In the book of Joel, the prophet laments God’s punishment in the aftermath of a swarm of locusts that had ravaged the country of Judah. This instrument of God’s wrath had swooped through the country, devouring everything in its path. The devastation was complete,
The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails.
In chapter 2 the prophet paints a poetic picture of the swarm descending like a conquering foe,
They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like men of war;
Every one marches in formation,
And they do not break ranks.
They do not push one another;
Every one marches in his own column.
Though they lunge between the weapons,
They are not cut down.
They run to and fro in the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter at the windows like a thief.
The earth quakes before them,
The heavens tremble;
The sun and moon grow dark,
And the stars diminish their brightness.
This metaphor is a powerful one. Instead of God sending a foreign power to conquer and punish Judah for their sin, He chooses a plague of nature. Instead of one giant enemy, He uses a million little ones.
Think about the power of this Biblical example to us. Often we are on the lookout for the big enemy. We take great care to prevent the big sins, and take great pride when we evade them. But what if it’s not a giant enemy we face, but a million little ones? What if it is not a single death blow that brings us down, but a million tiny little mouths, each eating away at who we are.
Our modern, media-drenched society offers me a million opportunities each day to choose something other than God. A million things I can focus on. A million ways to wander off the path, even if only for a step. A million chances to ignore, judge, condescend or look away. A million excuses to pick me and my way.
Little bite by little bite these enemies can devour my growth, ruining the grain and drying up the oil and new wine. Before I know it I am stripped bare of what I once was. And it wasn’t the big enemy that slayed me, but a million little ones.
This is not meant to inspire guilt, but caution. Our focus can be so fixed on the giant that we miss the locust. Sometimes our enemy takes a different for than what we expect. What if my enemy doesn’t sound like a roaring lion, but a game, a song, a relationship or any one of a million devices meant to sap my strength and weaken my focus. We defend against the big enemies and miss the million little ones.
They are easy to overlook, but just as deadly. Ask the prophet Joel.