Monday, February 15
Turn Unto the Lord - Joel 2:12-13 (KJV)
Therefore, also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
The Pawnee tribe paid close attention to the universe and believed that for the universe to continue functioning, they had to perform regular ceremonies. Often these ceremonies began with fasting, prayer, and sacrifice by the priests, followed by a public ritual in which the priests appealed to Tirawa (God) for aid.
Joel came to God’s people as His messenger. They had forgotten how to love and obey Him and so to get their attention, God allowed some pretty bad things to happen. This included no rain and a plague of locusts. Joel tells them to think about these bad things (they were God’s judgments) and exhorts them to change their attitude towards God (to repent). To demonstrate their repentance, he prescribes ceremonies that seem (on face value) to be similar to those that were practiced by the Pawnees. He tells God’s people to fast and weep and mourn and to “rend their heart,” which means to come to God with a broken heart out of grief caused by their disobedience. The purpose of these ceremonies was to realign them with God and to restore their relationship with Him.
God is not interested in our ceremonies or rituals. He is interested in our relationship with Him. He wants us to humble our affections and serve Him with pureness of heart, and not with ceremonies. Repent and turn to the Lord your God, Joel tells us. It is a common practice during Lent for believers to “give up” something. In this season, as we reflect on Jesus walk toward the cross, it is imperative to remember that God is not interested in our rituals and ceremonies. He is interested in our hearts. Is your heart broken out of grief because of your disobedience to Him? Are you so focused on the rituals and ceremonies of the season that you have forgotten that what God wants from us is our love, devotion and obedience? “Turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful.”
Lord God Heavenly Father,
Forgive us for we have sinned. Our hearts are, indeed, broken for we have disobeyed Your word and ignored Your way. We are often so busy and wrapped up in ourselves that we have forgotten how to love You. We are thankful that You are gracious and merciful and slow to anger. Thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ who has interceded on our behalf so that we may be redeemed and restored to You through Him.