Today’s Reading: Malachi 2:10-4:6; Joel 1-3:21
Today we finish the Old Testament. Can you believe you made it this far? Did you make this far? Maybe you are anxiously awaiting the beginning of the New Testament tomorrow. Either way it has been a long journey. 37 weeks of reading to get us to where we are today.
Today’s reading brings up a key teaching of Christ. It is a core teaching of Christianity that we focus not as much as what we do from an outward appearance but what we do on the inside. What we do with our hearts. As we dig into the teachings of Christ for the next couple of months it will be very obvious that Christ was not very happy with outward appearing religious people who had given their hearts to God whole heartedly. He despised the false pretenses of a visible religion.
Today’s verse from Joel is a great reminder that this teaching of Christ was not a radical teaching. Christ was merely teaching what many had forgotten from the Old Testament. Just in yesterday’s post I spoke of our blemished sacrifices and how we were to obey as a better response than to sacrifice…
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
But Joel says it in a different way today, but it is the same message:
Joel 2:12 – 13 (NIV)
12“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13Rend your heart
and not your garments.
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.
Jewish custom and tradition has said that when a great immense sadness or tragedy besets you, you rip your coat as a sign of your grief. It is a public act of sacrifice (ruining your coat), that one blatantly did to demonstrate the gravity of their grief. As a reminder, even Paul and Barnabas did this in Acts 14:14.
But God is calling for a rending of the heart. He wants us to return to him not with ripped clothes but with a torn heart. With a real pain in our hearts that needs to be healed.
David shared these same thoughts when he wrote the great Psalm of repentance and forgiveness in Psalm 51. I posted earlier on this very topic “A very sad day”.
When confronted with his sin, David penned these very words:
Psalm 51;16-17 (NIV)
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
It is true that we do not rip or rend our clothes when confronted with our sin and shame. But we do sometimes put on the show of being repentant. We sometimes act as though we will make up for our mistake through some sacrifice. Sure, I was wrong, I will clean up the yard this week or load the dishwasher or read a few extra chapters this week.
God does not want our sacrifices, he wants our hearts to be broken for him.