WEEK ONE: REPENTANCE
JOEL 2:12-13 (NRSV)
“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.
The Old Testament prophet Joel is warning of terrible judgment coming upon the Israelites. But “even now” at the last moment, he implores the people of God to repent, to return to their God who is “gracious and compassionate.” The God who keeps covenants and always shows mercy. The God who is “slow to anger and abounding in love.” We are blessed to have such a God- who is always for us, always merciful with us, always loving us!
Our word for today is ‘rend.’ To rend means to tear, shred or rip. Rending was a custom for the Jewish people- to intentionally rip their clothes as an expression of anger, grief or shame. In this passage, Joel encouraged the people to rend their hearts rather than just their clothing. Joel’s words for us are profound. More than the symbolic ritual of rending our clothes, the rending of our hearts is deep, painful and life-changing.
Though we are not actually physically rending our hearts, in our repentance Joel implores us to grasp and fully suffer the pain of our sinfulness. When our hearts feel torn open by grief, shredded by guilt, and ripped apart by our shame, we more fully comprehend just how much we need God’s merciful healing and forgiveness. Rending our hearts creates a raw, vulnerable, sensitive, tender and open wound in which God can really work. Our hearts also become desperate, eager and responsive for the healing touch of God’s love, mercy and guidance. And our hearts become filled with gratitude for our God who IS gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love!
May every wound upon our hearts create a precious opening for God’s in-pouring love and light. May every scar upon our hearts form a seal of God’s healing, forgiveness and restoration.
“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God” (~Bob Pierce). In what ways do you sense the world is breaking God’s heart today? In what ways do you sense that you are breaking God’s heart today?
In rending your heart, how might your wounds become an opening for God- an opportunity for God to work through you- to heal those heart-breaking things?
Consider the ways God has healed your heart. How might this scarred “seal of God’s healing, forgiveness and restoration” serve as a blessing for God in your life?
Gracious and compassionate God,
Help us to know the magnitude of our sin and the magnificence of your love as we rend our hearts today. Amen.