Posted by: The Simple Guy | March 21, 2015

Just Sorrow, or True Repentance?

Recently I was given the opportunity to study and teach the book of Joel. I must admit my experience in the minor prophets is slim.   However I truly enjoyed the study.  There are several things I learned but there is one I would like to focus on.

But first a little background. 

We don’t know when the book was written.  It was most likely written from the southern kingdom and had to have been written after the time of Jehoshephat since he is mentioned in chapter 3. 

The book comes in three waves of judgment.  First is a “current event” that is a locust plague and famine.  This is chapter 1.  Second is a northern invasion by an invincible military.  This is most of chapter 2.  Third is the Day of the Lord and takes up most of chapter 3.  

I think it is key to notice the phrase “blow a trumpet” and the word “consecrate”.  In chapters 1 and 2 these are used to speak of a call to repent.  In chapter 3 it is a call to war and rebellion in the Day of the Lord. 

I think the key verses are in the middle. 

Joel 2:12 (ESV) 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.

14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?

The purpose of the calamities is to bring God’s people to repentance.  

Notice the reason for repentance in chapter 1

Joel 1:13 (ESV) 13 Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.

As near as I can tell, grain and drink offerings were primarily first fruits and free will offerings.  These are expressions of faith and gratitude.  

This focus on those offerings in both the repentance and the Lord relenting points me to a thought I wanted to pass on. 

Gratitude is a key part of repentance.  I think it is the missing ingredient in worldly sorrow. It is when I recognize that I owe Him and realize that He is merciful and full of compassion that gratitude becomes the core of my response.  This is what rends my heart and not my garment. 

According to Romans 1 this lack of gratitude is the reason for God’s wrath on mankind. 

Romans 1:21 (ESV) 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

This gratitude is there in all of the repentant psalms.  It is there in Jonah 2 when Jonah repents from the fish’s belly.  

So the point I want to remember from Joel is that gratitude is a key ingredient of repentance.  Until it is there I am still in rebellion and feeling sorry for myself.   

I think it may be the difference between the responses of Judas and Peter when they each betrayed Christ. Both wept.  One dispaired and took his own life.  One left the boat and swam to Jesus (John 21)

Which one am I?

Your thoughts?

The Simple Guy

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