“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him — a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? (Joel 2:12-14)
How To Come Back To The Lord
From the beginning of man’s rebellion against God the need of repentance has been of the utmost importance. Separation from the Lord is death. Reconciliation is the only avenue man can find the blessings of God to avoid the punishment for sin. Grace and mercy are the key elements of allowing man to seek forgiveness. The first thing that happened in the Garden of Eden following man’s disobedience was the grace of God to allow man to live. He punished the man and woman but provided them a means to regain a relationship with the Creator. God is not willing that any should perish and gives by His own hand the opportunity for sinful man to change his life and find salvation. Through the blood of Jesus Christ all men have the gift of forgiveness when they come to God in a penitent manner. Found in the means of forgiveness is the requirements of change.
Joel pleads with the people to change their lives. He writes how God will accept them again if they will do what is required. This change must be a complete change with the heart being totally given to the Lord. Turning to God means turning away from sin. Jesus taught that man cannot serve God and mammon. Coming to the Lord cannot leave part of the heart in the world of sin and part of the heart in the grace of God. Repentance means a complete changing of mind to serve the Lord. Sin is so grievous it cannot be removed without a full commitment to reject it all.
There is great sorrow in repentance. It is easy to think of sin as if one has only been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. This does not seem to such a serious act because it only involves a cookie. Sin is death. It is terrible. The nostrils of God are offended by the act of sin. Man cannot ignore the seriousness of sin looking upon sin as nothing important. Can the death of a loved one go without feelings of great sorrow, weeping and mourning? It would seem remarkable to see a child not mourn his mother or a wife her husband. The point is that death brings deep sorrow. Sin is death and should bring greater sorrow than the death of a loved one. Joel shows the character of godly sorrow with fasting, weeping and mourning because death has occurred. The heart is torn not the clothing. A heart burdened with the sickness of sin will react with great sorrow and remorse. Turning to the Lord will all the heart brings the penalty of sin to bear upon a soft conscience.
Who can explain the love of God? When a man turns to Him with all his heart and comes to the throne of forgiveness with great sorrow the Lord God is gracious and merciful to remove the sin as far as the east is from the west. Our Father is slow to anger and will forgive a penitent heart. He is not only a kind God but a God of great kindness. He will relent from punishing because the softened heart of sorrow has shown the spirit of forgiveness in His child. Consider how many times we sin in a lifetime and yet He forgives. God is willing to forgive anyone who comes to Him with a penitent heart no matter what they have done. Can we understand that? As sinful and rebellious as the children of Israel had been the Lord was willing to take them back – when they repented. He is willing to take me back. Thank God.
He that feels himself alarmed by his conscience, anxious for the attainment of a better state and afflicted by the memory of his past faults, may justly conclude that the great work of repentance has begun. (Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, April 6, 1751)