An unpopular message
I have this innate desire to be liked. Don't you? I think it comes as part of our human nature - at least for most of us. Some just want attention and don't care what anyone thinks of them, but that's definitely not me. I may say some things I later regret, but my motives are normally in the place of showing grace and kindness. And in some ways, I think those of us who want to be gracious can take that a little too far. In other words, it does no good to say nice things when the words that need to be said might need a little more strength behind them.
I'm thinking of Jesus and how He acted and spoke to people when He walked the earth. He was humble and gracious and kind to those who were broken and needed His healing touch. But to those who thought they were fine and needed nothing, He showed them the gaping hole in their hearts. He had no problem speaking truth.
And He didn't always do things the way the people might have expected or wanted Him to do them. He didn't always heal everyone. Sometime He slipped away and moved on to other towns because His message wasn't to heal, it was to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins so that people could find the true way into His kingdom. His miracles were to prove the power behind His message. Hard to dispute a man who raises the dead before your eyes!
Repentance isn't a popular message today though. I follow a lot of wonderful Bible teachers on social media, and I'm always blessed by their message of hope, of grace, of faith. I know that's the kind of message we all want to hear, isn't it? We want to feel better about our one life here. We want to believe that God is for us, that He has our back. And all of those things are good. Truly good.
But today as I was reading the book of Joel, it struck me that not everything God warns us of is what we want to hear. Joel was given a message by God to deliver to the people of Israel that judgment was coming. Not only judgment for them but for the nations. He described it using locusts, possibly as a metaphor, for the type of destruction that was coming because of the sins of the world. There will be a day when God says, "enough is enough."
What I love about our God though, unlike some of the gods of ancient and other religions, is that He is SO full of mercy! Yes, He wants our repentance, just as Jesus preached. He wants us to admit to Him that He is God and we are not. He seeks our repentance so that He can show us grace, not so He can cause us harm. It is a blessing, not a curse! So often our pride keeps us from seeing that because to repent means to admit we are wrong, that God's ways are not our ways, that He has the right to make the rules. Rather than shake our defiant fists in His face, He wants us to bend our knee and humbly ask for mercy.
But like I said, that's not a popular message in this country, in our world. People don't want to apologize, let alone admit wrongdoing to their Creator. Let's face it, we don't like being wrong, do we? It hurts to admit that maybe, just maybe we aren't as good as we think we are.
And yet even with our pride keeping us from all that God has for us, even in the midst of Joel's message of impending judgment, he offers this wonderful paragraph of hope. I hope it blesses you as it did me today:
"That is why the Lord says, "Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don't tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead." Return to the Lord your God for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before." (Joel 2:12-14 NLT)
Oh, that we would all return with hearts in love with Jesus and repent as individuals, as families, as a nation, as our world. God may yet decide that the time for judgment is not yet. He will deal with evil, but we can stem the tide if we simply heed Jesus' message and Joel's words.