Ash Wednesday: Deciding, Will We Ever Consent to Give Any Living Hope to Our Ailing and Hurting Hearts? Joel 2:12-14

Joel 2:12-14Amplified Bible

“Even now,” says the Lord,
“Turn and come to Me with all your heart [in genuine repentance],
With fasting and weeping and mourning [until every barrier is removed and the broken fellowship is restored];
Rip your heart to pieces [in sorrow and contrition] and not your garments.”
Now return [in repentance] to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness [faithful to His covenant with His people];
And He relents [His sentence of] evil [when His people genuinely repent].
Who knows whether He will relent [and revoke your sentence],
And leave a blessing behind Him,
Even a grain offering and a drink offering [from the bounty He provides you]
For the Lord your God?

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Lent Begins … Does Hope Also Begin For Hurting Hearts?

In a large number of churches today, the ancient words of today’s Scripture reading will be read every year in the traditional Ash Wednesday liturgy.

Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on February 22, is the first day of Lent, a season in the church calendar that invites believers in God and non-believers as well, to maybe start paying special attention to the suffering and death of Jesus.

Why are these instructions about rending hearts and not garments significant?

In the Bible the rending and tearing of clothes is a sign of mourning and is often accompanied by the placing of ashes on one’s head.

Biblically, Jacob tore his clothes when he heard a report that his son, Joseph, had been killed (Genesis 37:34).

And when young King Josiah heard the words of the Book of the Law after it was rediscovered in the temple, he tore his robes as a sign of grief over the nation’s sin (2 Kings 22:11).

The Patriarch Job, when he had suddenly lost everything – including his health, he sat down on the ground and covered himself from head to toe with ashes.

Sometimes, the harsh and harshest realities of life will cause us to sit ourselves own on the ground and desire to “cover ourselves from head to toe with ashes.

Sometimes the reality of sin is enough to break our hearts.

The season of Lent reminds us that no one felt the pain of sin more than Jesus.

Jesus had already given up everything he was at home with His Heavenly Father to come to us and to offer up to His maxed out example of genuine Godly living. [John 3:16-18, Philippians 2:1-11]

John 3:16-18 The Message

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Philippians 2:5-11 The Message

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

When he was arrested, beaten, humiliated, crowned then crucified, Jesus was fully and completely, utterly, publicly stripped of his dignity and his garments.

More than that, his heart broke under the weight of our sin.

Joel’s reading for today is God’s invitation to return to him is answered by our looking to the cross of Christ, asking forgiveness through his sacrifice for us.

God promises to come unto us, wash away our sin and give us new life through the One whose torn garments, broken heart bring 100% healing for the world.

We Must Answer the Question: Will I Give My Heart Any Hope?

Joel 2:12-14 The Message

Change Your Life

12 But there’s also this, it’s not too late—
    God’s personal Message!—
“Come back to me and really mean it!
    Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”

13-14 Change your life, not just your clothes.
    Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
    He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
    always ready to cancel catastrophe.
Who knows? Maybe he’ll do it now,
    maybe he’ll turn around and show pity.
Maybe, when all’s said and done,
    there’ll be blessings full and robust for your God!

Joel is the prophet who compares the coming Day of the Lord with a succession of locust invasions, which sequentially devour every crop and all vegetation in an unrelenting, visibly shocking, path of progressive destruction.

Both grain and fruit harvests fail due to the devastating onslaught of this four-pronged locust infestation.

The total destruction of Israel’s wheat and barley crops, along with the failure of the entire fruit harvest, causes all the people and priests alike to mourn and lament bitterly at how hopeless everything had become before their very eyes.

Not only were the priests instructed to mourn and call for a sacred assembly, but the entire nation was commanded to fast and to cry out to the Lord their God, in sincere repentance of heart.

Israel failed to heed the past prophetic warnings of earlier prophets.

Joel’s heartfelt appeal for repentance, his warning of coming destruction, is one more demonstration of the nation’s continued rebellion against the God of their forefathers, their refusal to heed His Word and obey the covenant promises they made at Mount Sinai.

What the chewing locusts left was eaten by the swarming locusts.

And what they did not devour, was taken by the crawling locusts and then the consuming ones.

In like manner, the prophesied day of the Lord will be one of the greatest destructions to befall the rebellious nation of Israel.

It will be a time such as the world has never seen, nor would ever see again.

However, it will be a time when Israel calls out to the Lord and He will hear and rescue His people.

The entire passage compares the advance and destruction of this terrible locust invasion with speedy horses.

It likens them to a vast army of marching men of war who steadily advance with unrelenting menace, in a strict formation – but who plunder everything in their path like a well organized band of marauders and thieves.

Israel’s rebellion against the Lord, which included sloth and drunkenness, resulted in the barrage of these devouring locusts.

And the consequences of their continued rebellion, apostasy, and disobedience, would result in judgement – the coming ‘Day of the Lord’.

Joel’s entire prophecy was given to the nation of Israel.

Although it was partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when many men of Israel repented of their sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, the full and final fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy, which begins with a day of thick darkness and progresses into the glories of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ,

will take place at the end of Daniel’s 70th week i.e. the Great Tribulation, which is sometimes called the Time of Jacobs Trouble.

The continued grace and mercy of God can be seen in His divine appeal to the people of Judah to repent of their sins and return to the Lord – for we read:

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning.” [verse 12]

Both for the nation of Israel and for unsaved Gentiles alike, the precious truth of this passage is that it is never too late for sinners or backsliders to turn away from their sins, to return to the Lord with all their heart, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

It is a beautiful demonstration the goodness, grace, and mercy of our long-suffering God, remains fully open to ALL who will simply trust in His Word,

remember His goodness, genuinely return to Him with heart and soul – and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

It shows that fasting, with weeping and morning, is often associated with true repentance of heart.

And although, there is no written covenant, set rules, or legalistic regulations which are required of Church-age believers, it is very important and wise to take note of things that outwardly demonstrate an inward change of heart.

That is why the LORD says,
     “Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
     Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
     but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the LORD your God,
     for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
     He is eager to relent and not punish.
— Joel 2:13 NLT

God is far more concerned about hearts genuinely loving Him and longing to be in a relationship with Him than He is about a lot of external religious trappings.

The Hebrew Testament prophets emphasized that God’s people often lost their hearts to what was false and only gave lip service to God in their rituals. 

Jesus also emphasized that God wanted us to love Him and serve Him from our hearts and not just by going through religious motions.

For us to make the max best decision possible “hope for our hearts,” We must hear several of Joel’s key phrases passionately speaking God’s invitation to us:

  • “Give me your hearts…”
  • “Don’t tear your clothing… tear your hearts instead.”

God pleads for us to return to Him, wholeheartedly: 

“Turn to me now, while there is time.” 

Why would the Almighty God plead with His lowly creations?

Because YHWH loves us and longs for us to come home to Him, and love Him — heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Our “Abba” Father is full and maxed out of unfailing love [John 3:16-18]

even now yearns to be utterly received, “merciful and compassionate” to us!

The amazing, awe-inspiring truth is as simple and straightforward as it is glorious: The Creator of the universe, with all of its vastness, mystery, and beauty, 100% knows us and longs for us to draw near to Him and know Him.

Let’s come to this God seeking to hug Him, and embrace Him and love Him and know Him and experience Him exactly as we are now loved and known by Him!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,  

Let us Pray,

Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth; you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism. Look upon us as with mercy and forgiveness as we enter these next Forty Days bearing the mark of ashes, and torn and rendered hearts and please bless the journey through the desert of Lent to the blessed font of rebirth. As we remember our mortality and seek penitence today, we know you to be a God who is rich in forgiveness and abounding in steadfast love, love that culminates in eternal life with you. Guide our steps this Lent, so that we might find greater fulfillment in your promises and better serve others with a heart that’s reflective of you. Amen.

Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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