Daily Devotional

Joel 2:12a

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart."

The little book of Joel is an interesting read. An unprecedented event happened in Judah that affected all levels of society; a plague of locusts has destroyed all the crops. In any ancient culture this was catastrophic. In ancient Judah, not only did it affect people’s food supply, but also the continuance of their sacrificial offerings. Much of the book of Joel speaks of God’s judgment, but the thing that jumps out to me is God’s desire for His people to return to Him.

Chapter 2 of Joel speaks of “a day of darkness and gloom” (v.2), fire that “devours before them” (v.3), and people who “are in anguish” (v.8). But then we get to verse 12 and read about God declaring His desire for His people to return to him. In the midst of such darkness, these words leap of the page as if being shouted, yet they are shouted in love, not anger. We may have strayed into an area of great sin, or strayed into a place of complacency and a lukewarm faith, or maybe we’ve strayed into a place where we rely on ourselves more than on God. We may have been straying for years or straying for hours but whatever the case we can return, right now.

What is the result of us returning to God? Verse 13 tells us that “he is gracious and merciful.” When we return to Him, we don’t find anger or judgment but like the Prodigal in Luke 15 we find a Father who is compassionate and welcomes us with open arms (Luke 15:20). This is far more than we deserve, and yet it is the gift He offers. That’s the thing about a gift, it speaks more of the gift-giver than the gift-receiver. I love verses like Joel 2:12 because they remind me again of the heart of our Father. He is loving, compassionate, gracious, and merciful. It makes little sense why we would ever run from such a Father, and it makes little sense why we would ever hesitate to return. If you’ve strayed away and wonder what God would say to you, it’s right here in Joel 2:12, “Even now…return to me with all your heart.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.