What was His point? It doesn't sound very loving, but God said He was using such things as grasshopper-encounters to bring His people to repentance. God wants us to return to Him—for good and not evil, for a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 “[Heavenly] Father knows best” but we seem to persist in going our own way until some calamity befalls us. Then we start to think seriously.
Locusts are referred to in a negative way from Genesis and Exodus through First Kings, Judges, Joel, Amos, Nahum, Jeremiah, Proverbs, Psalms, and Second Chronicles with their culmination in Revelation chapter nine. Why grasshoppers? I really don't know. Perhaps to show us that such small things, cumulatively, can cause such devastation?
In the midst of stories about grasshoppers, one shining promise of hope stands out in Joel 2:25 26. “Then I [the Lord God] will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you, and you shall have plenty to eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame.” How can something that was literally consumed, eaten up, and digested in a grasshopper's stomach still be given back to us? Let's leave those details up to God who is in the miracle business. If He says He can do it, I believe Him.
Other versions of the Bible translate “make up to you the years the locusts have eaten” as “restore to you, repay to you, give you back what you lost, recompense you, and make up for.” Who of us doesn't have some past actions or thoughts that we regret? In some cases literal years have been wasted, years squandered, time and opportunities lost that seem irretrievable, unrecoverable. They are eaten up and consumed. Period. End of story? Not so, according to God!
I'm reminded of Jesus' story of the two brothers and their Dad. In accord with the Eastern custom in biblical times, just as in the present, inheritance didn't get divided until the parent died. The younger son went totally against normal protocol by saying, in effect, “Dad, I wish you were dead! Give me my share now.” Actually, according to Eastern custom, as the younger son he got only a third of Dad's inheritance. Two thirds was always given to an eldest son. Dad must have given him his share promptly too. Dad ended up with nothing. That's why Dad said to the older son, “All that I have is yours.” If they had such taxes in those days, big bro could have taken Dad as his dependent. Big bro could have been having all the parties he wanted. He was pretty rich since his younger brother left; it was his choice to keep diligently working in the field with the hired help. Okay, we admire that, but his attitude stinks. He was jealous and sullen and vengeful. I just hope he treated his Dad respectfully—and his Mom, if there was one living.
The younger son had his own confrontation with grasshoppers. His fair-weather friends off in some non-Jewish country consumed all his inheritance like grasshoppers and then spit him out. God let it happen in order to draw him back to his father's house. He came to his senses, reflected on his sorry condition, and followed a good re-plan: Regret, repent, return. He was received by his merciful, loving Dad unconditionally, reconciled and restored to his family, and it was time to rejoice. Just like the Joel chapter two promise in action and fulfillment.
I'd love to know a sequel to this dysfunctional family story. Or at least an epilogue. Did older bro repent of his sour attitude? Did he let bygones be bygones and shared his inheritance with the younger bro? Did they all live happily ever after? Maybe yes, maybe no. Jesus didn't tell us.
What did Jesus want us to learn? Restoration after repentance is possible and available even after grasshoppers, whatever their true identity, have gobbled up years of our lives. I have experienced such grasshopper-eaten years. God promised to repay, to give back what was lost, to make up to us if we repent. The returns we receive might not be exactly in the same kind. In fact, they will more than likely be better and in greater generosity than what those insects ate and which went through their digestive system.