“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.”
That’s really, really, really good news. Isn’t it? That God is gracious and merciful. The Holy just God of the universe whom we have sinned against is gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger and He is abounding, He’s like full of, like overflowing with steadfast love. And He relents over disaster. Meaning He doesn’t pour out the judgment and the wrath we deserve when we do what Joel 2:12–13 says, when we return to Him with all our hearts, with fasting, with weeping with mourning, when we rend our hearts, not our garments.
When we fall short of the glory of God, we ought to return to God in repentance.
When we return to the Lord, our God, the whole picture here in the book of Joel, is God saying to His people, “Return to me, turn from your sin, turn from your idolatry and immorality and trust in me. Return to me with all your heart.” The whole picture here with fasting, with weeping with mourning, just a contrition, a humility before God, in light of sin, and a rending of your heart. It’s just basically a laying bare of your heart before God and asking God to renew you and change you and restore you.
And God delights in doing all of that, in renewing, changing, restoring, redeeming, saving, transforming. God delights in that, when we turn from our sin with fasting, with weeping, with mourning. And obviously, this is in one sense a picture of salvation. Like we experience forgiveness from God the moment we turn from our sin and ourselves and replace our trust in Jesus as Savior, Lord of our lives.
He relents the judgment and wrath that we deserve and He reconciles us to Himself. This is the Gospel, and this is the Christian life. It’s a daily turning from sin. It’s the tendency we have to go back to that which we have been saved. And so we are continually returning to Him. Even as we prayed on a previous podcast episode, with fasting, with weeping, with mourning.
I just think about my kids when maybe one of them does something really wrong and they realize it, and they come to me or Heather in tears. And they’re like truly, sorry. Like this is, it’s such a beautiful moment. Obviously, I would rather it would not get to those kinds of moments. I’d rather we just were experiencing like perfect harmony where there was no sin, but when there is sin, to turn with weeping and with mourning to God, and to know that He’s slow to anger and overflowing in steadfast love, that He’s gracious and merciful.
So, God, we pray that you would help us to continually repent. Well, God, I pray that there’s anyone listening to this right now who has never turned from their sin and themselves and trusted in you, Jesus, to save them from their sin through what you did on the cross and your resurrection from the dead. Trust in you as Lord of their life. God, we pray. I pray that that moment would happen right now. They would return to you with weeping and mourning, and experience your grace and your mercy and your steadfast love.
And then, oh God, once they do, and for all of us who have, help us to continually turn from sin to you. And when we fall, God help us to turn back to you quickly, quickly. And we pray even right now, as we’re praying that you would uncover, expose in our hearts any and all ways where we are not walking with you, or we’re not honoring you in our thoughts, in our desires, in our words, in our actions, or whatever it might be, help us to turn from our sin continually, even right now, with contrition, with mourning and weeping, and times with fasting, and you would renew our hearts as we humbly come before you.
And even as we pray this, we praise you for your word that tells us you are gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God, we praise you. We are so thankful that you are gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. So help us then return to you and your love continually, and we might walk in intimacy with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Throughout the fall, we are following the McLean Bible Church Reading Plan. You can access the reading plan here.