A Call to Repentance - Part 1

(the LORD speaking to His people directly and through Joel)
    "Yet even now," declares the LORD,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.

Joel 2:12-13 (ESV)

"Fasting... weeping, and... mourning" were expressions of grief in ancient Israel, but they could be external only: reference the Pharisees described by Jesus in Matthew 16:6 who would "disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others"; or consider Muslims during the month of Ramadan, abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset, many of whom then gorge at night. Likewise, weeping and mourning could be contrived (as, for example, by Hollywood actors).

Clothes in Joel's day, even the fabric from which they were tailored, were all handmade and expensive. They were even used as commodities for bartering or gifts for honoring. Rending them as an expression of grief was a serious gesture. Still, they were material objects that could be mended or replaced.

The LORD called His people through Joel -- and He is calling His people today through that same word --  for a more sure sign of repentance over sin, one that can be seen only by Him --
"return to me with all your heart." Yes, return with "fasting... weeping, and... mourning," but from the heart. Let your heart be torn, "not (just) your garments."
    Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
    For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
    Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
    For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:1-4,16-17 (ESV)

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.