Recently it was remarked that I have not posted in a while. Yes, that is true. Mainly because people read what I have to say. And, I have to say, that is scary to me. In any case, as scary as that may be, I am going to try and share the small devotional pieces I am writing for the congregation I serve so that I might get into the discipline of writing a bit more. Here is the one for today.

Rend Your Heart
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 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.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

–Devotion–

What is the proper response of the people of God when they endure calamity? Joel has some thoughts that show us what it looked like for those Israelites back then. Their God, the God of Israel, says that even in the midst of what is happening His people should respond properly. Responding properly means returning to single-minded devotion to Him.

It is strange for us to think that God would go through the lengths of destroying a nation by locusts to have those people remember him as their God. But remember this God of Israel is a jealous God. He is not willing to share his people with any other gods. That is why God through Joel is calling these people of Israel to “rend their hearts and not their garments.” That is to say, he is calling them not to be fake in their repentance. Because with the heart one is led and with the heart one confesses true desire. If you truly are repentant your life and action will look differently. You will destroy altars, get rid of idols, sit in sackcloth, etc. Even so, Joel is clear, the Lord might not relent of his destruction. Even if repentance happens in Israel the nation might still be destroyed. But, Joel holds out hope for these people. Maybe it is not too late. Maybe God will relent. Rather than continuing to make Israel an abomination he will turn and leave a blessing. Who knows?

This will not happen though unless the whole of the people repent as vss. 15-17 point out. All the people, the priests, the children, are called to come together and cry out to God. Their plea is for the Lord to act and not let his people be devoured as if their God was impotent. “Why should people say among the peoples, ‘where is their God?'” You might say they are trying to goad God into action. This is not new in the story of God and Israel.

What does this mean for all of us? AsI have said before and said again recently, I think things in the American Church are going south, and quick. We have forgotten how to read the Scriptures, in the words of N.T. Wright, “we have forgotten what the Gospels are all about.” We have forgotten why we go to Church, we have dwindled in our single minded devotion to God and His Word and his Christ. We have/are dabbling in devotion to other gods without really giving much thought to the practice–mainly because it is just what we have always done. We have forgotten our God and are currently reaping the harvest for our negligence. We lament that our congregations shrink, our children leave, and that there seems to be nothing that can be done to change that trend. This, of course leads me to the very stark conclusion, perhaps our problem isn’t with our services, or our youth programs, or our evangelism techniques, or the fact that we do not know our doctrine. Perhaps our problem is God. Maybe he is killing the Church in North America. And maybe we deserve it.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Pastor Beltz

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