What Happened to all the Leaves?

  Quite a few of our trees have already lost their leaves and it is only the end of June. What happened to them Well, we happen to have an infestation of forest tent caterpillars, which are leaf-eating, defoliating caterpillars which some call “army worms” because as they travel across the ground they look like marching soldiers. It has been a battle to keep them from destroying our roses and fruit trees. Some of the cottonwood trees have lost all their leaves (don’t mind that!). Our big mountain ash tree has also been stripped of all its leaves, as has a flowering crab.  These caterpillars, once they have fattened up on our leaves for 5-8 weeks,  congregate on the sides of the outbuildings, fence posts and rails, etc,  looking for a place to pupate, making yellowish-white cocoons from which an adult moth will emerge in 10 days and repeat the cycle by laying eggs on twigs in mid-summer. The eggs will overwinter and hatch in early spring. One day, in about an hour, we collected about 1 1/2 gallons of the worms and burned them in our fire pit. They are pretty yucky!

     They come in such huge numbers, it is impossible to stop them all. As we drive into town,  we pass over a creek which is lined with deciduous trees, mostly cottonwoods, and they are totally bare, looking like early April.  The trees and shrubs will grow new leaves before the end of the summer, but it will put a strain on their growth, or–as in the case of our fruit trees–on their fruit bearing.
     I’m reminded of the devouring “locusts” mentioned in the Bible. There are eight Hebrew words in the Old Testament which refer to locusts, some of them to the various stages of their development. Sometimes the words are translated as “caterpillars.” In any case they come in huge hordes and are extremely destructive.  The devastations which the locust is capable of producing made it a fitting instrument of one of the ten plagues in Egypt (Ex. 10:1-20).  They brought ruin and despair and men were powerless to resist them. In Joel, we see God’s prophecy against Israel for her rebellion and apostasy and it includes a judgment of locusts which stripped the land (1:4,5). It was a warning to Israel of the need to repent. We see a similar passage in Amos 7:1.  The locust is used in Scripture as a symbol of destructive enemies. In Jeremiah 46, we see Babylon’s army that comes to invade Egypt described as “more numerous than locusts and are without number” (v. 23 cf Isa. 33:4). One swarm of locusts was described as occupying a space of 10-12 miles in length and 4-5 miles in breadth and so deep the sun couldn’t penetrate, bringing temporary darkness.  No wonder the Orientals refer to the locusts as “the armies of God.”  When they come marching against you, nothing can stop them.
     While our tent caterpillars are a real pain, and cause some temporary devastation, the judgments God speaks of in His Word are much, much greater and unstoppable. But, as we see in Joel 1:4,5, God always gives warning first before the major judgment falls. As the locusts of Joel’s day acted as a warning light to the nation of Israel, God sends warning lights today as well to get our attention and bring us to repentance as a nation or as an individual. It would seem that there are a number of flashing red lights in our nation right now, warning us that we have turned our back on God and made some choices which go directly against His Word. Will we heed the warnings and repent? God’s message through Solomon to the Israelites was: “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chr. 7:14). I believe that our nation, having been so blessed and used by God, is in a condition much like Israel often found itself, as we read in Jeremiah 2:13: “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns , broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  As the passage indicates, sin always comes in twos. The first step of any sin is turning away from God and His way. The second is trying to replace His provision for us with something else. 
     Where is a warning light flashing in your life? You can stop and deal with the problem, or smash the warning light!  That’s what Israel usually did. They persecuted and even killed some of the prophets because they didn’t want to hear what they had to say. What a different way Scripture would read had Israel heeded God’s warnings and repented.  The same will be true of our lives. How different our future will be if we pay attention to the warning lights and make the necessary corrections to get back on track serving God with a whole heart, soul and mind. 
                                                                                                     Forever His,
                                                                                                            Pastor Dave                               

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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