By Tyson Thorne

March 7, 2019

WhatGodWants Large

The first chapter of the book of Joel describes a locust plague that devastated the land. The land was so ravaged that the people had no food to eat and nothing to sacrifice for their sins. In the midst of such devastation Joel gives a prophecy about a future destruction from a foreign military that will act as God's arm of discipline against Israel. The reason for both the actual plague and the coming judgment are the same: the people had forgotten God. With nothing left and a future filled with dread God provides hope (2.12). The Lord is not interested in sacrifices, he desires their hearts.

The repentance God calls his people to cannot be mere lip service. God prescribes how they are to repent. First, with "all their heart" (v. 12). They need to recognize that they have turned away from following God to follow their own desires, and leave their desires and return to God. Second, they need to fast, weep and mourn (v. 12b). In other words, they need to be broken over their sinfulness. Humans are a proud creation, and being broken over our failures isn't an enjoyable experience. God asks for brokenness over our rebellion from him so that he may mend and make us whole in him. Third, he tells us to "rend our hearts, not our garments" (v. 13). In history, people would tear their clothing as an outward expression of grief or emotional pain. God says he's not interested in outward expressions, only inward determination to be made right with the Creator. 

Why would one put themselves through such pain and awkwardness? Because God, though our judge, is inclined toward mercy. We can be in a right relationship with him should we seek his forgiveness (13b). Instead of judgment, God may choose blessing (v. 14). Joel tells the people that God may bless them with food and drink (v. 14b). These provisions are not to satisfy their own hunger, however. The blessing is much larger in scope. It means that he will bless the nation to the point that they will once more have the resources to eat and make sacrifices to keep themselves in relationship with God. 

Today we do not make sacrifices for our sins. Jesus has become our sacrifice, by taking on himself all our sins and experiencing the death and separation from God that was our destiny. We need to remember that Jesus is the God of both Testaments. We may be familiar with his first earthly ministry of blessing and sacrifice, but his second is that of judgment and rescue. We see these two sides of our Savior in Joel. Judgment will come to those who do not repent and turn to God, while forgiveness and redemption await those who 2do. 

Should we decide to trust Jesus with both this life and the one to come, we do so in like manner to the early Israelites. We must understand how we have offended God, be broken over our rebellion, and rend our hearts so that we may be known as his people and he our God. We must turn from our sinful desires and toward the God who loves us and will save us from the sway of sin and darkness. 

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