Thoughts for Monday 1st June, 2020

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Joel 2:18-29; Romans 8:18-24

1 June - Rev.  Jerry Eve

In the 14th century BC, for a short time, monotheism flourished in Egypt. Just one of the texts we have to demonstrate this, ‘The Great Hymn to the Aten’, was compared with Psalm 104 by C. S. Lewis in one of his books on the psalms. There are numerous similarities. It’s not clear, though, whether one then led to the other, or if the idea of a single deity occurred to these two peoples independently of one another. My own suspicion is that it was the latter. After only about 20 years Egypt reverted to polytheism. It is interesting, however, for us to notice the same thing happening in different places.

Some Biblical texts have Leviathan made by God for God’s ‘amusement’, and this reminds me how exercised my daughters have been at times about orcas (aka killer whales and blackfish) kept in captivity for human entertainment. They tell me that these magnificent creatures can swim thousands of miles, and how wrong it is to confine them in pools little bigger than we use for swimming ourselves in places like SeaWorld in Florida. There’s no way – if we as a family were ever to find ourselves near one of these marine zoos that they would ever let me anywhere near it; and I’ve come to agree with them.

Joel is one of the minor prophetic books (and that’s ‘minor’ as in shorter than Isaiah and Jeremiah, for example). It’s a book in which locusts loom large. The only other place in Scripture where we find so many of them is in Exodus 10, where we read that locusts were one of the Ten Plagues of Egypt.

Some theologians have seen Joel’s use of locusts as purely metaphorical. The majority view, though, is that what Joel does is to take a real-life historical occurrence i.e. crop failure due to locusts, and then follow that up by making the theological point that, as a people, we do need to repent.

Leviticus 11 tells us that locusts are kosher foodstuffs. They are eaten (dipped in wild honey, we presume – I wonder if he cooked them) in the New Testament by John the Baptist. This passage from Joel, though, reminds me of the 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, by the Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. A swarm of locusts descends on the West African village where the book is set, and at first this is good for the villagers because they become a source of food. Later on, however, as the locusts devour the crops, this becomes a problem.

What Achebe quite cleverly does within his story is to equate locusts with Christian missionaries who, when they first arrive are able to help the community, but later on tend to destroy local customs, and a culture, which have been dear to the native population for generations.

Let us pray:

(East Africa is facing plagues of locusts – the worst in decades, destroying vital food supplies and sources of income. Tearfund staff and partners in the region are calling on us to pray for it to not get any worse. Ethiopia and Somalia are in the midst of the biggest invasion of the insects in 25 years – and the worst in Kenya and Uganda for 70 years. They have also now reached parts of South Sudan, where millions of people are already suffering from severe food shortages. The nation is also facing conflict and political instability. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation is calling the swarms ‘unprecedented’ and ‘devastating’, and has made a plea for international help. In a region where 11 million people are already facing food shortages, the locust invasion is compounding the crisis.)

PLEASE PRAY

  • Pray for provision for people who are losing food and income as their crops are destroyed by the locusts.
     
  • Ask God to give the authorities in these nations wisdom to know how to tackle the plagues, and for sufficient funds to be made available for this.
  • Pray that Tearfund’s work in the area, particularly with self-help groups in Ethiopia, will be able to continue without disruption. 
  •  
  • Amen.


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