“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. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:12-16 ESV)
In this passage, there is a sense of urgency. Joel is serious. He is not playing games; he is not offering an encouraging word for the people to reject if this Christianity does not fit into the periphery of their lives. He is pleading with truth and love that they return to the Lord with their whole hearts; to lay aside their religion and get to something much more substantive: truly and passionately following Jesus for who He really is.
The call and need for fasting is as stronger today as it was for Joel. Joel is saying to the people, “Look, you deserve much worse than you have received. Your faithlessness is blasphemous. Yet here we are, by His grace, alive and with an opportunity to truly seek the Lord. He will not abandon you if you turn to Him. Even though you have been utterly rebellious and wicked, the Lord is here waiting for you to turn to Him. Would you do it?”
The mercy and compassion of the Lord is so clear. Matter of fact, we have more clarity on His character than Joel. Through the person and work of Christ, we have seen that God really is for us. But he will not be trivialized. He will not be trifled with. He will be worshipped. Will you do it?
Fasting is a way we return. Joel’s use of the phrase “with fasting” is clearly referring to the “heart” just a few words before. If we are to return to the Lord with “all [our] heart,” fasting is a way we will do it. This is so, because in fasting we demonstrate to Jesus that our hearts TRULY are the Lord’s; more than food, do we desire to be right with the Lord.
Stir the fires of repentance and faith through fasting.