March 09, 2010

Hope for Hurting Hearts

Joel 2:12-17

“Return to me with all your heart…” Rend your heart and not your garments.
Joel 2:12-13


The words of today’s Scripture are read every year in the traditional Ash Wednesday liturgy. Ash Wednesday, which fell this year on February 17, is the first day of Lent, a season in the church calendar that invites us to pay special attention to the suffering and death of Jesus.

Why are these instructions about rending hearts and not garments significant? In the Bible the tearing of clothes is a sign of mourning and is often accompanied by the placing of ashes on one’s head.

Jacob tore his clothes when he heard a report that his son, Joseph, had been killed (Genesis 37:34). And when King Josiah heard the words of the Book of the Law after it was rediscovered in the temple, he tore his robes as a sign of grief over the nation’s sin (2 Kings 22:11).

Sometimes the reality of sin is enough to break our hearts.

The season of Lent reminds us that no one felt the pain of sin more than Jesus. When he was crucified, Jesus was stripped of his garments. More than that, his heart broke under the weight of our sin.

God’s invitation to return to him is answered by our looking to the cross of Christ and asking forgiveness through his sacrifice for us. God promises to wash away our sin and give us new life through the One whose torn garments and broken heart bring healing for the world.

“Amazing love! How can it be that you, my Lord, should die for me?!” Thank you, Jesus, for paying the penalty for my sin. Help me to love you with all my heart. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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