“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)
The Meaning Of Repentance
Change is not an easy thing for man to do. Pride keeps the heart from believing he is wrong and he needs to correct something in his life. Repentance has always been a difficult emotion to accept. It suggests there is a higher authority to bow down to and a proud heart must be stripped of its veneer before redemption is granted. Joel explains repentance that comes from godly sorrow. The people of Israel have turned away from God. Their only hope is to change their hearts seeking the grace of the Lord. God will not accept half-hearted devotion or insincere pleas of repentance. Coming to God requires the emptying of self on a much larger scale than man recognizes. The result is more amazing that when a heart repents, the Lord will forgive. Before forgiveness comes, repentance must be sincere.
Repentance means to turn to God will all the heart. The Lord will not accept anything less. There are no “if ands or buts” in the redemption offered that requires the complete spirit of man to fall before the Lord prostrate in sorrow. Joel suggests three important elements to repentance: fasting, weeping and mourning. The lesson from God is not the mechanics of repentance but the spirit of the heart. Fasting, weeping and mourning show the complete sorrow for what has been committed against God and begging for undeserved forgiveness. Repentance can become a cavalier experience of rote worship expressed from lips that have no heart. Saying, “I’m sorry” and meaning it brings a different tone than an apology. Sin is a terrible plague that cost the Father the life of His Son. Jesus did not die so that men can get an excuse for what they have done. Repentance demands a rending of the heart. Tearing the clothes does not bring a penitent heart. A deep emotional experience has transpired that changes the life of the individual.
Forgiveness is inexpressible in the joy it brings from a heart broken by sin. Repentance does not come as a measure of man’s greatness. A gracious and merciful God who is slow to anger and full of kindness grants it. Man does not deserve to be forgiven but the Father relents from doing harm and removes the sin. Not only does the Lord remove the sin but also He leaves a blessing. It is hard to understand how often we sin against the Father and the fruit of repentance is found in the blessing received from the Lord in forgiveness. And He will do it time and again. God is so gracious. He is such a loving Father. Forgiveness comes from a heart broken through repentance and the blessing of the Lord removes sin as far as the east is from the west. Looking at repentance from the eyes of God reminds us of the cost of redemption. Praying to the Father for the forgiveness of sin must always be filled with the sorrow and pain endured by Jesus Christ so that I can enjoy a blessing. Thank you God for your loving-kindness and eternal mercy.
Surely we take the goodness of God for granted. His goodness leadeth to repentance, not to complacency. (Vance Havner; 1901-1986)