Joel 2:12 (NIV)
12 ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’
The news of God’s impending judgment had arrived. Israel was set for destruction because of their rebellion and immorality. Prophets had already predicted their sure demise because of their sin. When a prophet of GGod shows up and pronounces certain doom on a people, what should they do?
Some would say they should accept the truth and prepare for the worst. After all, this is God’s Word to us from his prophet. Who are we to attempt to alter what God has decreed? Then there are the false prophets that exclaim that we are all ok because God loves His People. He would never do anything to cause them harm, so relax. God loves you even though you may sin now and then.
Both of these are not what God intends for His people. To throw your hands up and accept the news of judgment is to refuse to do what God invites us to do. We cannot overlook sin or treat it lightly because God is holy, and sin has to punished. What is necessary for the people of God to do when they hear of God’s certain judgment to come?
The answer is found in our text today. “Even now.” Prophets had already announced the sure judgment to come. They had described it in detail to warn the people. Yet, in the face of certain destruction, Joel speaks, “Even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Dear people of God, we have no idea of the power of repentance. We have a small peek at its potential in Jonah. Jonah delivered the news of certain destruction to the city filled with violence and bloodshed and immorality. A prophet of God had given the report. They never were known to be wrong on any prediction. Behold the beauty of such grace of God. When his people do repent, he forgives and restores them. But this repentance is unlike any other. This is a city that repented of their sin, and we do not know if they ever really returned to God. Yet when they had the entire city sit in sackcloth and ashes and even had the animals fast from food for at least a day or so, God stayed his hand of judgment, and they were spared certain death.
Do we have any other example of God changing his mind when the judgment was certain but withheld the predicted judgment because someone repented? I Kings 21:20-28 is another account of a king who was the most wicked king who had lived up until his time. Elijah had just delivered God’s judgment telling Ahab that he would die surely very soon because of his evil ways. Yet the story goes on to tell us that Ahab repented in sackcloth and ashed and fasted.
Seeing what Ahab did when he heard the news of certain judgment, God told Elijah to go back and tell Ahab that he would not die. He had averted God’s judgment because he had humbled himself n prayer and fasting.
As you spend your time fasting praying today, let this Word be an encouragement to you. Who knows, perhaps God will spare our city and state and nation because his people are fasting and praying and humbling themselves for the good of the land.
It has only been five days of this great adventure, and already God is answering the prayers of some parents that have been prayed for years. Be encouraged that God is working behind the scenes right now, but very soon, He will show himself in the open to many who are praying and fasting in this twenty-one day fasting and prayer experience.
Prayer for today:
Father, we agree with you that we are overdue for judgment. We have despised Your Word and your Ways. We have acted wickedly and considered Your Word as myths and lies and half-truths. We have taught your children to rebel against you. We have forsaken your house for other pleasures. We have filled our minds with immorality and violence, and we have even paid companies to pipe it into our homes.
Forgive our nation, O God. Forgive your Church and your people for having lives that mirror the world and her values. We cry out to You today for a new move of your Holy Spirit to awaken your Church and your people. Turn us O God, and we will be turned. Renew us in our day that your people might rejoice in you once again. As we read and meditate on Your Word today, speak to us afresh and anew. For the Glory of Christ and the good of your people, we pray. Amen!