09/13/15 Tearing My Clothes or Tearing My Heart?

READING: Joel 1-3

TEXTS AND APPLICATION:  The book of Joel is a short book that calls God’s people to repentance in preparation for the “Day of the Lord,” a day of coming judgment. I have read this book many times before, but frankly, I somehow read over these significant words (particularly, the heart and clothing comparison):

Joel 2:12-13a  Even now—this is the Lord’s declaration—turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God.

To paraphrase Joel’s words, the outward expression of repentance — tearing one’s clothing, a customary sign of grief and repentance in the ancient world — does not matter if one’s heart is not repentant. Other writers of the Scriptures make the same point (e.g., Psalm 51:17, Amos 5:21–24; Mic 6:6–8), but this text in Joel seems so simply and clearly stated that one should not miss it; hence, my personal distress at not catching it before this reading.  

My greater concern, though, is whether I’ve always lived by this word. I know I have at times grieved my sin without stopping my sin. I have wept over wrong while suspecting that I’d be praying the same prayer again at some point. Given that admission, I am incredibly grateful for the next words in Joel’s writing: 

Joel 2:13b  For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster.

Indeed, God’s graciousness makes me genuinely want to make sure my repentance is real and lasting. I don’t want to go through the motions. Would you pray with me that all of us would truly repent when needed?  

PRAYER: “God, You are gracious. Thank You for Your compassion and patience. In light of Your faithful love, bring me to real repentance over any sin in my life today.  Especially as I stand before God’s people this day, cleanse my heart.”