12That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
In the midst of judgment for sin God always provides a way back. That way to the restoration of relationship with God starts with repentance. Not repentance tomorrow, or later today, but right now, while there’s still time. Many might assume this is just an Old Testament reality but the New Testament is replete with examples of why we need to be quick to repent. Paul even instructs Timothy to instruct his opponent “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25). Jesus teaches, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Lk.13:3). In Acts 3:19 Peter preaches that if we want to enter times of refreshing from the Holy Spirit we must first enter timely repentance. There’s an urgency behind this prophetic promise in Joel. Don’t put off repentance or you will be putting off your very deliverance. The author of Hebrews puts it this way, “You must warn each other every day, while it still “today” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” (Hebrews 3:13)
I received a phone call this morning that has left me both grieving and rejoicing. I’m grieving because my Uncle Mark passed away from cancer last night. I knew he was fighting cancer but after an intense chemo treatment he had a lung infection over the weekend and it was too much for his body to fight. I was very concerned for the state of his soul as I and the rest of the family have not had much contact with him for many years. I rejoice in the middle of this loss because of what my Mom shared with me this morning. She reached out to her brother and was able to lead him in repentance prayer for many of things he has done over the years that has caused distance between him and the Lord and he and his family. I’m so thankful to hear of this response to repentance because his sudden death was something no one, including Uncle Mark, was expecting. I shudder to think what might have happened had my Mom not reached out to Mark in what we now know were his last days. When God says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts” we should really pay attention. If the God who holds time is saying now is the time to repent it’s not something we should procrastinate on. What if the prophet Joel had seen God’s people in their sin and gave up them, refusing to call them to repentance? We would never have the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit fulfilled in Acts 2 at the birth of the church. In fact, that should tell us something right there of the importance of repentance. The Church was birthed in repentance. When the Holy Spirit is moving people will be moved to repentance. The very first sermon Peter preaches is about repentance. This passage makes it clear that repentance isn’t about feeling sorry or regretful. God doesn’t want the actions of repentance but the actions of repentance- a true changing of the mind- a 180-degree turn from what we were doing to what He’s calling us back to. We need to do this now!
Lord, I thank you for my Uncle Mark. In my tears this morning I know I will see him again in Heaven because he repented and You are so faithful to forgive. We live in a culture and time when no one wants to call anything a sin nor be reminded of their need for forgiveness. Yet, if my Mom had put off that conversation with my Uncle it could have had eternal ramifications. Let me be quick to repent. Not putting off what You are calling me on right now. Let me be quick to call others to repentance while there’s still time. Then, just like my Uncle, we can enter into times of refreshing that come from being reconciled to You!