Thursday, August 11, 2022

            Joel was a minor prophet who delivered a message from God to the southern kingdom also known as Judah.  His message was one of great earnestness—judgment was imminent upon the nation because of their sins.  If we looked for a key passage in Joel to consider, we might choose Joel 2:12-13.  In these verses, we learn some timely lessons about God’s way of dealing with us.  We read, “’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” (Joel 2:12-13).  Joel teaches us four relevant lessons from these two verses.
            First, we learn that we can return to the Lord.  We can come to the Lord for the first time or we can return to Him after a season of roaming or wandering away from Him.  Like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, our Father’s arms are always open and ready to receive us back into the fold.  We live in a day of grace and invitation.  We enjoy the unearned and undeserved favor of God.  And we live with His invitation to come to Him.  Perhaps you have departed from the Lord in some way.  Maybe today you return to Him and leave behind the diversions and distractions that have pulled you away from Him.
            Second, we learn about the urgency of returning to the Lord.  Joel used the expression “even now.”  There is not a better time to come to the Lord than now—here, now and at this time.  Why delay until later the unfinished business that you have with the Lord now?  We have no guarantees of tomorrow or next week or next year.  But we do have the gift of “even now.”  We are invited to return to the Lord at this moment. No time is better to seek the Lord than now and the moment at hand.  This could be a life-changing moment for you.   
            Third, when we return to the Lord, we make a change of heart.  People in Joel’s day often made an outward demonstration out of rending their garments to show that they were serious about repentance and contrition.  But, at times, their outward display did not lead to an inward change.  The rending was more show than substance.  God calls us to change the heart.  It is the heart that is wicked and in need of repentance and change.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  The heart is where we begin to plot sinfulness and wickedness.  We might understand the heart today as the mind, the will or the human way of doing things.  God says that when we return to Him a change of character is in order.
            Fourth, we learn that God is patient, slow to anger and abundantly compassionate.  He desires to see His people return to Him.  It is not His wish to see anyone languish in sin and rebellion and the consequences of such things.  Today, God’s Spirit continues to call people to forgiveness and reconciliation.  Maybe you are one of those people the Lord is calling today.  He can and will relent from sending judgment if we return to Him.  Joel gave his readers a vision of the coming day where God’s Spirit would be poured out upon His people.  We know this as the Day of Pentecost where the Spirit descended upon believers.  We read, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28).  The Spirit of God is still at work today.  He convicts, calls, comforts and counsels us.  Perhaps today, He convicts you of your need to return to the Lord.  Maybe He calls you to serve in a new way.  Possibly He comes to comfort you in a time of uncertainty and worry.  Maybe He counsels you to understand what God is doing in your life.  Prophets almost always call us to see and know the Lord in new ways.  What does the Lord have waiting for you today?  Have a great Thursday and remember our communal lunch on Sunday after worship!      

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