God Restores

Real people who live real lives have experienced real pain. There are pains that we face that feel to us as though we can never be whole again. The loss of a loved one, the experience of abuse, the humiliation of a failure, all these can leave a person feeling irreparably broken and hopeless.

In the days of the prophet Joel, the people of Judah may well have felt broken beyond repair. The southern kingdom had sinned against the Lord and experienced his judgment. They faced crop failure, locust plague, and enemy armies. Their land was desolate. Their hope seemed dashed.

But God called the nation to return to him. He invited confession and repentance. And God promised restoration. This is beautiful; don’t miss it.

Joel 2:25-27

25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

God promised to restore the years that the locusts had eaten. Sense the beauty there. The people were damaged. They were damaged from their own sin against the Lord. They were damaged by the cruel actions of others who hurt them. But God says that he will restore.

Can he? Of course God can. The Lord can heal a land. The Lord can grow crops where crops had failed. The Lord can bring a harvest that goes beyond the loss of the years. And the Lord can help the people worship him again.

The Lord also promises the people a future. Notice that twice in verses 26-27, God says that they will not experience this shame any longer. God not only can fix the land, he can bear away the shame from the people.

This is lovely in the context of Old Testament Judah. It is infinitely more lovely in the work of Jesus Christ. We, like Judah, have sinned against God. We, like Judah, have been sinned against by evil people and a hostile world. We have been hurt. We have experienced shame. We have lost days, months, even years.

But God can restore. He can take from us our guilt and shame. This is part of what Jesus came to do. Jesus bore the shame of the cross in order to cover our shame in his perfection. Jesus took the wrath of God for sin so that we could have our sins covered by his righteousness. Jesus rose from the grave to show us that there is life after shame, life after guilt, life after death in his perfect grace.

Perhaps you have hurt. Perhaps you have guilt and shame. Perhaps you have done wrong. Perhaps you have wronged others. Run to Jesus. He is your only hope. He covers the guilt of those who come to him. He bears away the shame of those who come to him. He understands your pain more than you could ever imagine. He can heal. He can bring new growth. Jesus can restore the years the locusts have eaten.

A quick Note on Faith-Healing

When I was growing up, our regular television networks would play commercials for religious broadcasts. So I remember hearing these preachers, in short clips, present the basic message of the charismatic faith-healers. I remember hearing a smiling man tell people, “Learn to unleash your faith for your miracle.” I remember hearing men say that the giving of a financial gift would seed a greater gift in return. I remember hearing a man offer to pray over anything you mailed in, so long as you also sent in an appropriate donation.

I also recall that people in our small community got excited from time-to-time when a local charismatic church would have a healer in. When the larger town about half-an-hour away had services, people got excited. Sometimes folks would tell me that I should go. After all, you just never know. Perhaps this man could be used by God to heal me of my blindness. An, no, we did not go.

But, if you know the faith-healer stories, you also know that not everyone in those services was healed. If a person went, got up to the altar, and met the healer without being healed, the answer was always the same. This person must have lacked the faith to be healed. The preacher would still take the donations, claim the power, and pretend to not be at fault. The person who was not healed would go home feeling guilty for not having had enough faith. And then the person would wonder if they had missed their one chance to be healed of their ailment.

In other times in life, I recall reading through books that preached the same sort of principles. I recall books telling us that God really wants to bless us with certain gifts, but if we lack enough faith or if we fail to ask in the right way, God just cannot give them to us. I recall books picturing a great storehouse of gifts that God wishes desperately that he could give to me, but my lack of using the right words or having the right kind of faith is preventing me from having them. The picture painted is of a disappointed God who is unfortunately bound by my failings.

Is God bound by my faith? Is God’s ability to heal a sick person restricted by the sick person’s lack of belief? No, dear friends, no. God may in fact choose to heal or not to heal a person based on anything he wants. Yes, God may choose not to heal a person for a lack of faith in that person. But in no way is God’s ability limited.

Look at this example from Scripture.

John 5:5-13 – 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.

Notice two things. Jesus healed the paralytic in a clear, immediate, obvious and complete way. And, Jesus healed the paralytic without the paralytic having faith. The paralytic did not even know who Jesus was (see verse 13). The man’s lack of faith had nothing to do with his healing. The healing was the choice of the Lord for the purposes of the Lord.

We want to be a people who let Scripture be our final authority. Jesus is not limited by what I bring to the table. Jesus is the Almighty God who is now enthroned over all things. He can heal when he wants. He can choose not to heal if that better fits his purposes for his glory. Do not, for a moment, allow yourself to think that you can limit his ability to give to you anything that he wants to give to you.

Does this mean that faith, prayer, and obedience are unimportant? Not at all. IN fact, these things are quite significant. But let us get rid of the huckster pitch of the faith-healers who claim powers they do not have for the sake of dishonest gain. Let us know that the Lord will do all that he pleases. God is not disappointed now. God will not be disappointed in eternity. My faith does not release God to do anything that God is just itching to do. God is sovereign. I am under his sovereignty.