“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 have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
Joel 2:12-14 NIV (1984)
With God, there is always an “even now”. In chapters one and even two, God pronounces His judgment against the nation of Judah for their disobedience. God through his prophets pleaded for the hearts of His people. Today if you’ve walked away from the Lord, or if you’ve found yourself far from Him because you’ve slowly but surely drifted away from Him. God is compassionate and He is forgiving. This is our reason for returning, because of who He is. And we return because He promises to return to those who return to Him (Malachi 3:7). This is God! A holy God who must punish wickedness, and also has compassion on all He’s made (Psalm 145:9).
God tells us how to return:
FASTING: It maybe fasting from what has consumed your attention or affections. It may just be taking a significant time to purposely draw near Him.
WEEPING: Don’t hold back, consider how committing sin has wounded the heart of such a loving God. A God who dwelled with us (John 1:14), died for us that He may rescue us. Weep for sorrow. Weep because you see nothing else in all this earth that is worthy of hurting His heart or disobeying His law. Weep because you know you were wrong. Weep but know that after repentance you are forgiven by Him.
MOURNING: Mourn because it is a bitter thing to forsake God. Mourn because you see the error of your ways. Mourn because you feel foolish, but know that He doesn’t call you fool, He calls you, “Beloved.”
There are endless examples in the Old Testament of God loving and pursuing undeserving people. People who didn’t deserve His grace didn’t deserve to be called by His name. Yet because He loved them and He keeps His covenant, time and time again He’d send His prophets to a stubborn people. The book of Hosea vividly describes the rampant idolatry of God’s people. How they even believed that their idols were the givers of their food, water, grain, oil, and wine. How does God respond to all this?
“Therefore I am now going to allure; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)
God will separate ‘her’ (the people of Israel) from gods and in the desert or wilderness and ‘she’ will finally come to her senses and love the Lord. ‘She’ will see that all this time it has been the God of Israel who has given her necessities and luxuries. God would restore Israel in this desert and join them to Him forevermore (Hosea 2:19).
We are not like the people who shrink away from God or completely despair of life itself. We are people who draw near to Him with our backsliding and He heals us (Jeremiah 3:22). We come to Him bare-handed with our broken and contrite hearts. And He will not despise us (Psalm 51:17).
I encourage you to never get weary of repentance. To never get weary of coming to Him broken for your sins. He will not get weary of forgiving us and reviving us to life again. And do not cease to be in awe of such a God. A God who is offended and yet forgives. Forgiveness is not a hint that God takes sin lightly, but rather how serious sin is. And don’t be deceived, you can live a life that is pleasing in His eyes. When you hear a whisper saying, “You can’t overcome this ________ .” Know that this is a lie. You can overcome any besetting sin. You don’t need to be “stronger” you need a stronger love of God. Read the Word continually and see how worthy this God is of all your affections. Note how His promises are better and truer than anything sin promises you. Cling to God and don’t let go.
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