Consecrate a fast,
Proclaim a solemn assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.

The prophet Joel spoke to the people of Israel as they experienced first-hand the judgment of God. A disastrous plague of locusts had come upon the land and was destroying everything. Food, crops, and all sustenance was disappearing as drought and famine pervaded the land. God couldn’t look upon their sin any more. So, the prophet summoned the leaders of the community to call the people to repentance. Israel’s sin had run rampant. Joel called them back to the truth and urged them to humble themselves before their God.

Lamenting isn’t something we see very often in the American church. You probably haven’t received a Facebook invite for a church-wide solemn assembly. This doesn’t draw the crowds like free food or a night of worship. Yet, Joel knew that the people had been living with rebellious hearts and lives. They were finally realizing the gravity of that disobedience as the locusts descended upon them. But they couldn’t just say they sinned and move on. They needed to grieve their sin and repent.

Repentance should be a regular rhythm of our lives as believers. Calling the church to prayer, fasting, and repentance is a needed practice that collectively humbles us before God. However, we should also daily examine our own hearts—asking the Lord to search us and reveal the waywardness within us. We should be regularly turning from our sin and believing Christ for a better way. Once we acknowledge and grieve our sin, then we can turn from it and walk more closely with Jesus.

• What does repentance look like in your life? Is it a regular practice or a neglected discipline?

• Even when it comes to your individual practice of repentance, how does the body of Christ play a role? How can you bring others into the process? How can you respond to your repentance with action (belief)?

• Take some time for the Lord to search your heart and make you aware of the sin that has taken up residence there. Repent (turn away) from your sin and believe Christ in word and deed.