What does God’s grace mean to you today? Someone has described it as “unmerited favour”. If this definition is true it helps to explain God’s invitation to His wayward people. “Even now” in spite of everything, rejection, worshiping other gods, denying My Sovereignty, declares the Lord, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12).
It was the custom of the Jewish people to tear their garments when overwhelmed by grief and sorrow, but through Joel God tells them their hearts need to be broken. “Rend your hearts, not your garments” (2:13). The reality of repentance is internal change, not external show.
What would give them the confidence to return to God after years of apostacy? God Himself reminds them of His character which is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love”(2:13). What an awesome God! All He requires is sincerity of heart, as we have seen. The heart was considered to be the seat of emotions and intellect. Perhaps, if repentance measures up to God’s standard He will even bless His people once again (2:14).
There is a wonderful celebratory aspect to Joel’s prophecy. With trumpets, the people will gather together to fast and pray, consecrating themselves together in a holy assembly. Perhaps they will then hold one another accountable to the covenant they make with the Lord their God. Everyone including nursing babies is included in the call of God. As they weep, the priests must acknowledge their total dependence upon God [Yahweh]. Suddenly they will be gripped with the realization they need to bear witness to the nations around them! Theirs is the only true GOD (2:17). As we have noted before, it is through Israel the seed of Abraham, that all nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). This happy promise has been fulfilled through the Messiah, Jesus (Galatians 3:8).
God’s invitation comes to us twofold today, since we have this stunning call from ages past. We also have the words from the lips of our precious Lord and Saviour: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His rest isn’t calling us to idleness, but rather to that exquisite peace of mind which being right with God provides.
Jesus reminds us there are only two important goals in life. The health and wealth we so often see as a measure of success cannot compare with that heartfelt worship we owe to God, which flows out of hearts filled with gratitude. Nor do they demonstrate that we are indeed followers of the One we say we worship; He does not exist to make me healthy and wealthy. Jesus gave up every right in order to provide mankind with a relationship with His heavenly Father.
God not only invites us into His service, but He also empowers us to know and do His will. In the most magnificent ways little things take on new meaning – kindness and sharing. We will be rewarded for things in heaven that we weren’t even aware pleased God here on earth, when our hearts are right with God.
If we accept God’s invitation to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind, we will find ourselves loving our neighbour that much, and even more than we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39).
by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)