And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Joel 2:13
That phrase “rend your hearts” is intense! It cuts right to the root of the matter which is found in the verse right before: “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning.”
Isn’t it interesting that it couples fasting with repentance here? I’ve always thought of fasting as a thing to do in order to remove distractions from my life so I can focus on God. But in this story, Israel went way off track from God’s plan for them, and He called them to fast, repent, and return to Him with their whole hearts.
Typically, when I repent, I just pray and move on. But this goes deeper than that. Fasting isn’t a requirement for forgiveness, but here we see it as an added element to repentance. Fasting deals with our selfish desires—all those selfish ambitions trying to draw us away from God’s heart. And isn’t it kind of the Father to assure them of the grace and compassion He will give them when they do?