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? ‘Even now’, declares the Lord, ‘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, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing - grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. Blog the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the pirests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’’ Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. The Lord replied to them: ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise. - Joel 2:11-20

In this passage, Joel is reflecting on the present circumstance of the invasion of locusts and attempting to draw a connection between the situation at hand and the need for the people affected to repent. Joel interprets these events as indicative of God's wrath and encourages his people towards repentance believing it to be the appropriate response. We can learn a lot from the way that Joel describes the act of repentance - both about what repentance looks like & God's heart behind leading us to repentance. In verse 12, you can see that the definition of repentance is to "return to me (God) with all your heart." It is to turn away from sin, to ask forgiveness and to embrace God. Joel outlines that it is important to first have a change of heart before an outward change of action (v 13: 'Rend your heart and not your garments.'). He indicates that it is important to genuinely repent on the inside as the initial step back towards God. However, Joel does not stop with the inward, genuine heart change - he continues to encourage his people to respond to the heart change experienced by engaging in outward acts that represent turning back to God (fasting\confession).

This passage also sheds light on God's character and gives us a picture of God's heart behind repentance. In verse 13, Joel describes the Lord as "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love..." - this is crucial. As we turn back to God, it is critical that we understand that we are turning back to our Father than longs to have compassion on us, that is gracious to us and that abounds in love for us. God responds to our sin and shortfall with mercy and grace. Romans 2:4 says that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. This may sound backwards at first, but think about it this way: God wants good things for us. He wants us to live in abundance. John 10:10 says that Jesus has come so that we may "have life, and have it to the full." He understands that to have life to the full, we must become dead to our transgressions (sins). God knows that our sin leads to death and destruction and in his KINDNESS gives us an opportunity to turn away from that death & destruction in favor of His full and abundant life. Joel understood both the need and the blessing that repentance was - that is why he encouraged his people to repent! It is not meant for condemnation but rather to prompt us towards freedom and holy living.

So, in light of this truth about who God is and his heart behind repentance, today invite God into your current struggle. Repent of all the ways that you have turned from Him knowing that He invites you into repentance as an avenue to a greater measure of abundance and freedom. Ephesians 3:12 says "In him (Jesus) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Approach God with confidence, knowing that He will respond to you as a perfect Father responding to his child. Remember that it is his kindness that leads you to repentance and trust that God is for you. Remember what Joel models for us in chapter 2: allow God to change your heart and lead you into genuine repentance. But don't stop there. Allow what God does in you to extend to your outward living. Ask God for a practical next step towards holy living and take it!

Lord, thank you that you are for us. Thank you that it is your kindness that leads us to repentance. Thank you for having compassion on us and for leading us towards full and abundant life. I pray that you would show me your heart behind repentance and that you would bring conviction that frees me into more abundant living.

Pray this scripture over yourself to close: Psalm 19:14 "May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight. Lord, my Rock and Redeemer."

- Megan McGarrah