Joel 2:12 (ESV) … “Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning...”
The prophet Joel is calling for the children of God to repent of their sins and seek the Lord’s help. The nation didn’t know when the invasion would occur, so the important thing was for them to turn to the Lord now. But they must be sincere. It’s easy to participate in a religious ceremony, tear your garments, and lament, but quite something else to humbly confess your sins and bring to God a repentant heart (Matt. 15:8–9). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17, nkjv).
The one thing that encourages us to repent and return to the Lord is the character of God. Knowing that He is indeed “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Joel 2:13, niv) ought to motivate us to seek His face. This description of the attributes of God goes back to Moses’ meeting with the Lord on Mt. Sinai, when he interceded for the sinful nation of Israel (Ex. 34:6–7). You find echoes of it in Numbers 14:18 (another scene of Moses’ intercession); Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15, 103:8, and 145:8; and Jonah 4:2. Such a gracious God would “turn and have pity” (Joel 2:14, niv). Note that Joel’s concern was that the people would once again have offerings to bring to the Lord, not just food on their tables.
But all the people must assemble and then turn to the Lord (vv. 15–17). This includes elders and children, nursing babies and priests, and even the newlyweds who were not supposed to be disturbed during their first year of marriage, not even because of war (Deut. 24:5). The prophet even gave them a prayer to use (Joel 2:17) that presents two reasons why God should deliver them: (1) Israel’s covenant privileges as God’s heritage and (2) the glory of God’s name before the other nations. Moses used these same arguments when he pled for the people (Ex. 32:11–13; 33:12–23).
The Jews are indeed God’s special treasure and heritage (Ex. 15:17; 19:5–6; Ps. 94:5; Jer. 2:7; 12:7–9). To Israel, He gave His laws, His covenants, the temple and priesthood, a special land, and the promise that they would bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3; Rom. 9:1–5). From Israel came the written Word of God and the gift of the Savior (John 4:22).
Israel was called to bear witness to the other nations that their God was the only true God. How could God be glorified if His people were destroyed and the pagans could gleefully ask, “Where is their God?” (See Pss. 79:10 and 115:2; also Micah 7:10.) The nation had to choose between revival (getting right with God) or reproach (robbing God of glory).
Do we face a similar choice today in our nation? Do we face that choice in our life personally? Revival or reproach! Be not fooled, God is not mocked, for God will then judge sin if we refuse to judge sin in our lives.