“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” Joel 2:12-13

Think of the most powerful storm system you’ve ever witnessed or been part of. Imagine a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on the Carolina coast. There is literally nothing mankind can do to stop it. All we can do is watch it come through and wait to begin picking up the pieces from the aftermath. 

The mightiest storm that our earth’s weather system could ever produced is absolutely nothing compared to the almighty strength and wrath of God. With a simple word, God spoke earth’s mightiest forces into existence. And yet from the beginning of creation feeble humanity has attempted to withstand that God. 

In utter futility, we’ve tried running from, hiding from, and fighting that almighty Hand. To think we can escape Him is sheer insanity. Yet by and large, God in His longsuffering has allowed sin and rebellion to run its course down through the ages. Yet someday soon, God’s mercy will expire. The Day of the Lord is coming. 

This day of reckoning is the major theme of the book of Joel. 

Joel’s message to the Jews directly and to us by application is short and sweet: Repent with a very real and sincere change of heart, before that great Day of the Lord.

The word repent carries with it the idea of feeling pain, sorrow or regret for something done or spoken. There should always be real evidence for someone who truly repents. 

I love the words Joel was inspired to use to help us recognize true and genuine repentance. He begs us, “Rend your hearts, not your garments

You see, the Hebrews had a custom of tearing one’s clothing as an expression of extraordinary emotion, usually of grief, terror, or horror. We find this expression happening three different times just in the book of Genesis: Reuben, upon discovering Joseph had been removed from the pit; Jacob, upon hearing his sons’ deceitful report about Joseph’s supposed demise; and the brothers, upon the discovery of Joseph’s cup in Benjamin’s bag on their way back from visiting him in Egypt.  

And indeed, we should be grief-stricken and horrified when we sin against our holy God.

But instead of tearing our clothes, Joel is pleading with you to do the same with our hearts, our very being…to rend them. He is calling us to repentance.

Real repentance is not just feeling sorry for our sin. Real repentance means changing our heart-and a complete change of heart requires more than a partial surrender. Giving God ninety-nine percent is not enough—we can’t keep even one small part for ourselves. This is an all-or-nothing decision.

So what needs to change in your heart? Are you ready to repent and give yourself fully to God? Remember, the Lord is actively looking to show Himself strong on behalf those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Rather than tearing your clothes, instead turn your heart toward the One whose Spirit lives inside you, for the great and terrible day of the Lord is coming where every person WILL be judged!

If we do this, look what we’ll always find…

…for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…