My favorite verse from Joel is 2:13. To fully understand it, you much understand the context. Joel points out the sin of Israel in that they have turned from worshiping the one true God to serving the gods of the peoples in the land. Thus the curses of Deuteronomy 28 and following are about to fall upon them. He uses the powerful image of a plague of locusts which devastate the land at the time of harvest to picture the destruction that will fall upon the entire nation at the hands of their northern enemies. This destruction that’s coming is the result of God’s judgment on his people. But Joel calls them to repent. It’s not too late. He says, “Yet even now, declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

Ezekiel teaches us that God takes no delight in judging the wicked. Rather, He longs to extends grace and forgiveness to all. The only requirement is a “broken heart.” Rending of one’s clothing was an external display of grief, sorrow, regret and remorse. To “rend your heart” signified inward, spiritual repentance and sorrow for sin. God’s primary requirement from sinners was given in Psalm 51:17. It says, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

Ogilvie says, “One moving experience of reading the Bible in Hebrew is to see the word repent used both of people and of God and to realize that this word is used more often of God’s response to people than of people’s response to God. The word implies a complete change of direction or change of mind. When we turn from disobedience and return to the Lord, He changes His mind and direction from judgment to blessing. In this sense, the will of God is not immutable. He has given us the awesome responsibility of choice, and He takes our choices seriously, responding accordingly.”

“Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:7