Rend your heart… the ancient custom when faced with terrible events was to tear one’s clothes. God goes to the heart of the matter with us: Don’t tear your garments, tear your heart. Your heart is what is not dedicated to me. Return to me in your heart today…
2 Hear this, you elders;
listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
3 Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.
4 What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten.
14 Declare a holy fast;
call a sacred assembly.
Summon the elders
and all who live in the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord.
19 To you, Lord, I call,
for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness
and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.
20 Even the wild animals pant for you;
the streams of water have dried up
and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.
11 The Lord thunders
at the head of his army;
his forces are beyond number,
and mighty is the army that obeys his command.
The day of the Lord is great;
it is dreadful.
Who can endure it?
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
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.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.
Joel 1:2-4, 14, 19-20, 2:11-14
There was a locust infestation in the time of Joel (which may have been around the ninth century, BC). The Lord was seen to be the cause, thundering at the head of his army of destruction. They destroyed everything, leaving no crops for animal or person to use.
Joel called, by the inspiration of God, for the elders to declare a fast and to call the elders to the house of God to cry out to the Lord. What do you do in times of destruction? When the most terrible events happen which ravage your life, how do you respond?
The lesson from Joel is to be careful to look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you have brought this on yourself. They seemed to not know why they were in this situation, yet Israel did know or assume that God was at the helm. Why? Because God controlled their sunrises and sunsets. He was their Lord and they were God’s people – his children.
Isn’t that how we would define ourselves today, followers of God? And so, whatever calamity or disaster has happened to us under the watchful eye, permissive hand, and sovereign will of the mighty God.
God’s response to Israel, which perhaps we ought to consider in our own situations, was, “Even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God.”
Rend your heart… the custom when faced with terrible events was to tear one’s clothes. God went right to the heart of the matter. Don’t tear your garments, tear your heart. Your heart is what is not dedicated to me. Return to me in your heart and you will find the Lord who is gracious and compassionate, abounding in love…
How is your heart? My heart could use a good rending every now and then. Devotion to God seems fleeting at times, and we ought not think that God will leave us to wander endlessly away from him. He is jealous for us and he will even bring the locusts to bear if it will turn our hearts back to him.