January 4

Joel 2:12-14 12'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' 13Rend 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. 14Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing– grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

Joel (Jehovah is God) most likely prophesied early in the reign of king Josiah. He had predicted a massive attack of locusts. For an economy entirely dependent upon agriculture and pasture for their flocks, this would have been devastating. But as always, the Lord is bringing calamity so that the people will turn back to Him. He pleads with us to turn so that He does not have to use devastating events to bring us to our senses.

God pleaded with them to make a wholehearted return. He even described what it would look like, fasting and weeping and mourning. He pleaded with them to rend their heart, not their clothes. God is not looking for some outward action, but a deep inward work. Rending your heart is the result of yielding to conviction. To often, we turn from conviction and do not allow the Spirit to finish His work. We break away before our heart has been torn. He is abounding in love, and desires to turn from the calamity He has planned, if we would just turn back to Him.

When God relents, He not only diverts the calamity, but He may also leave a blessing. His gracious, compassionate heart longs to bless us. Why would we grow hard against such a loving God? He is so consistently good to us that we grow spoiled and expect His generosity. We are like the bride who is given everything her heart could desire by her loving husband, and then turns and flirts with a stranger.

Prayer: Lord God help us to rend our hearts, so that You can divert the calamity we would otherwise need.