Reflecting on words from Joel,this post originally appeared on BIGBible.com
How’s your heart? Has it been ‘rent’ recently?
Heart-rending – adjective – Causing great sadness or distress
The way ‘heart-rending’ has come into use takes away the violence of the phrase. Rending hearts in the way referred to in Joel 2:13 is more than simply ‘distress yourselves’.
Better to look at the definition of rend:
Rend: verb (past and past participle rent /rɛnt/) [WITH OBJECT] Tear (something) into pieces
This is reflected in the passage: Rend your heart and not your garments.
Ripping up their clothes was a cultural way of expressing grief. But the external was not enough. To rend a heart is an action that expresses a repentance deep and profound. Gather and weep, they are told. Return to the Lord with your tattered hearts, not tattered clothes.
It’s a powerful image. How do we choose to translate it? I would suggest it is not the same as what our culture would call ‘beating yourself up about it’. That is a very inward thing. This rending-of-heart is an outward thing, for all its ‘internal’ nature. They rend their hearts before God.
And this God is gracious and compassionate (also v13). A God who will provide for them. A God who would restore the years the locusts had eaten (v25) and afterwards ‘send his Spirit on all people’ (v28).
- How do we ‘do’ repentance? Do we take it seriously? Does the darkness in our world and in our own selves cause us to rend our hearts before our compassionate God?
On the cross this God of grace rent his own heart, an act of violent compassion to bring healing to the beloved (and wayward) world. By doing so, God opened the way for that Holy Spirit outpouring – verses that Peter quotes on that Pentecost day when the church of God was born.
- What might be the equivalent of tearing our garments today? How can we go deeper in our expressions of penitent faith?
- What place is there for collective repentance in today’s world? Could our digital technologies sometimes facilitate this?
- How might we need to ‘return to the Lord’?