“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” – Joel 2:12
What does it look like to truly repent of our sins and return to God?
To truly understand this question and dig deeply within our hearts, first we have to learn what repentance truly is.
The word for repentance is frequently used throughout the New Testament as a sign of Christian maturity. “Repent” is read as “metanoeó” and is composed of two Greek root-words.
The first is “metá” which means “to change after being with”. The second is “oiéō” which means “to think”, or more specifically “to think differently after”.
Together, this leads to the idea of a change or difference in thinking that occurs after something. We, fortunately, know that this “something” is a relationship with Jesus Christ! In fact, we are told in Romans 2:4 “…that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance…” and this is wonderful news for each of us!!
We do not repent out of our own convictions or strength, but out of the kindness of the Lord in His relationship with us.
Now, let us dive back into Joel chapter 2 with this new perspective on repentance! The Lord tells His people to return to him with their entire hearts, alongside fasting, weeping, and mourning.
The book of Joel is dedicated to the prophecy of the Lord’s judgment of Judah now and to come, but also the deliverance on the horizon. The Lord speaks through Joel with a promise of Judah’s salvation whenever they repent of their sins, yet Judah must do it with “all your heart”.
The idea of returning to God with our entire hearts is something that is difficult to do. To truly return to God with our entire hearts means to give up the worldly desires we cling to. We cannot be loyal to both the world and God, we must choose one.
Joel goes on to say “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,” (Joel 2:13).
And this is the good news for each of us, as the word of our Father back then applies to our lives today, too!
To “rend your garments” is a sign of mourning in Jewish culture where you would tear your clothes to show grief. Yet, the Lord challenges His people to not just show outward mourning – but instead rend their hearts, a sign of inward mourning.
We serve a God who doesn’t just want a “showing” of conviction and repentance, but truly wants a change of heart for each of us!!
And when we do return to Him with genuineness, turning away from our sin, He meets us with so much grace and compassion. We do not need to live in fear or shame of our sin, but instead recognize that we have a faithful Father who has covered it all.
What sin do you need to repent of today? How can you return to God and remember the truth of His character and blessing?
He is waiting for you with open arms!
For more on metanoeó: https://biblehub.com/greek/3340.htm
For more on the study of Joel 2: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/joel-2/