FOOD FAST: Either water/clear fruit juice or DANIEL FAST
The Book of Joel in the Bible is a remarkable literary work. In once sense it is a dystopic and apocalyptic book that gives us a glimpse of the end of the world as we know it. But in another sense it is an optimistic book that renders an optimistic portrayal of how wonderful the world could be if we would simply worship and obey God. On one hand, the prophet Joel puts forth the concepts of judgment and times of testing upon God’s people. But on the other hand, Joel, offers a ‘cheat sheet’ for times of testing and judgment and even offers hope that God will, indeed, not judge us if we only return to Him and make it right. Joel seems to make it clear that God’s people have drifted too far from God and that terrible times are fast approaching on the horizon. But Joel also faithfully put’s forth God’s Heart towards His Own people based upon his intimate relationship with God.
““Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 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.” Joel 2:12-13
Even now. Those two words indicate to us that it’s never too late to repent. It’s never too late to get right with God if we are doing so with our whole heart. In this text God uses a word twice. Return. He beckons His people to come back to Him although we’ve strayed. God also offers a key to what fasting is all about. Turning down our plate is an exercise of refocusing our attention upon God’s Voice rather than our own basic needs. Fasting is also a means of self-assessment. It affords us increased time and space to look inwardly and determine where we are hurting, wounded or sad. The Hebrews addressed in this text were prone to grand gesturing in their religious lives. If they knew they’d offended God they might throw dust on their heads and tear their (inexpensive) garments as a show of grief over their sin. God grew tired of such showy religious displays. He told them ‘Rend your hearts and not your garments’. What are the symbolic religious gestures that you offer to God instead of your heart? Is it church attendance? Is it serving in your church? Is it your humanitarian efforts? Is it staying in a loveless marriage? We all have religious gestures that make us feel pious. But God says, Even now. After all of your gestures and religious exercises He simply wants you. Your heart. Your tears. Your attention. Your return to His Presence. I believe that if we obey this passage, we can experience breakthrough unlike we’ve ever seen.