Originally posted August 2016
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 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. Joel 2:12-13
How often, especially among we who struggle in addiction, do we feel that we have gone too far? We are aware that our actions are sin, but because of the besetting nature of it, we stumble time and again. Our thoughts race to the many times we have told people we were "sorry", but we really were not. Like the little boy who cried wolf we have crossed a line and surely, like those we have wronged in this world, God can no longer continue to forgive us.
The people of Israel had this very same problem. They understood that they were God’s chosen people, but they failed Him over and over again. Yet God continued to rescue them over and over again. The prophet Joel brings this to bear in his writings. He reminds the people in chapter one of how God brought judgment upon them, but similar to the exodus from Egypt, He saved them and restored them. Then here in chapter two, he speaks of a coming Day of the Lord in which judgment will come upon Jerusalem once again.
It is here that we who have failed the Lord over and over again can find hope. The Lord tells them in verse twelve "yet even now.... return to me." Even though we have broken our promise to stop for the fifteenth time, we have said the same prayer of repentance so many times it feels scripted, and we just can't believe that one more time could mean anything to God. He tells us "even now... return to me." Here is hope.
The Lord tells Israel to return with all their heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. The God who sees the hearts of men will never turn away genuine repentance even when He knows that the next potential stumble is just around the corner. This call to repentance came with a warning as well, "...rend your hearts, not your garments." Just as the Lord sees our hearts He can also see when our sorrow is an outward display and not an inward reality. But like Israel, if our hearts are true and we feel genuine Godly sorrow for our sin, and we repent, He is, as John says, "faithful to forgive us" (1 John 1:9). To Israel, Joel then proclaims the promise of Exodus 10, "for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love."
Like Israel, we can have hope in the faithful love of our heavenly Father and the assurance of our standing before Him to continue, renewed in spirit, and strengthened for our battle.
Trinity Bible Church