“Tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord, your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and relents from sending calamity.”
The Lord requires true repentance. We can be good at the outward show of penitence, yet remain unrepentant. The people of Joel’s day were so far from the Lord that they couldn’t seem to reach a place of sincerity and the Lord is telling them that He sees through their outward show. Torn clothing was a sign of deep sorrow, but easy to imitate for an audience! God requires more than that.
Torn hearts are the real sign of repentance. We must be devastated about our sin so that we never countenance it again. It is too easy to presume on forgiveness and that overall we are doing well, but we harbour sin, especially sins that cannot be seen. The heart sins are what really bring us down and separate us from the Lord.
Petty jealousies and hatred’s towards others and sins that we think are acceptable and understandable are in no way acceptable to the Lord. God will not tolerate any sin in His people because He knows that it takes us away for Him and makes us more and more world-orientated. We need the Lord and only Him and all the rest will be added to us as we need it.
The Lord gives us time and opportunity to turn and we must take it seriously. He is slow to anger, but we must not presume on that. His lovingkindness is beyond our understanding, and we must honour Him and not take His patience for granted. The people have gone a long way down the road of perdition, but God waits for them to turn and He will pardon them, even at this late time.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”