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Journey to Jerusalem Day 1

Ash Wednesday, February 26                                        Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

1 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
    sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
    nor will be again after them
    through the years of all generations.

12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13     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.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
    and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
    for the Lord your God?

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16     gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
    assemble the elders;
gather the children,
    even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
    and the bride her chamber.

17 Between the vestibule and the altar
    let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
    and make not your heritage a reproach,
    a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”

Alarms get our attention. They are used to warn, inform, or call us to action. Joel’s first “Blow a trumpet” (v1) alarm warns that judgement is coming. Israel had seen the “Day of the Lord” as a day when Yahweh would judge the nations and restore Israel’s former glory. Associated with this “day” was hope, joyful expectation, and national pride. However, Joel’s word is this judgment will also include unfaithful Israel! The day was supposed to be sunshine and rainbows, but it will actually be “a day of darkness and gloom” (v2).

Yet, in the midst of judgment and warning Yahweh extends grace and mercy, inviting Israel to return to him. Returning, like repentance, requires a change of direction, posture, and attitude. Called out for their unfaithfulness, Yahweh invites Israel to be faithful. Faithfulness/returning must be deeper than outward clothing and actions.

Thus, the Lord declares, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments” (vv12-13). Notice the orientation of the heart is deeply directed by the things we do with our bodies. This is why Yahweh says to weep and fast, for these actions help direct our hearts!

Joel’s second, “Blow the trumpet” (v15) calls Israel to respond to Yahweh’s merciful invitation with action. A call to reorient hearts through the disciplines of fasting, praying, gathering, and hopeful anticipation.

Lent is a season where we answer this call to action. We embrace disciplines that help reorient our hearts to God. Hear the trumpet sounding; return to the Lord.

Gracious Father, we thank you that “even now” is a word of mercy for us! Help us to not grow faint or lazy in our pursuit of you; in Jesus’ name. Amen!