Joel 2 discusses the judgment of the Lord coming on his people like an army. Its horror is far greater than the plague of locusts: it destroys crops, cities and even the sun, moon and stars.
So the Lord calls his people to repentance. This is not just an outwardly, superficial repentance, but an inward repentance. Verse 13 tells its readers “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.” The Lord doesn’t want displays of repentance that mean nothing. He wants people to genuinely feel loss, as if their heart has been torn in two. Yes, there are outward signs, as verse 12 asks for “fasting and weeping and mourning”. But this, again, is meant to be genuine, as the Lord also asked that they “return to me with all your heart”. These acts were not trite and glib pretences. They were acts of humility: weeping because your heart has broken, mourning because your God has been wronged.
It’s currently the season of Lent, which is a time of introspection and repentance, so these verses are particularly timely. This repentance isn’t easy; in fact, it’s heart-breaking.
Of course, with Christ, we look to him and ask for him to save us. But often, I think we have the tendency to make it too easy. But our hearts should break. The one in whom all things were creator, the Son and Saviour, the most loved of the whole universe, died. He was tortured, humiliated and murdered. But more than this, his heart was rent as he took on the sin of all and was separated from his father. We should mourn his death with weeping and fasting. But then we should rejoice because on Easter day, he rose again.
And how does Joel 2 end? Not with our response but how the Lord responds to our repentance. First, those suffering from the famine will have their crops and lands restored. Then, God promises to pour out his Spirit on all people.
“And afterward,Joel 2:28-32
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
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.”
What a fantastic promise. That all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.