Joel 2:12-13 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
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.”
People in developed countries have very little frame of reference for the crisis that was confronting the people to whom Joel was speaking. It was a totally agrarian economy, and trade with distant areas was very limited. With no crops, people starved to death, plain and simple, and the land was being overwhelmed with locusts that ate everything in their path. Today we would be quick to ascribe such a phenomenon in strictly materialistic, “scientific” terms, but the Bible doesn’t hesitate to say that people’s sins affect their circumstances. Today it is the worst sort of political incorrectness to suggest that such a thing could even be possible! Voices like Franklin Graham, calling people to repentance, are few and far between. Here the Lord is saying through Joel that a physical or ritualistic response to disaster doesn’t cut it (rending garments). He is calling for a wholehearted return to Himself. He is reminding us of His character, so that we may have hope. If God weren’t all the things listed in verse 13, we would be done for already! Agrarian societies have a better grasp than industrialized societies do of their dependence on God, because they are more connected to the natural world. There are very few atheist farmers! Industrialized societies tend to be more man-centered, and therefore depend on human ingenuity and effort more than on God. There is a lot to be said for technology, but that is a huge loss indeed.
I have always been somewhat of a “techie,” fascinated with mechanical things, but fortunately I was raised by parents who, though quite intellectual and scientific, had a thoroughly Biblical world view. I never had any doubt that we were dependent on our Creator, whatever the form of that dependence. That didn’t keep me from falling into pride, however, and I have not always acknowledged that every good thing in me is a result of God’s grace. I am constantly dealing with people, especially young adults but not limited to them, who can’t see past the piece of technology in their hand to recognize their Creator and their accountability toward Him. They don’t recognize the almost infinite complexity of creation, which is many orders of magnitude greater than anything mankind has put together. I am certainly not to be a Luddite, abandoning technology, but I am to keep my focus on our Creator and so encourage others to do the same. I am to speak the truth in love and pray for people’s eyes to be opened, so that they may receive God’s truth and be set free from all the traps of the devil.
Father, thank You for Your grace toward me. I certainly didn’t choose my parents, and the good things in my life have involved my effort only in my choice to accept them. Help me be a faithful steward of all You have provided, recognizing that every bit of it is grace, better than I deserve, so that I may be and do what You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!