Focus: Joel 2:12-13 “Yet even now,” the LORD says, “return to me with all your heart– with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your garments!” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love–often relenting from calamitous punishment.
One thing that is true about all of us is that we are all in one of three places in life: 1) We are either going into a storm 2) in the midst of a storm or 3) coming out of a storm. It is the reality of the world we live in, and it will stay that way until one day the Lord returns to gather up His followers. God knows the situation His people are in, and he is gracious, compassionate and patient with them when they fail. We can see the Lord’s grace and patience especially in the prophetic writings, and it goes clear back to his covenant with Israel. God has given his people a plan for when they are in trouble.
In Joel’s short book, he describes an invasion of locusts. There was a huge locust plague that completely destroyed Israel’s crops and devastated the land. The reason this is significant is for two reasons. First, Israel was an agrarian culture. Their very livelihood was codependent on the land. Famine and pestilence could have the potential to wipe out an entire generation. Second, a locust plague was indicative of divine judgment.
In Deuteronomy 28:38-39, the Covenant stipulated that God would judge his nation with locusts and famine if they sinned by turning away from Him and failing to follow His commands. His judgment was so that Israel would return back to Him. In 1 Kings 8:37, when Solomon finished the temple, he led his people in prayer. In his prayer, it was assumed that God’s people would sin, and one of the divine judgments was plagues of locusts. Solomon’s prayer was for God’s people to return to Him and repent when they were in bondage because of sin.
Joel was writing to a nation that had long departed from the ways of the Lord, and they were experiencing divine judgment. God was disciplining his people for their hardness of heart, and the land was in chaos. They were in the midst of a storm because of their sin. Yet, God gave provision for his people. He called them to tear their hearts, not just their garments. The tearing of garments was an external symbol of remorse, but God wants inward change more than outward appearance. God’s judgment is a call for authentic repentance and return to Him.
When God’s people turn back to Him, they will experience his mercy and compassion. It will not guarantee that the pain will immediately capitulate, but God’s promise is that He will restore His people. Especially throughout Israel’s history, God promised in His Covenant that when they repented, he would return them back to the Land and bless the land and make it fruitful. They would live in blessing and peace. God’s promise is still valid today for those who trust in Him. He will restore us back to peace and make our lives fruitful and abundant with blessing if we return back to Him with our whole hearts.