Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 30 2019 - Joel 2:1-17 – Rend your heart

Joel again warns the people of the coming "day of the Lord". He is not talking about the final judgment when God holds the whole world to account, he is speaking of invasion by foreign powers that will sweep God's people into captivity and leave the country a "desolate waste" – just as clouds of locusts would leave the land dry and bare.

But Joel brings this warning not because he likes to bring bad news or delights in speaking of God's judgment; he brings this message to call the people to repentance:

‘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.
Who knows? He may turn and relent. (vv. 12-14)

The Lord does not delight in judgment. He could well have turned his back on us all and left us to face judgment and destruction, but he sent his own beloved Son into the world to endure that judgment in our place. Jesus told us that he is the one who shows us what God is truly like, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus said, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). The living God created this world and made it for himself. He is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."

So God calls not only his rebellious people, but the whole world to turn to him in heartfelt repentance and faithful trust. God is not fooled by an outward show of religion and by outward demonstrations of sorrow over wrongdoing. Joel calls on the people to "Rend your heart and not your garments" (v.13). Jesus told us that the living God looks for people who will "worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). Our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, longs for us to be reconciled to him and to worship and serve him from a heart filled with love for him.

And this is God's longing not only for us but for the whole world. Joel calls for trumpets to be blown in Zion to summon the people back to God. We also are called to be heralds, blowing the gospel trumpet with a summons for all to hear the good news:

God was bringing the world back to himself through Christ. He did not hold people’s sins against them. God has trusted us with the message that people may be brought back to him. So we are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us. Here is what Christ wants us to beg you to do. Come back to God! (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, New International Reader's Version)

Many around us would say that they do not believe in God, but in their inner being there is a conviction that life has some sort of purpose, they just cannot fathom what it is. We can tell them why they were created and open their eyes to see the world around them in a new light. Others might say that they believe that there is some supreme being or force behind the universe, but they do not know what that being or force is like. We can tell them of the Lord Jesus who shows us what God is like. Others have a distorted view of God as a great Victorian headmaster in the sky who watches to see when we are out of line so that he might come after us with thunderous judgment. They also need to come to Jesus Christ and learn of the loving compassion of our God. All manner of people need to hear the wonderful message of the gospel – God's good news for a lost world.

Father God, help us to worship you in Spirit and in truth – to worship you from a heart that has felt the fire of your love in the Lord Jesus. Help us then by your Spirit to tell others the good news of the gospel, and to do so with grace and love that mirrors that of the Lord Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook