“What the devouring locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust has left, the young locust has eaten; and what the young locust has left, What the devouring locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust has left, the young locust has eaten; and what the young locust has left, the destroying locust has eaten.”[Joel 1:4]
The locust is a rather non-threatening insect, much like the grasshoppers I used to chase as a young boy. But when hundreds of millions of hungry locusts swarm together, they become a ominous force of devastation to millions.
Recent news reports coming out of Africa and the Middle East are bringing attention to some of the most threatening locust plagues in recent memory. Although these locust swarms historically emerge in regular cycles, the most recent locust plagues have caused greater concern, as authorities in these regions believe the plagues “of Biblical proportions” may only get worse.
Of course, the greatest concern is how the locusts will affect the crops in these regions, potentially causing food shortages and famines for millions.
Some predict the insect population to boom by a factor of 500 by June. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is calling the situation in the Horn of Africa “extremely alarming,” and estimates that a swarm covering one square kilometer can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 humans.
The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is notorious. Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface. Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s humans.
A desert locust swarm can be 460 square miles in size and pack between 40 and 80 million locusts into less than half a square mile.
Is this just another regular cycle of locust swarms — business as usual — or should we pay closer attention to these signs from a prophetic perspective?
Famines and Pestilences
“There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”[Luke 21:11]
Jesus warned us that the beginning of the birth pains would include signs of increased turmoil throughout the world, such as revolutions and wars, earthquakes, pestilences and famines. Sure, humanity has dealt with these things for thousands of years, so what’s unique about our day? What most people seem to miss is that Jesus implies that in the last days, we will have the ability to receive reports about such phenomena from all around the world — i.e. diverse places. Only in the past 100 years have we had the capacity to communicate around the world, and only in the past 25 years of mobile technology have we had instant access to such reports at our fingertips.
The recent Coronavirus outbreak in China, for example, has at least raised awareness and provided some context to how potentially dangerous a pandemic could be. Although it has been difficult to discern how severe this outbreak truly is, we must at least be paying attention to how the world health organizations are responding.
The recent locust plagues are no different. For the vulnerable economies in the Middle East and Africa, severe crop damage could create famines of epic proportions. Only time will tell how bad it will be.
Locusts in the Bible
Locusts are often associated with judgment in the Bible. The first mention of a locust plague is found in the Exodus account, as the LORD brought judgment upon Pharaoh for his obstinance. At least this plague was unique in that the LORD promised it would never be equalled again.
“So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and throughout that day and night the LORD sent an east wind across the land. By morning the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts swarmed across the land and settled over the entire territory of Egypt. Never before had there been so many locusts, and never again will there be. They covered the face of all the land until it was black, and they consumed all the plants on the ground and all the fruit on the trees that the hail had left behind. Nothing green was left on any tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.”[Exodus 10:13-15]
The LORD later warned the children Israel before entering the Promised Land that if they refused to keep His commandments and turned to worship other gods, He would bring judgment upon them as well.
“You shall carry much seed into the field and shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it.”[Deuteronomy 28:38]
Finally the prophet Joel describes an army of locusts associated with the last days and the Day of the LORD. Upon closer inspection, I am of the persuasion that Joel was describing a supernatural army of invaders in the last days that will swarm upon the mountains of Israel like locusts, devouring everything in its path.
“For a nation has come up against my land,[Joel 1:6-7]
powerful and beyond number;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
It has laid waste my vine
and splintered my fig tree;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches are made white.”
Joel’s vision of this supernatural army is one of “darkness and gloom, a day of thick darkness and clouds,” which is typical of a locust swarm. Consider some of the details provided.
“Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.
Fire devours before them,
and behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them,
but behind them a desolate wilderness,
and nothing escapes them.
Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,[Joel 2:2-5]
and like war horses they run.
As with the rumbling of chariots,
they leap on the tops of the mountains,
like the crackling of a flame of fire
devouring the stubble,
like a powerful army
drawn up for battle.”
Interestingly enough, the book of Revelation provides even more context to this end-times army, confirming that it will be much more than a swarm of insects. Joel’s locust army is one that will emerge from the pits of hell in the last days to plague the people who have pledged their allegiance to the Beast. As you will see, John’s vision is drawing directly from Joel’s vision.
I will leave you with John’s vision in Revelation 9, which speaks for itself.
“And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. 2He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.3Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. 7In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.”[Revelation 9:1-11]