Together in Christ: 'Return to Me!' — Joel 2:12-13

Friday, March 1, 2024

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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.

— Joel 2:12-13 NLT

Key Thought

God is much more concerned about our hearts genuinely loving Him and longing to be in a relationship with Him than He is about any external things. The Old Covenant prophets emphasized that God's people often lost their hearts to what was false and only gave lip service to God in their rituals. [1] Jesus also emphasized that God wants us to love Him and serve Him from our hearts and not just by going through religious motions. [2]

We must hear several of Joel's key phrases passionately speaking God's invitation to us:

  • "Give me your hearts..."
  • "Don't tear your clothing... tear your hearts instead."

God pleads for us to return to Him wholeheartedly: "Turn to me now, while there is time." Why would the Almighty God plead with His creations? Because YHWH loves us and longs for us to come home to Him and love Him — heart, soul, mind, and strength. [3] Our Abba Father is full of "unfailing love" and yearns to be "merciful and compassionate" to us!

The amazing truth is as simple and straightforward as it is glorious: The Creator of the universe, with all of its eternal power, mystery, and beauty, knows each of us and longs for us to draw near to Him and know Him. [4] As the apostle Paul said:

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'" [5]

Let's come to this God seeking to love and know Him as we are loved and known by Him! [6] Then, as John tells us, loving God and loving each other are intimately connected. [7]

[1] Deuteronomy 30:6; Isaiah 29:13; Romans 2:29.
[2] Matthew 5:8, 28, 6:33, 9:4, 12:34, 13:15, 15:8, 16-20, 18:35, 22:27.
[3] Matthew 22:34-40.
[4] Psalm 139:1-24.
[5] Acts 17:24-28 NIV.
[6] Psalm 103:17; Jeremiah 31:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:1-3.
[7] 1 John 4:20-21.

Today's Prayer

Almighty God, Creator of the universe, I am humbled and grateful that You know and still welcome me into Your presence. Thank You for longing to bring me into Your family and make me Your child. Thank You for the incredible price and effort You made to show Your love to me in Jesus. I offer You my heart, soul, mind, and body as a living sacrifice of praise [A] for all You have done for me to show Your unfailing love and compassion. Thank you! I praise You in Jesus' name and because of Jesus' sacrifice. Amen.

[A] Hebrews 13:15.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 139:1-24
  • Romans 8:14-32

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Illustration

Illustration of Joel 2:12-13 NLT — 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.

About This Devotional

Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.

'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.