| RETURN TO THE LORD |
Joel is a part of what are known as the minor prophets. The major prophets are the longer prophetic books, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The minor prophets are the shorter prophetic books that round out the Old Testament.
If you have been reading using a phone or tablet I would encourage you to find a physical Bible and look over the table of contents. Get to know how the Bible is laid out. Notice that all of our history reading has been in the first half of the Old Testament (before the Psalms) and our prophetic reading is from the second half of the Old Testament (after the Psalms). These major and minor prophets all ministered during the time of the history recorded in 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Most of their ministries where during the divided kingdom, before the exile.
The Minor Prophet, Joel
The book of Joel was likely written during the exile. The short section we read today is a comfort to the exiles that all hope is not lost. Yes, the people have received the curse promised for disobedience, but if they will cry out to the Lord in repentance the Lord has already promised restoration.
Rend Your Hearts
I love this phrase. For generations the people and their leaders would go through the motions of worship and sacrifice. But the Lord knows their heart and sees through their deception. When the people would feign repentance they would tear their clothing and put on all the external appearance of grief for their sin. Here the Lord calls their bluff and tells them that it is a truly sorrowful heart that is broken over sin that He seeks.
I think of the first of the beatitudes (blessings) that Jesus gives in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Lord seeks a people who are willing to confess that before the Lord they are completely impoverished in their sin. They are not rich in spirit, with prideful self-righteousness. They are not middle-class in spirit, with a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do it yourself religion.” They are a people who know they bring nothing to the table of grace. It is the Lord who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
This passage ends with a reminder. God’s reputation in the world is deeply tied with the people to whom He has made promises. The Israelite people are the Lord’s chosen people. If the Lord abandons them then the world will surely question what kind of God abandons His people.
But the Lord has not abandoned His people. He is disciplining them, refining them, even pruning them, but the Lord will always preserve a remnant. There is a people whom the Lord has spared.
The believer in Jesus Christ has the same hope. In this world we may face trial but never abandonment. We may be afflicted, but in Christ we are never crushed (2 Corinthians 4:8). The believer need not despair because the Lord has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Matthew 28:20). Truly, He has promised to return for His people and bring them to Himself. He has promised to be our God and we will be His people (Revelation 21:3).