20th January 2024
"Little Life Lessons
The Locust and having a robust partnership"
In considering how we as Christians live at a time when it's easy to be seen as little people, I'm looking at the four small animals that, in Proverbs 30:24-28, the writer Agur considers show wisdom.
The first two were the ant, which spoke of perspective, and the hyrax, which illustrated protection.
In verse 27 we have the third:
'locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks' (NIV).
The locust is one of a type of grasshopper that goes through a swarming phase.
As single individuals they are unremarkable, untroubling and insignificant, yet as swarms of enormous numbers they can be so powerful as to bring devastation and destruction.
There is a great deal of complexity and mystery about grasshoppers and their swarming.
Triggered by specific conditions of weather and vegetation, grasshoppers undergo hormonal changes.
They start to breed in great abundance, congregate together and begin migrations as dense clouds of millions of individuals, which may be spread out over an area of thousands of square kilometres and weigh millions of tonnes.
Such vast swarms eat crops and any other vegetation, leaving nothing behind them.
In their wake, animals and humans starve and kingdoms tumble.
Plagues of locust have always troubled humanity and are mentioned in the Bible (see Exodus 10:4-15; Joel 1:4-7; 2:3-9; Amos 7:1-2).
Although locust plagues still occur, they are nowhere as bad as they were in the past with modern methods of monitoring and better ways of controlling swarms.
What Agur marvels at is how these individual insects move together in ordered ranks like an army.
In fact, in the prophecy of Joel a locust swarm is described in precise military terms.
They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course.
They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead.
They plunge through defences without breaking ranks. (Joel 2:7-8 NIV)
It is this unity, this collaboration in action, that gives the tiny grasshopper its awesome power.
As individuals, grasshoppers are easily crushed and destroyed; but collectively, as locust swarms, they are unstoppable and devastating.
Agur implies that this gathering together of the locusts models a wisdom by which small things can have power together.
There are certainly lessons here for us as Christians.
Most church cultures in the Western world are very individualistic.
In many ways, this is a good thing because we must be saved as individuals: that our spouse or our parents are Christians may be great, but it doesn't save us.
Yet that individuality brings with it a great weakness: on our own we are unable to achieve much and we are also prone to being isolated and neutralised as individuals.
The fact is that while we must enter the Christian faith individually, we must live it out collectively.
The church is a community.
It's fascinating to note that in the book of Acts, the word 'together' referring to the Christian community occurs 30 times.
For all our tendency to see the history of the early church in terms of individuals such as Peter, Paul and Barnabas, it is in fact better seen as a movement of individuals cooperating together.
The idea that the church should be like locusts may not be a particularly compelling image.
Nevertheless, there is insight here.
Together we are better protected and together we are better able to advance God's kingdom.
Unity can never be put above truth and there are times in church history (and sometimes in our own personal Christian life) when we must walk away but, otherwise, unity is vital.
In hell's unceasing war against Christians one of its chief strategies is divide and conquer. Against that, as individuals and churches, we must stand united together.
We may be little people but linked together under the invisible leadership of Jesus through his Spirit, we are able not just to survive but thrive.
Indeed, if we act together we can, like locust swarms, make nations tremble.
is an Evangelist, minister, speaker, broadcaster and writer.
He has been in ministry for four decades. He has spoken in towns, cities and universities in 69 countries.
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