12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord your God?
There are many running themes in the Bible. We regularly see God show us his holiness and perfection. We regularly see the theme of sacrificial substitution in which one life is given for the sake of another. We see a running and building plan of the promised Messiah coming to rescue. We see the theme of the curse of sin and the power of God pushing back the darkness.
Here in Joel 2, we see a beautiful theme that shows up time and time again in Scripture—Old Testament and New Testament. We see the theme of the mercy of God offered to those who will come to him in faith and repentance. Yes, this passage is directly about the life of the people in Judah. But, it is a perfect depiction of the merciful character of God toward all who will turn to him.
In Joel’s prophecy, the people of God have faced tremendous hardships. Enemy armies and a locust plague have ruined the land. There appears to be no hope for any sort of a future for the people of Judah. And, the book lets us know that the people have faced this destruction because of their sin against the Lord. This is righteous judgment that they are suffering.
But God says, “Yet even now.” Even now, if you will see your sin and turn from it, there is hope. Even now, if you will let go of selfishness and self-determination and yield to the rule of the Lord, there is hope. Even now, after great damage has been done, damage caused by the hateful rebellion of the people, God offers restoration. If the people will turn from their sin and seek the mercy of God, he will rebuild them to such a place that they will again be able to worship him and see his favor.
Later, in verse 25 of Joel 2, the Lord promises, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” If the people will repent and return to the Lord, God tells them that he will restore to them the damage done by the judgment they earned.
The Lord is a restoring, forgiving, loving, merciful God. That is as common a theme in Scripture as any other. God will judge, there is no doubt about that. But God will forgive those who come to him and get under his rule, seeking his mercy. God is gracious and he makes the way for us to be forgiven. Whatever their losses, whatever their pain, the blessings of repentance will more than make up for the hardship.
What a joy it is to grasp that God restores. Repentance is not merely a doleful turning away from our failings to live with our sorrow. No, repentance is a move toward the Lord who tells us that he can give us back far more than we lost in our failings. He will give us back far more than we earned in his judgment. He will heal our wounds, salve our hearts, and grant to us a future under his care.
Have you ever thought that you have so ruined your life with your failings that you have no future? Hope in the concept of the kind mercies of God. He welcomes us back. He tells you and me, “even now…” He will forgive when we return. He will restore. He will rebuild our lives. No, we may not see all that restoration on this side of eternity, but the Lord will not leave his people hanging. He will be kind. He will do good. He will give comfort and joy. Return and find restoration in the grace of our wonderfully merciful Lord.
How do you do this? If you are outside of the grace of God, find his mercy by turning from sin and receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. If you are in Christ, find God’s healing by repenting of sin and trusting that he can fix your future.