February 26, 2011

Minor Prophets XXIV: God Wants Whole Hearts Not Torn Clothes

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. Joel 2:13-14

The theology of Joel 2 verse 13 and 14 are relevant to our day and should be noted.

“Rend your heart” is an imperative to truly mourn or lament with one’s heart. To understand and accept that one is wrong or depraved. God did not want torn clothes any more than He wanted roasted calves, goats or lambs in the Levitical sacrificial system…he wanted/wants changed hearts. Repentant hearts and changed people not window dressing and lip service. They are to return to the Lord. The second portion of verse 13 mentions God’s love, grace, compassion and the fact that He is slow to anger. This of course can be viewed as the recurrent theme of mercy and grace throughout the Bible. Man has done nothing and can do nothing to warrant God’s forgiveness but God offers it to the repentant and obedient out of love because he is abounding in grace and mercy. This is a part of the immutable characteristics of a holy God, a characteristic that stays the same throughout Scripture. For a depraved sinner or hopeless case which all of us are, this is reassuring. We may change but He does not. He is the anchor to holiness and the harbor in the tempest of a sinful world. Joel then goes on to hope that the people would again have offerings to bring to the Lord (their sacrifices and themselves)-not food for their own tables (food shortage from plague or analogy of spiritual starvation?).

In light of this passage we see the modern Christian in an act of repentance or seeking forgiveness. We need to repent now because we do not know when judgment comes…but it will come because God is just and He must judge sin. The entire last Book of the Bible: Revelation, is a prophecy of Jesus Christ and His imminent return. It is not to scare the pants off of people as many TV evangelists would have us believe, but it is an attempt to assure that people have turned to or turned back to God with the correct heart. We see this same exact parallel in Joel. Doom is only guaranteed for the unrepentant and willfully sinful which don’t seek to get their hearts and minds right with God. Peace, abundance and glory for those that obey. Judgment, destruction and doom for the foolish that do not obey. Judgment lies at our doorstep and it is not too late to repent and seek forgiveness from and ever-patient and loving God.

God wants whole hearts not broken hearts and torn clothes. He wants blessed and whole lives not cursed and broken people.

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