’t even sure there were any locusts at all, they think it might’ve been a metaphor for invading armies. If that is the case, there was over 70 years lost to invading armies and exile.
If we include the spiritual locusts from my last post on this subject there are many years lost to some of us as believers today. Who knows what years will be lost in the future to inner stress-locusts and self-defeat-grasshoppers.
That’s a lot of years. Nevertheless, God speaks over the defeat of His people and says, “I have the final victory over every defeat. I have the final word over your identity and your life. If you come to Me in repentance, I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” In my mind’s ear I hear Him add, “And the years the grasshoppers have stolen.”
God is bigger than all the loss and defeat in the life of His people, which includes me. There was a time when I too looked at God’s promises for my life and I told Him I was a grasshopper in my own eye as well as the eyes of others. There have been times when I have been driven into frenzy and destructive patterns and spiritual locusts filled my heart and mind. Yet He is able to restore and redeem time lost to the locusts and grasshoppers in my life and in my heart, in fact He promises it.