Another Sunday is upon us and the church is still having to figure out how to worship together while practicing self-distancing. Awkward and uncomfortable, I know. But I believe our choice to forgo our right to assemble and worship for the sake of the least of these (those who are at greater risk), is proper and prudent. And I believe the Lord will honor the free sacrifice of our own rights for the sake of others.
With that said, the following message is from the first two chapters of the book of Joel. In fact, as we go through Joel together, I think you'll be amazed and comforted at how the crisis in Joel's time (locust invasion) parallels the crisis we are facing as a church and a nation today. For me, the most encouraging truth from Joel is the solution to their locust problem then is the same as the solution to our coronavirus problem now. And that solution, as always, is repentance.
We will specifically focus on Joel 2:12-13, which reads:
"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, (how) with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, (why) for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.
Note, the first sentence is a statement by God. The second is the application from Joel. And Joel's words are timeless. They are just as valid and true in his generation as they are today. So take them to heart.
Two Truths About God from Joel
If you read the small book of Joel, you will discover there are two unchanging truths the Lord wants us to know about Himself. It is almost like He is presenting these as an encouragement to His children when they go through trying times and He wants us to rest in these eternal truths. The first one deals with God's sovereignty.
God is in control of all situations we may face - government intrusion, war, illness, heartache, financial ruin, swarming locusts and the coronavirus. Name your catastrophe, it doesn't matter. God is in control.
And the second one is even more encouraging.
God responds to repentance. Always and forever. Without fail. No matter how horrible the sin that prompts the repentance.
Or, to put it another way, God loves us as least as much as the best human father we could imagine would love his children. Howie Cunningham, Ward Cleaver, James Dobson, Andy Taylor, Carl Winslow, Philip Banks, you name it. They are great fathers, maybe better than the ones you had as a child. But God is off the charts! Beyond comprehension. So there is no comparison. Period.
As we face an uncertain future, let's confidently hold fast to our certain God. Rest in Him. Trust Him. Grow in a likeness to Him. And when you do, you'll find His promises to be true.
My brethren (put your name here), count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (why) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4).
And remember, you are "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10).
The following is a study on Repentance, Old Testament Style, as revealed in Joel 1-2.