He's Holding out for Us
"Yet even now," declares the LORD, "return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil." Joel 2:12-13
The message of Joel is intriguing. Chapter one tells the reader that the nation of Judah had just been ravaged by a phenomenal locust plague. The infestation was unusually severe, one so bad that no one living at the time could remember anything worse, 1:3. Conditions were so bad that the destruction affected all facets of society. The country was truly suffering. Joel enters the scene warning the people that a day of greater judgment and punishment was coming if they failed to repent. The implication is that the locust plague mentioned in chapter one was sent by God in an effort to wake up the people from spiritual slumber. They had grown apart from God and forgotten their dependence on Him. And, it was at their lowest, most vulnerable moment that God stood by with His hand outstretched, hoping for their repentance. The words of 2:12-13 are touching and reveal important things concerning genuine repentance and the nature of God. For example...
Verse twelve teaches us that those who truly repent move with a sense of urgency. "Yet even now," declares the Lord... When we realize the reality of the punishment that will come with a failure to act and the possibility that God could deal out retribution at any moment, there will be little delay in moving toward God. A person who truly repents will realize that time is precious and one moment spent outside a relationship with God is just one moment too long.
Verse twelve teaches us that true repentance involves a desire to return to God. God said, "Return to me with all your heart..." Generations before, the children of Israel entered into a covenant relationship with God. Through the worship of idols, trust in human alliances, and turning their back on God, they had not lived up to their side of the agreement. God is calling them to return. Like the children of Israel, Christians have made a covenant with God. We can violate that covenant thus destroying the connection with God because of our sinful behavior. But yet, God always calls us back so that the relationship can be fully restored to its former quality. If you have rejected the covenant you once made with God, won't you come back? God is holding out for your repentance. See Luke 15:11-32.
Verse twelve teaches us that true repentance comes from the heart. Rend your heart and not your garments. True repentance goes farther than fear of punishment and the confession of sin. God wants our heart. True repentance involves a complete and total change in one's life. It is an inward change of the heart and while it begins in our mind, it is seen outwardly in our actions. Going along with this...
Verse twelve teaches us that true repentance will be seen in our actions. Fasting, weeping, and mourning are all evidence of true, genuine repentance. However, these things do not profit the person who has not changed his will. In Joel 2:15, Judah was called upon to change their will and demonstrate a national assembly where each person called on the name of the Lord. This involved people from the oldest to the youngest in society. Each person needed to refocus their mind on their extreme dependence upon God. So must we. We need to communicate to God that we are sorrowful for our own sin and realize our dependence upon Him. Fruits of repentance will be seen when our motives are genuine and true. See Matthew 3:8.
Verse thirteen tells us how great and awesome the God is that we serve. When we consider His graciousness, compassion, how He is slow to anger, how He abounds in lovingkindness, and will relent of evil, it should move us to humbly serve Him. Praise God that He is not a vengeful, unloving God who looks forward to dealing out retribution! He holds out for us, desiring a personal, caring relationship with each one of us. We are truly special to Him. Oh how He loves us, just as a father does his child. We are His children! How close is your relationship with God? Do you need to return to Him? He is holding out for you to come back!
By Matt Allen
From Expository Files 13.8; August 2006