One of the most fascinating books in the Old Testament is the little book of Joel. Though only seventy-three verses in length, the book is a powerful testimony of God’s love and grace for those who trust in the Lord. Joel is trying to warn the Kingdom of Judah that disaster is about to fall upon them through the armies of Babylon if they don’t repent of their sins. He describes this invasion and destruction in terms of locusts that leave the land ruined and barren. In light of this tragedy he cries out, “the day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” Joel 2: 11d
As the steamroller army of Babylon prepared to destroy Judah and take the nation into captivity, Joel challenged the people to ask themselves how do I survive this calamity that is about to fall on me? This is not only the key theme of Joel, but also for our own life. If there is a God, and if He is returning to redeem His people, how do I make sure I am amongst the saved?
The answer to the question is the reason I am a Christian. God says, “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.” Joel 2: 12 There is nothing we have to do to earn merit with God. Instead, He simply asks us to honestly and with a contrite heart return to Him. When He says with fasting, weeping and mourning, He is telling us we need to be sincere in asking for forgiveness of our sins. It doesn’t work to ask forgiveness and then go right back to the same old ways of doing things that we know are wrong.
Do you notice God’s response to those who are sorry for their sins? He is gracious and compassionate, patient and overflowing with love. We can trust God that when we accept Him and confess our sins, we are forgiven. Furthermore, our past sins are never held against us. They are cast into the depths of the sea and we are given a new start and a new life free from the baggage of our past.
But, there is even more wonderful news in this little book. “And after I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2: 28, 29 Not only is redemption promised to those who repent, but also a blessing of the Holy Spirit. This is the text that the disciples quoted on the Day of Pentecost, when filled with the Holy Spirit, they boldly stood before the populace of Jerusalem and preached the gospel. They believed this promise was fulfilled in their witness and preaching. But this promise is for all Christians and we are seeing it happening again all over the world. In the Middle East thousands of people have become Christians because of receiving visions and dreams about Jesus.
When we trust in God, we are secure in God. Our faith doesn’t keep bad things from happening, but when they happen, we have the strength and assurance that God is with us and will never let us go. God promises that there is more to look forward to than the pain and hurt of this world. There is a future that takes us beyond this world and promises eternity. God asks us to come to Him with open hearts and He does all the rest. No other religion in the world believes and teaches the simplicity of the Gospel. We are redeemed by the grace of God, though faith in the death and resurrection of Christ that takes away the sins of the world. Our salvation is only an honest prayer away. Now that’s comfort in the turmoil of a hectic world.