Joel 2:12-13″‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ 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.”
We have trouble imagining the circumstances under which this was written, but East Africa has had a locust infestation even this year, though perhaps not as severe as the one referenced here. I read a headline just a couple of days ago asking, “What happened to America’s locusts?” In other words, America used to have such extreme outbreaks too, but hasn’t for a long time now. (I wonder what people think of that aspect of “climate change?”) The closest most Americans can come to imagining the situation is the extreme situation with the red-eyed cicadas a couple of years ago, but from what I read, they were more noisy than destructive, the way locusts are. All of that aside, the important point here is in the first line of verse two: “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” For many hundreds of years there had been a cultural custom of tearing your clothing as a sign of mourning, contrition, or deep sorrow. Joel is telling us that such external symbols are meaningless without a genuine change of heart. God isn’t interested in our “going through the motions” without actually repenting of what got us into the situation in the first place. In yesterday’s message in the service the Lord said through me that all too often we regret the consequences of our rebellion against Him without regretting the rebellion itself. That isn’t real repentance! God allows the consequences in order to get our attention, and indeed such consequences are a major reason why God gives us rules in the first place, but what we need to do is let go of our insistence on being in control, so that obeying God will be our first response instead of something we come to reluctantly.
Seeing all that is going on in America at the moment, I can’t help but feel America is having a “locust moment,” one that will be corrected only by genuine repentance. The situation is certainly complex on many levels, but God has it all sorted out and the answer to it all is turning to Him. I feel more involved than ever before in my life, yet I am physically on the other side of the world. I need to be careful of my own heart attitudes and pray for a spirit of repentance to come over the whole country. The event in Washington D.C. recently with Franklin Graham was certainly encouraging and a step in the right direction, but I can’t participate in such things physically. Since I can’t “rend my garments,” that is more encouragement to “rend my heart,” repenting of national sins like Daniel did (Daniel 9) and seeking to have my own heart right before the Lord.
Father, yesterday afternoon You had me point out that different parts of the Body of Christ have different functions and shouldn’t be comparing themselves to one another. Help me recognize Your tasks for me and do them with my whole heart, not insisting that others join me but encouraging them to seek Your plans for them, so that together we may do Your will in all its varied aspects, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!