The last months have been filled with countless opinions of how we should view and respond to our national (and international) tragedy.

Health and government officials have interpreted for us the nature of the problem and the potential solutions. We have been fixated on these daily reports, and we have been directed by men’s opinions and best ideas.

All of this may be good and helpful. But where is the divine voice? Are we hearing God’s opinion of these days and turning to Him for divine solutions?

The Swarming Locusts

The prophecy of Joel describes for the people of his day not only the devastation that had come to their entire nation, but also the remedy.

Locusts had come upon the land. This is not symbolic, but real. Although we may not be familiar with this type of plague, locust invasions are historical fact, even in our own nation. They can strip the land in a short period of time, reducing her to nothing.

David Hubbard, in his commentary on Joel, gives this account:

The descriptions of travelers who have observed locust swarms are legion. E. B. Pusey, Driver, and other commentators have given lengthy descriptions of locust attacks in the Levant. Driver cites a report of a locust-swarm covering 2,000 square miles and comprising an estimated 24,420 billion insects. Some thirty years ago, a grasshopper horde attacked California and was described in the newspapers in terms reminiscent of Joel. In one county 200,000 acres were covered with insects “over every inch and in some places stacked on top of each other.”

The point is this: It is possible for an entire nation to be brought to its knees by forces beyond itself.

Surely, this is exactly what we have seen in the spring of 2020. A microscopic virus has swarmed across the earth, relentless in its attack. It has changed the course of history and paused almost every enterprise of man.

The Repentant Response

So what should we do in a season of national disaster?

Should our only interpreter of these events become those who speak only in physical terms, or is there a deeper, spiritual response that is needed?

Should we just “shelter in,” or should we kneel down?

Joel calls for a singular response:

Consecrate a fast,
Proclaim a solemn assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the LORD your God,
And cry out to the LORD (Joel 1:14 NASB).

Joel was speaking for God to God’s people. Without hesitation Joel proclaimed what was needed. The people must turn to God and cry out to Him. Only He could stop the marauding herd of destruction.

God is as great in His compassion as He is in His judgment. If they would cry out to Him and return to Him, He would relent and perhaps even “leave a blessing behind Him” (2:14).

But the needed response is one of national mourning and full repentance. No mere outward show will move God.

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”

Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
Who knows whether He will not turn and relent
And leave a blessing behind Him (Joel 2:12-14)?

We can ignore God in this moment, thinking (once again) that we are the masters of our destiny and the determiners of our fate. We can believe that our Babel towers will ascend to the heights and save the day.

Or, in humility, we can return to God. We can cry out to Him. We can trust Him again.

And if we do, all of human history reminds us that we will discover His great compassion and salvation.

Perhaps it’s time to listen to Joel … and cry out.

Holy God, forgive us for ignoring You. Forgive us for paying more attention to the created than the Creator. Deliver us from merely humanistic solutions when You are standing at the door knocking. Sweep across our land, Lord, reminding us of our desperate need to return to You in full repentance and confession. Raise a worldwide, repentant cry, and then answer that prayer to show the world that You are a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. Remind us in unmistakable terms that You can do anything and that You control everything. Deliver us, O Lord, and glorify Your name!