People who study insects are predicting a huge swarm of cicadas will emerge from the ground in a few more weeks. This super hatch occurs every 17 years. They aren't sure exactly how many will surface, except that it will be in the billions, at least 1.5 million per acre, which could mean as many as 30 of the creatures covering your average square foot.
Brood X, sometimes referred to as the Great Eastern Brood, is among the largest in terms of geographical areas in North America and will emerge when conditions are just right: The soil is 64 degrees and on a night that's humid.
Though much more benign, they remind me of what scripture says about the locust.
In Genesis, God populated the earth with creatures and birds and “creeping things.” Most of them behaved nicely — not the locusts. They quickly gained a reputation for mayhem.
Moses threatened Pharaoh with a swarm if he didn’t let the Israelites leave Egypt. Speaking for God, Moses warned, “… if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field.” (Ex.10:4-5)
Pharaoh was stubborn. When he refused to free the Hebrew slaves, locusts arrived.
“They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened, and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees … so there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all Egypt.” (Ex 10: 14-15)
The largest swarm documented in modern times was 513,000 square kilometers and had an estimated 25.5 trillion insects. God sent more than that to Pharaoh.
I’ve never experienced anything similar to what scripture is describing, at least not in the natural world. But we’ve all experienced seasons of distress and affliction. For a time we can’t see either the ground or the sun. Our world seems to be eaten away around us. There’s nothing we can do; the dark emotion of “locusts” keeps coming and coming and coming.
However, locusts are interesting beyond having voracious appetites when they are on the move. Within their seemingly destructive behavior, they carry a promise of God’s restorative plan.
Although that year’s crops are lost and there is the threat of famine, the following year is completely different. The dead locust bodies fertilize the soil. This year’s devastation is transformed into next year’s abundance.
Likewise, in our individual “season of the locust,” there resides a promise that God will use our season of hardship and fear. We will not perish.
Moses explained to Pharaoh the reason for God’s deadly plagues. We don’t usually know the reasons in real time, but we are assured that our lives reside in the hands of the One who is sovereign over everything we fear. Within every swarm of locusts lives the promise of God’s comfort and His blessing.
I think this super-swarm of cicadas is a reminder of God’s great love.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust … You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.” (Joel 2:25-26)
Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at email@example.com.