Joel 1: 2-3
Hear this, you elders;
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
or in the days of your fathers?
Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation.
The English Standard Version Bible titles Chapter 1 of the Book of Joel as, “An Invasion of Locust”. Joel is referring to the outside invaders of Jerusalem, who will plunder and carry off the nation of Israel to Babylon. Joel poetically describes the destruction of a once great and powerful nation and its reduction to rubble. He begins his lament with a warning to the elders of Israel, advising them to be sure they record this disaster and share it with future generations. It’s basically the old adage, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
I did some quick research of that saying and discovered it is attributed to George Santayana who lived from 1863 to 1952. He was a philosopher, essayist, poet, novelist, and a professor at Harvard. The actual quote is, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This is what Joel is saying 3000 years earlier. Joel was imploring his people to remember the results of abandoning God. He was telling them to be sure to teach their children, their children’s children, and all future generations, about the consequences of their actions.
Joel is expressing two very important ideas in verses two and three.
First, the truth that George Santayana coined thousands of years later. Learn from the past and do not repeat the same mistakes. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” Joel was trying to make sure the insanity of abandoning God, worshiping false gods, and then expecting to flourish, stops. It was a warning to future generations. By the way Einstein didn’t coin the above quote about insanity, but if you repeat the same lie over and over it does become truth to the liar.
Second, the truth that there are consequences to your actions. Joel is telling the elders of Israel to tell all future generations that there is a price to pay, a consequence, to abandoning God and righteousness. It may not be barbaric hoards, looting, raping and pillaging as it was then, but there are still consequences for abandoning God and righteousness.
The metaphoric swarms of locust will come, as Joel goes on to say in verse 4:
What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
Cutting locust will come and those who fail to heed the lessons of the past will harden their hearts and stiffen their necks. They will allow their pride and arrogance to deny the responsibilities of their actions, and the cycle will continue. Swarming locust, hearts harden. Hopping locust, necks stiffen. Destroying locusts and now this precious gift of life has been devoured by pride, arrogance and self-righteousness.
This is why Joel tells the elders to teach their children the history of their people, and don’t sugar coat it. Mankind’s past is a text book for the future, experience is the greatest teacher of all.
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