Yesterday I began studying the book of Joel. I’ll share with you what I’m journaling as I go through Joel each day; below is from Joel 1-2:13.
Joel begins in midst of terrible devastation caused by a locust plague. Everyone is affected by this devastation: fire devoured the pastures and trees, the water was dried up, cattle wander with no pasture and flocks of sheep suffer, farmers had no crops, storehouses were desolate and grain offering and libation were withheld from the House of God. Verse 12 says, “…indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men.”
In the midst of devastation, will we still praise God or be like the people of Judah and let our rejoicing and gladness dry up? Will we have hope in the Lord or only see the circumstances around us, however terrible they are?
As Joel urges, these situations should cause us to cry out to the Lord. Joel says, “Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” (1:14) God will create and use situations to discipline His people and bring them back to Him.
Revelation 3:19 ESV, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
Deuteronomy 8:5 ESV “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you”
Often in the midst of crisis, we blame and rebuke the enemy when it is God correcting us and trying to get our focus on Him.
Chapter two seems to be a two-fold description. One, of the locusts swarming and second, of an army invasion occurring on the “day of the Lord.” (Verses 4-9 compare the locusts to warhorses and soldiers invading on the city. Verse 11 says, “11 The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?”, which is plainly a comparison to the army of God.)
During this invasion, God reaches out again with a call to repentance. He says:
“12 Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
The Lord is just and holy but also gracious and compassionate. Joel urges them to return to the Lord! The Lord says to rend our hearts not our garments, a traditional outward expression. He says, “Give me your hearts, stop just serving outwardly. I want your heart!”
This brings me to “what God is saying to me.” I’m currently in a transition ministry-wise; going from women’s ministry to youth ministry to serve with my husband, in addition to other areas I serve. My prayer, as I do this, has been for God to give me a vision of my role(s) and show me exactly where I should be focusing in ministry as I feel drawn to many different areas. To avoid going into long explanations, in short, I was trying to figure out where God wants to use my passion and desires for ministry.
As I read this passage and wrote in my journal, the Lord spoke to my heart and gently and lovingly said, “In this season, I want your heart. Focus on me and I will show you the way and give you vision.”
At that moment I had to repent for not giving Him my heart first and just worrying about serving – an outward expression. As I mentioned yesterday, I had grown into a laziness when it came to having a daily, fruitful time with God yet I have been serving outwardly in various ministry roles. I know it is important as someone in any kind of leadership to maintain a healthy an growing relationship with God. I had gotten so “busy” with life, including ministry, that I was not dedicating an intentional time with Him. Although, we are to serve and He wants us to minister in our roles, serving is not enough; He wants hearts. That is why He told the people of Judah “rend your hearts and not your garments.”
So, I ask you, as I asked myself, Are you surrendered wholeheartedly? Are you rending garments; reaping only outward expressions?
Return to Him now. He is gracious and merciful. Slow to anger and abounding in love.