As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts. In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom. We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.
A reading from the Prophet Joel.
Blow the trumpet in Zion. Announce a holy fast; proclaim a sacred assembly! Gather the people; sanctify an assembly! Gather the elders; gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom and the bride from her private quarters. Let the priests, those who serve the LORD, weep from the vestibule all the way back to the altar. Let them say, “Have pity, O LORD, on your people; please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked, to become a proverb among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
This is the Word of the Lord.
Last year, when we were in Central Asia, a few of us had a discussion about whether the western church needed revival or reformation. We talked into the night about the differences in those two concepts and about the end results of each.
Revival, we concluded, breathed life back into the existing model. While reformation took the model apart and (using the same parts) rebuilt it.
While we never reached a consensus on which would be most beneficial in the church, we did conclude that neither could happen without repentance.
Joel, in our text for today, is in the middle of a bad situation. The chosen people of God are in exile. Placed there by their own disobedience to the commands of God. The situation is dire. And, the Prophet calls out for repentance. He recognizes that the people of God needed revival and reformation. But, before that can happen, they needed repentance.
And so, the Prophet calls for a fast. A fast during which everyone turns their thoughts away from whatever they thought was important—even nursing their children—and toward repentance.
I think it’s important to note that the motivation of the prophet wasn’t to make things better for them as a society.
It wasn’t for money or economic gain.
It wasn’t to get one particular political ideology ahead of another.
It was to ensure that the name of God would be proclaimed in the nations and would be made great.
It was for HIS FAME and HIS NAME!
Perhaps this is why the cry for revival that has rung out from pulpits across the western church for the past few decades have mostly fallen flat. The motivation for the cry is not quite where it should be.
What if we laid aside our desire for economic gain/vitality, our political agenda to be predominate in the nation, or growth in our church, and picked up the sole desire of HIS name being made great? Perhaps that would lend some credibility to our cries for revival.
Yet, let’s go one step deeper. What if, instead of revival or reformation, we simply called for repentance. Let’s stop praying for reformation and stop fasting for revival, and simply do what it is the Prophet Joel instructed those in exile to do: REPENT.
Repentance is the act of turning away from the direction you’re heading and turning to look fully on God. It’s not a partial turn so you see the Father out of the corner of your eye. It’s a complete turn. 180 degrees.
Repentance is not feeling sorry for the direction you’re going, or even hoping to go a different direction. It’s an active turn.
And, it’s FULLY up to you to do. God can’t (and won’t) force you to repent. He’ll call you. He’ll ask you to repent. But it’s up to you to actually do it.
Once the act of repentance has been done, then the revival and/or reformation can begin. As this occurs, God’s name is made great, and society is transformed so that it lines up fully with the Kingdom of God.