Two verses keep bumping together in my head, one from the prophet Joel and one from the second Chronicles:
“I will restore to you the years
which the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.” (Joel 2:25)
“All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.” (2 Chronicles 3:21)
In both verses God promises to restore to his people that which was lost. The first chapter of the book of Joel begins with an image of destruction and desolation:
“What the cutter left,
the swarming locust has devoured;
What the swarming locust left,
the hopper has devoured;
What the hopper left,
the consuming locust has devoured.” (Joel 1:4)
In the second chapter of the book of Joel God relents after the people turn back to him in sorrow for their sins and he promises that not only that they will eat their fill but that all that was taken will be restored once more.
I think the image is so powerful to me because not only does God promise to restore the produce that was eaten, but also the “years”. As if time itself had been lost and is being returned. God is the Lord of time and in the fullness of time all things will be made whole again, even our lost time.
Interestingly, this theme of time lost and restored also occurs in a book I just finished rereading last night. At the end of Rosamund Hodge’s dark fantasy novel Cruel Beauty time resets itself, more than nine hundred years that had been lost. All of the land of Arcadia had been trapped in Pandora’s bottle with swarms of devouring demons. And then, in the blink of an eye, all is restored as if nothing had ever happened.
In the passage from Chronicles you see the same idea as in Joel, but kind of in reverse. Because the people did not follow the laws set forth by God, the land was not being allowed to rest every seventh year. And because of this and many other infidelities, the people were taken prisoner and captive in Babylon. And while they were captives the land was allowed to lie fallow. And they remained in captivity until all the lost sabbaths were restored. I know it’s kind of the opposite idea, in one the produce of the land was devoured by locusts in the other the land was made to keep bearing instead of being allowed to not produce. In the first God takes from men, in the second man takes from God. But in both passages the idea that what was taken will be restored in God’s economy of salvation. It’s somehow comforting. even when we cheat ourselves and God of what is his due and for our own good, he will still find a way to heal what we’ve ruined, even if the means of healing looks bad, and the Babylonian Captivity sure looked bad.
God is faithful when we are faithful and he heals us and makes us whole, and makes the land whole. And his healing affects time itself, the way we experience time is somehow very bound up in our relationship to God.
So too in Cruel Beauty Nyx’s radical fidelity to the Gentle Lord, her refusal to be separated from him no matter what the cost results ultimately in the final restoration of all that was broken and severed. She beats the “Kindly Ones” at their own game because she is truly kind, sacrificing her whole self for the other. Her heart is restored, healed, and so is her husband’s, they are finally complete.
But the restoration of God’s economy takes place through exile and death. In Joel it is radical death to self, repentance, fasting, rending of hearts. In Chronicles the people would not repent on their own and so God sent them into exile, a kind of death. And in Cruel Beauty Nyx agrees to join her husband in the life-in-death exile of Pandora’s jar, a literal hell. The ultimate restoration of all things is of course achieved by Jesus through his passion, death, descent into hell, and resurrection.
“Behold, I make all things new,” he proclaims (Revelation 21:5). And surely at the last day when all things are made new, a new heavens and a new earth, then will all the lost sabbaths be restored to us who frittered away the time, stealing the rest that God willed us to have and spending the time selfishly piling up food and treasure for ourselves because we do not trust in God to provide. All the years the locusts devoured will be restored. And all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.