22 May 2023

Rend your heart!

Colonel Julie Forrest

Colonel Julie Forrest considers God’s call for people to return to him.

Key text

When we look around us at the issues faced by the world we live in – war, famine, human displacement, floods, earthquakes and the climate crisis – we can become very concerned about things that are happening away from home.

If we consider where we live – for me, in the UK – we have reason to be anxious and concerned about many things; homelessness, the cost of living, fuel prices, debt, the list goes on and on.

If we consider ourselves, what do we worry about? Perhaps our older relatives, our children, our health, our money or our work. Sometimes life can be full of worries, and it is hard to focus on anything else.

The prophet Joel speaks out at a time when the world around him was facing suffering. He comes with a voice of hope about a God of hope.

Pause and reflect

  • To what extent are you currently experiencing suffering in your life?
  • Is your suffering physical, financial, relational, emotional, mental or spiritual? What is the most significant to you?

Our study passage begins with the words ‘even now’. What is the ‘even now’? In Joel 1, we read that locusts have ravaged the land, fires burn out of control across the dry landscape, famine threatens God’s people, wild animals and domesticated herds are thirsty and starving and drought intensifies the trouble, and that Judah looks and feels like a war zone.

Despite all that’s happening around them, the Lord declares through Joel: ‘Even now … return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’ (v12). Previously, Joel had called the priests to mourn, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly, and cry out to the Lord (see Joel 1:13 and 14). Now, Joel addresses all the people. Despite the tough times they are living through, Joel urges them all to respond to the Lord’s word encouraging them to: ‘Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God’ (v13).

Photo shows the sun shining through heads of wheat.

Joel 2:14

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

Read Joel 2

Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrases this as: ‘Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God’.

Everyone needs to come back to God with all their hearts, to be touched to their core. Paying lip service to God and giving him little attention needs to change. God requires their – and our – all.

Pause and reflect

  • What aspects of your life have been challenging?
  • When you face trials and tribulations, how does it affect your relationship with God?
  • When you face trials and tribulations, how does it affect your relationship with God?

I love to listen to music, and I also like to sing. For several decades, Frances Havergal’s song ‘Take My Life and Let It Be’ (SASB 623) has been special to me. Its lyrics can be set to a few tunes, and I do not have a preference, but whenever it is played or sung it gives me an opportunity to take stock of how I am doing spiritually. Two verses come to mind:

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to thee;

Take my moments and my days,

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my will and make it thine,

It shall be no longer mine;

Take my heart, it is thine own,

It shall be thy royal throne.

For me, it is always to do with allowing God to take my will. When I give that over to his control and not mine, that is when my heart is most likely to be his royal throne. When these are lined up, the joy and freedom, peace and passion that I experience are extraordinary. You might wonder why I would ever want to live outside of that. Yet, when difficulties arise, it is possible for my surrender to God’s will to slip and, before long, my heart is no longer his ‘royal throne’.

Pause and reflect

  • How do we respond under pressure or in a crisis?
  • To what extent do we want to take control?
  • At such times, how might we prepare ourselves to walk humbly with our Lord?

Joel brings hope to the people. He says: ‘Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love’ (v13).

Sometimes we need to make some life changes for us to receive the hope of salvation and live in God’s extravagant love. With nothing but God to rely on, God’s people are called to rely on him more. It is possible for faith to be revived, and for wandering hearts to refocus on the Lord.

We need to remember how patient and kind God is – slow to anger, gracious and compassionate – and that Jesus offers ‘life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10 Good News Bible). This requires us to give our hearts fully to him during all circumstances. We find him in the pain as well as the joy. It is part of our daily journey of being with him.

In urging the people to get involved in a holy fast and a sacred assembly, Joel is clear that this is for all – young and old – and is to be seen as a priority. In verse 17, the priests are called to lead the way in repentance and prayer.

Pause and reflect

  • In what ways should we change our lives, not just our clothes?

I pray that I will ‘rend my heart’ every day, repenting when I don’t give him my heart as his royal throne, and allowing him to be in control in all circumstances. Would you do that too?

Bible study by

A photo of Julie Forrest.

Colonel Julie Forrest

International Liaison Officer for Dialogue on Human Sexuality, IHQ

Discover more

Colonel Jenine Main reflects on how she looks after her wellbeing.

Claire Anderson celebrates the harmony of Eurovision.

Reflections, prayers and Bible studies to help you go deeper with God.

Highlights from Salvationist Radio's Sunday Worship.