Rend Your Heart and Not Your Garments

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JOEL 1:1-3:21 | REVELATION 1:1-20 | PSALM 128:1-6 | PROVERBS 29:18

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 Joel was another hell-and-brimstone prophet who didn’t care to mince words when it came to delivering the word of the LORD. We enter today another book of prophecy that bears the name of this prophet, Joel.

The imagery of the locusts coming in to town and wiping out everything in sight is quite a graphic one.  That ought to have struck both fear and awe in the hearts of the people that Joel was preaching to.  I wonder if it did… If it didn’t, I wonder if the call to repentance was perhaps even more effective. 

To me it would have been.  I love the way Joel implores the people of Israel to turn to God in the following verse:

13 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.

It always comes back to the love!

I want to worship a God who loves me back.  And I stand amazed at the fact that my God is one who cares more about my heart than my appearance or my acts. 

To rend is to tear.  God cares when you pour out your heart to him and tear it apart for him, in a manner of speaking.  He cares not if you rend your garments, i.e., tear your clothes and put on ashes and sackcloth in order to give an appearance of mourning.  God sees your heart and wants to know if you’re willing to tear it out for him. 

Gentle reader, can you do that?

And so, Joel goes on to promise the people:

32 And everyone who calls
   on the name of the LORD will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
   there will be deliverance,
   as the LORD has said,
even among the survivors
   whom the LORD calls.

The purpose of a prophet is to bring a message.  Joel does this as vehemently as possible.  He conjures up the most terrifying of images even as he pauses to remind the people about the true nature of this God. 

What manner of God is this, anyway?  He will not give up on them!  I suppose that’s what a covenant is all about… 

And so, Joel continues to both chide and encourage Israel to make up their minds because the Day of Judgement is at hand.  He says:

For the day of the LORD is near
   in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon will be darkened,
   and the stars no longer shine.
16 The LORD will roar from Zion
   and thunder from Jerusalem;
   the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the LORD will be a refuge for his people,
   a stronghold for the people of Israel.

The Valley of Decision!  Is that where you are?

Turning next to our New Testament reading, we enter the book of Revelation.  This is a most fascinating book — one filled with fantastic imagery of the things to come.  Joel’s fantastic imagery is very much in line with the kind of stories that John, the author of the book of Revelation will reveal in later parts of this book. 

For now, the opening words of this book give pause for thought.  John says: 

3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. 

The time is indeed near! 

Writing to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea), John says this with reference to Jesus Christ: 

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. 

And these are the words of the Lord:  

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Turning next to our reading from the Psalms, we find the psalmist describing the epitome of material blessings upon one who fears the Lord.  He says:

1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
   who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
   blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
   within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
   around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
   for the man who fears the LORD.

Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs, authored by Solomon, wise king of Israel, and worthy of record and rumination:

18 Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
   but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

2 thoughts on “Rend Your Heart and Not Your Garments

  1. We sometimes look in the prophets for predictions or foreshadowings of the Messiah as we know him through the gospels and we do find such passages in Isaiah and elsewhere. But I think it’s passages like these from Joel, especially the line you use as the title of your devotional today, which are just as significant. They may not specifically predict the coming of a Messiah, but they do foreshadow the kind of teaching that the Messiah we know as Jesus is going to bring. Jesus’ consistent message in the gospels, spelled out by Paul later on, is what you say: “my God is one who cares more about my heart than my appearance or my acts.” Thank you for the excellent thoughts and reflection!

    1. That is the most thoughtful observation on the narrative that I have ever heard, and I wish that I had thought of it myself so as to have incorporated it within my own meditations for the day. Many things for always adding to the study and reflections. God bless you.

      Regards, Simmi D. Isaac (sent from my iPad)

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