The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost…” – Joel 2:25 NLT
We stand here, at the beginning of a new year, quite different than the one we were at one year ago. I think it is safe to say that every year brings some level of change, but this past year was a once in a lifetime type of year. One of those years you wish to forget, but likely never will. I see many people that have less this January than they had last January. Less optimism. Less patience. Less passion. Less friendships. Less finances. Less faith. In many ways, last year was a thief. It stole so much from so many.
But, I’m grateful that last year was not the last chapter of the story. As the year turns, so does the page, and God has so much more to write! Why? Because He gives you back what has been stolen. If it was taken from you, it’s coming back to you in His timing because that is who He is. It is what He does. There are 149 instances in the Old Testament of God being a “Redeemer” of His people. And if He is a Redeemer, then we can surely expect Him to redeem the things we have lost. If it is His will for you to have it, then He will give it back to you bigger and better than it was before. That’s not just positive thinking, that’s Biblical thinking. I believe 2021 will be the year of redemption for you and your family.
The prophet Joel writes in his book, which is a prophecy to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, about a locust plague that has ravaged the people of Judah. It has destroyed everything. It has stolen their grain and crops, which was not only their sustenance, but their livelihood as well. It was a devastating plague that left them hopeless. And in chapter 1 as Joel is describing this plague, he begins to transition his message from describing an actual plague, to a metaphorical one that has even bigger consequences: the plague of sin that was bringing the wrath of God to His people. Joel is saying, the destruction that you are experiencing physically is a parallel to the destruction you are about to experience spiritually, and all of it is a result of the sin in your life. And his solution for this problem is repentance.
As the year turns, so does the page, and God has so much more to write! Why? Because He gives you back what has been stolen.
That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is still time. Give me your hearts.” – Joel 2:12 NLT
He says if you turn your heart towards God, He will have mercy on you and restore what you’ve lost. God says through Joel that if they will turn to Him, He will restore all the years of harvest that the locusts have stolen.
I believe this message is a “now” message for us at the beginning of this year. I believe God is saying, “I am the God who restores the years that have been stolen, but I’m asking for one thing: turn your hearts to me.” We must realize that every bad thing that happens to us is not necessarily a direct result of a particular sin in our lives. But all bad things that happen are an overarching result of our sin, which has fractured humanity since the first sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. So, what is the solution? Repentance. Turn to Him. Turn every part of your heart to Him. Give everything over to Him. Surrender. What is His response? Restoration and redemption. He restores. He redeems.
His job is redemption. Our job is repentance.
As we embark on a new year, let’s not try to fix everything. Don’t carry the weight of making everything better or making up for seemingly lost time. You don’t have the power to do that anyway. What you do have the power to do is surrender. What have you hidden from God? What have you held back from God? Why have you been calloused towards God or the things of God? What has caused you to pull back or turn away? As we turn the page on a year, let’s turn around in our hearts. Face Him. Run to Him. Come back to Him. He will do the rest.