• Rev. Mark Tews

Return to the Lord

Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.” (Joel 2:21–22).

Spring is a wonderful season of transition from the cold and dead of winter to the warmth and joy of new life. It is also a busy time of year as nature is abuzz with new life and activity preparing for the coming growing season. In our text for today, the prophet Joel issues an invitation to be glad and rejoice with the allusion to the newness of spring. Such newness, gladness, and rejoicing will become ours every time we leave behind the coldness and bitterness of the world. In these days of political turmoil and record inflation, return to the Lord, discover anew God’s love and mercy, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are times when we are so preoccupied with the demands of everyday life that we do not take time to draw nearer to the Lord. We tell ourselves that we will skip our devotional time today and catch up with it tomorrow. We don't have the time to think, so we say that we will sleep on it and get around to it later. At other times, we are so caught up in and focused on what we see reported in the 24-hour news cycle that we become numb and totally oblivious to the joys and blessings of life all around us.

For all people, the prophet Joel issues the Lord’s invitation: “…return to Me with all your heart.” (Joel 2:12). The word, "return" is often translated as "repent." However, the word "return" means much more than to change one's mind. The word means to become aware of God's presence. A spring-like renewal of our hearts and lives is ours whenever we are aware of God's presence in our lives and all the great things that He has surely done for us. Be aware of God's presence in the fellowship of others and in worshiping with them. Be aware of God's presence with a still heart and a silent mind. Be aware of God's presence by observing acts of kindness and love.

The prophets often issued harsh words to the people of Israel. They hesitated to approach God because they feared His wrath. Joel reassured them that God is not a God of only wrath and judgment. “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13). When we encounter God's love and mercy, we are encouraged in our walks of faith. God's love and mercy gives us hope in desperate and hopeless times.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit descended upon individuals at special times. For example, the prophets would receive the Holy Spirit when they were going to speak on God's behalf. God promises to pour out His Spirit on everyone. There is no hierarchy – we are all on the same level as far as God is concerned. We can all have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This empowers us to serve God fearlessly and with rejoicing.

The prophet Joel calls us all to rejoice and be glad in God's presence, where the fears of this world get swallowed up like the last cold days of winter in the new warmth of spring. May the joy of this season of spring and the victory of Jesus’ Easter resurrection always remind us of the wonderful things God has done so that we may be renewed. Boldly serve your risen Lord, Jesus Christ, every day in every way.