Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13 (NIV).

According to the prophet Joel, disasters should serve as wake-up calls to repentance.

Joel’s prophecy in the Old Testament opens with a litany of destruction and devastation wrought by a plague of locusts (Joel 1:1-12) and continues with an appeal to the people to change their ways and turn to God so that He can wipe away their sins (Joel 1:13-14). Interestingly, God’s call to repentance came first to the priests, then the leaders, and then went out to the people (Joel 1:13-14, 2:1-17). Perhaps the reason for this process (priests – religious leaders – people) is because priests and leaders should, by virtue of their roles, show the way back to God through their example.

While repentance is needed in the world at large, we should recognize that repentance should first and foremost be a defining characteristic of God’s people. The Israelites often forgot this, as do we. That’s why we should see our own sin for what it is (Matthew 7:3), show remorse, ask for forgiveness and renew our love for God (Psalm 51:10).

Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. When there’s spiritual apathy or bankruptcy, repentance is required in order for a person to reconcile or restore their relationship with God. When there’s no repentance, judgment ensues. The Israelites in Joel’s time thought that the “day of the Lord” would be judgment on their enemies. But they were wrong. The prophet Amos revealed how, in the absence of repentance, the “day of the Lord” brings disaster on God’s covenant people (Amos 5:18-27).

In the context of the whole Bible story, repentance was preached by the Old Testament prophets and by New Testament preachers (e.g. Matthew 3:2, Mark 6:12, Acts 3:19). According to 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, repentance leads to sorrow over sin, disgust for sin, restoration with others, revival toward God, and the opportunity to move forward without regrets. So for those of us who are God’s people, let’s take a spiritual inventory, and if need be, return to the Lord through repentance in order to reconcile our relationships with God.

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