Prepare to Listen. Be still and silent then pray: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Psalm 51:1)
Prayerfully Read Joel 2:12-17.
12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14Who 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? 15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 17Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, “Where is their God?”’
In the Old Testament, the word heart (used twice in this passage) essentially means mind and will and thus our whole being. The rhetorical question in v14 isn’t casting doubt on God’s willingness to forgive, but rather emphasizing God’s sovereignty and freedom.
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.”
Even now repent (meaning change your mind and actions) and return. Not tomorrow or next week when you feel like it, but even now regardless of what you think or feel or where you are. While the repentance Joel called for was for the entire nation, it can only happen if we begin with ourselves. The trouble is we too often think it’s our unsaved neighbors who should repent; or those who take a different political stance to us. Those are the ones who need to return to the Lord and change, and I fool myself into believing I’m okay. It’s tempting to condemn those over there and ignore the problem over here. Joel’s message isn’t for the other person out there. It’s for each one of us, regardless what church or political party or social groups we belong to. It’s not the other who must repent and return even now. I/you must change my/your mind, make about-face decisions and walk in the way of Jesus.
We can do it, even now, even today because, as Joel reminds us from the experience of Moses (see Exodus 34:6), the Lord, your God, “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” We repent and return, not to avoid punishment, but to bathe in the grace, mercy and steadfast love of our God.
Even now repent and return, a whole-hearted act to God who loves and is love. What changes do you believe God is calling you to make even now?
Respond to Jesus
Gracious and merciful Lord, I want to live in your grace, mercy and steadfast love today so that those I meet may know you as a God of grace who willingly forgives and receives us, regardless of who we are or what we have and haven’t done. Amen.
Go live obediently, displaying Christ’s grace of forgiveness in the world.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.