“‘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” (Joel 2:12-13).
Have you ever asked yourself, “What does God want from me?”? The prophet Joel prophesied during the reign of Joash, king of Judah. According to the first chapter of the book of Joel, a great locust plague strikes the land stripping every green thing from the land (cf. Joel 1:6-7). As a result, the people mourn because there is now a lack of food (cf. Joel 1:8-20). It appears Joel seizes on this occasion of this locust plague has just struck the land to speak to the people God’s message regarding what He wanted from them.
However, as terrible as the locust plague had been, Joel warns that God’s future judgments during the day of the Lord will make that locust plague pale by comparison. The army which will invade Judah during this period of Divine Judgment will swarm the land in a similar manner as did the locusts (cf. Joel 2:1-11). How did God want His people to respond to this threat? What did God want from them?
As the opening verses above indicate, God wanted to see repentance on the part of His people. He did not want simply an outward show of a change in their actions as is indicated by His desire to have them not just tear their outward garments. God wanted a change in their hearts. God wanted them to rend their hearts (cf. Joel 2:12-13). Joel adds that, perhaps, God’s blessing would follow if the people would rend their hearts in repentance: “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 2:14)?
A national call for repentance is issued: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, ‘Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not give your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?” ' " (Joel 2:15-17).
The prophet Joel assures God’s people that if the will “rend their hearts” by showing repentance, God will bring unparalleled blessings to those who faithfully obey Him: “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, ‘Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations’ ” (Joel 2:18-19).
What does God want from me? God wants me to keep my heart soft towards Him so He can mold me after His Will. When my heart begins to harden because of sin, I need to rend my heart and turn to God in repentance. Today, I understand that God does not just want the appearance of change in me, such as changing my garments; He wants me to change inwardly by rending my heart!
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart-- these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:15-17).