Today’s Reading: Joel 1-3
Today’s Reflection: Joel 2:12-14
12) “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13) and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14) Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?
The book Joel is one of the most perplexing among the writings of the so-called ‘minor prophets’, with it’s portents of doom and it’s harrowing description of the ‘Day of the Lord’. This day is most often described as one of fear and trembling for those outside of the will of God. As Joel 2:11 says, ‘The day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?’
But the very next text answers this question. Who can endure it? Those who return to God with fasting, weeping and mourning. Those who receive the grace and plead for the mercy of God. Those who abound in His love. Most importantly, those who don’t just pretend to do these things. Those who don’t just outwardly appear to desire connection to God, but who do so inwardly. Those who don’t just rend their garments, but those who rend their hearts.
In ancient times, rending (or tearing) one’s garments was a sign of profound grief and sorrow (Genesis 37:29-35). Particularly when someone knew they disobeyed God, rending ones garment was a sign one recognized their sin and desired to repent before the Lord and be restored to right relationship with Him (Ezra 9:1-3). But the outward act was only meant to be a sign of the inward surrender to God: the rending of the heart. That acknowledgment of having oneself caused separation from God through sin should be heart breaking for anyone who truly loves Him, ultimately driving them to repentance. In response God forgives, relenting of the destruction sinners face. God even invites the repentant person to make an offering to Him, a sign of restoration and acceptance.
The Day of the Lord is coming. Nothing will stop it. God is seeking hearts open to being transformed and made new, hearts rent asunder by sin ready to be restored and reconciled with Him. Will yours be one of them?
Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.