A traditional show of lament, suffering or grief was for the people of Israel (among others) to tear, or rend, their clothing. It was an outward sign of what was going on in their hearts and minds. So, what does that have to do with us, and why does he tell the reader to “rend their hearts and not your garments?”
The book of Joel is all about repentance. It can sort of be summed up in the verses surrounding this statement.
“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.”Joel 2:12-13
You see, while tearing the clothing could be an outward show of internal emotion, GOD desires more. He desires a “torn” heart. He desires for us to realize that we are our biggest problem. He desires for us to be so distressed about the brokenness in our lives and in the lives of others that we rip up the very thing that signifies our lives. He wants our hearts. For when He has that, He has all of us.
And please don’t think that He he wants this for His own satisfaction. Of course, this is the way that He receives more glory, but His desire is also for us. He desires to bless, to protect, to show mercy, to uphold, to strengthen, to give peace, to bind up, to heal, to bless us.
Unfortunately, many times we are quick to give outward signs of remorse or change so that others will see it. We may shed tears, talk to close friends partially confessing our failures, post a heart-warming Instagram pic, even start going to church to check-off the boxes. Shoot, we may even write a blog post about it…. but none of that is real repentance. Real repentance is changing your very hear, and a true change of heart requires fully giving it to a Holy GOD. You can give GOD 99% and that’s not enough, because that 1% is where you still believe that you are your own god. And it will grow. And it will poison you. And it will destroy you.
GOD wants so much more for you. But He can only do that if you are willing to give it all to Him.
“…rend your hearts and not your garments.”Tweet