God Wants Real Repentance

Posted: March 6, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 3, “God Wants Real Repentance”

For many Christians, today is the day they celebrate Ash Wednesday.  Typically, palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned & the ashes are lightly rubbed onto people’s foreheads as a symbol of repentance, and a reminder of morality (we came from dust & will return to dust).  That’s great, as long as people understand why it is they are repenting.  An act symbolizing repentance is meaningless if it is without a heart that is truly broken over sin & turning away from it.

The ancient Hebrews had two problems. They either (1) did not repent at all, or (2) did not repent with any sincerity.  And God calls both the nations of Israel and Judah to account for it.  Although God is not blind to their lack of true repentance, God is not unwilling to receive them when it becomes true.  He repeatedly invites His people to turn away from sin, and turn back to a true, vibrant relationship with their covenant God.

Context: Jeremiah had been called by the Lord to be a faithful prophet.  He had a message given him by God, and a responsibility to proclaim it faithfully.  And that’s what he did.  The message was a hard one, but it was one that needed to be said.  God had seen the sin of His people.  All the “house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel” had sinned against Him (both the northern and southern kingdoms).  In Chapter 2, God laid out His charges against the people, denying their protests that they were innocent, and declaring that not even the Gentile nations treated their false gods the way the Hebrew nation treated the True God.  The Hebrews had not received God’s correction in the past, and God would ensure their coming defeat in the present.

That said, don’t get the idea that God did not love His people…He did!  He wanted to see them repent; it’s just that they refused to do so.  What they needed was a bit of a wake-up call to bring them back to the reality of what they had done, and what God desired for them.  And that’s what God promises to do.

Far better than experiencing the consequences of our sin is to acknowledge the true sinfulness of our sin.  God desires true confession and repentance from His people, and He graciously gives us the opportunity to do it.

Jeremiah 3

  • No shame among Israel (vss. 1-5)

1 “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the LORD.

  • The analogy is obvious.  Just like a husband and wife cannot join themselves to others in various marriages & expect to come together again themselves in marriage, neither could Israel expect to do this with God.  The marriage covenant is one that is supposed to be sacred: a joining of a single man with a single woman by God to make one whole person out of the two.  Thus divorce is like ripping a person in half, spiritually speaking (which is the reason it is hated by the Lord).  Ultimately, earthly marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ Jesus and the Church, with Jesus as the Husband & the Church as His Bride.  Just as we cannot imagine Jesus having multiple marriages, nor the Church having multiple Savior-Husbands, neither should men & women have multiple spouses.  The marriage covenant is too pure & too sacred for such a thing.  To jump around between spouses would “pollute” it & cause it to be defiled.
  • That’s what God said that the people of Israel did with Him.  The relationship between God and Israel is supposed to be similar to the relationship between Jesus and the Church.  Yet Israel had “played the harlot with many lovers.”  She had gone from false god to false god in her idolatry.  As soon as the northern kingdom split off from the south, it had a foundation in idolatry (the calves of Jeroboam, which King Jeroboam proclaimed to be the gods of Israel – 1 Kings 12:28).  Israel never truly repented, and these were stumbling blocks to them during their entire existence.  Their idolatry was equivalent to adultery in the eyes of the Lord God, and their assumption that they could just pick back up again without consequence was foolish.  It would defile the land, just like jumping in & out of marriage would defile the land (Deut 24:4).
  • On the one hand, we could read this & wonder if God really wants them to repent?  After all, isn’t God telling Israel that if they repented from their sins & turned back to God in true worship, that it would defile the land?  No.  The idea here is not one of true repentance, but of thoughtless fake-worship.  God is incredulous at the idea that the nation could believe that they could simply ignore their sins & try to go back to life-as-usual.  As if they could go through the motions of worship & pretend everything was OK, simply because they were no longer bowing to false idols.  That’s not repentance; that’s ritualism – and it is abhorred by God.
  • God knew what their sin was really like…

2 “Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see: Where have you not lain with men? By the road you have sat for them Like an Arabian in the wilderness; And you have polluted the land With your harlotries and your wickedness. 3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; You refuse to be ashamed.

  • Israel had been totally promiscuous in its objects of worship.  It paraded between false gods like animals in heat.  And to top it all off, they didn’t care.  They were without shame in their actions.  The “harlot’s forehead” seems to be a reference to the decorations & head-dresses prostitutes would wear to advertise themselves.  God uses the idea to describe Israel.  They had advertised themselves open to worship any and every god, even though they were supposed to be a people in a covenant with the one true God.  They had no shame, and took no responsibility for their sin.
  • And their sin had consequences.  The very reason they inhabited the physical land they were in was because it had been given them by Almighty God.  Israel had not always dwelt in the land of Canaan – it had once belonged to other nations.  Yet God removed those nations (in judgment for their sin), and gave it as an everlasting possession for Israel.  Israel had not gained the land because of their efforts – they hadn’t earned a single square inch of real-estate.  God gave them every bit.  (Just like our salvation is not earned; it’s given!)  And because they turned away from God in their worship, they polluted the gift of God provided to them.  The prosperity of the land was directly tied into their faithfulness unto God.  God warned them of this before they entered in to possess it: Deuteronomy 11:16–17, "(16) Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, (17) lest the LORD’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you." []  Yet this is exactly what happened.  They served other gods, and God shut up the blessings of heaven as they were being perished from the land.
    • Sin always has consequences!  We fool ourselves when we think that no one is being hurt by our sin.  The sin of the people of Israel hurt themselves, and their ability to feed their families.  It cut them off from the blessings of being in a relationship with God, and they suffered immensely as a result. 
    • Obviously we do not live in the promised land, nor do we have the misunderstanding that we have to live a perfect sinless life in order to enjoy the blessings of God.  Our covenant relationship with God is based upon the grace of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.  That said, we’re fooling ourselves if we believe we can sin with impunity.  We’re delusional if we think that sin is without consequence.  There are always consequences to our sin, even if we don’t see them immediately.  At the very least, unconfessed & unrepentant sin throws up a roadblock in our relationship with God, and we do not experience the blessings of the abundant life that He desires for us.  Beyond that, sin always has an effect on those around us – it cannot help but be that way.  It’s like nuclear radiation.  It can be hidden out of sight for a while, but it always has a way of permeating through & polluting those around us.
  • The solution would be Godly sorrow & repentance.  However, that never came… 

4 Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth? 5 Will He remain angry forever? Will He keep it to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken and done evil things, As you were able.”

  • As incredulous as God was that Israel thought it could ignore its own sin, He is also incredulous that they had not yet repented.  How much punishment would be enough?  What would it take for Israel to finally wake up and realize what they had done to themselves?  Like a parent who is amazed that a child keeps making his/her situation worse & worse & worse, so is God amazed that His people have not yet repented from their sin.  They had already experienced much trouble in the Assyrian captivity, and they would experience much more.
  • God DID invite Israel to turn to Him in repentance, but it needed to be sincere.  God was indeed angry with them, but He would not “remain angry forever” if they truly confessed.  The problem was that they had “spoken and done evil things,” yet never admitted it.  In their minds, their actions were not sinful.  Until they could reach the point of realizing the sinfulness of their own sin, then things would not change.
    • We spend so much time making excuse for our sin!  We find ways of justifying our actions, and try to use descriptions that make them sound like acceptable behavior.  It’s not lusting after pornography; it’s “a brief temptation.”  It’s not bearing hatred towards our brother; it’s “making sure they get what they deserve.”  It’s not dishing out in gossip; it’s “simply telling the story.”  No – it’s not.  May we be done with such irrational excuses & come to the point that we can admit we “have spoken and done evil things as [we] were able.”  To agree with God that sin is indeed sin is true confession.  THAT’s the starting point of repentance, and until we get there we can go no further.
  • Harlotry of Israel and Judah (vss. 6-11)

6 The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. 7 And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

  • During the “days of Josiah the king,” Assyria had already overrun the northern kingdom of Israel, and those who were left had briefly joined with the southern kingdom of Judah again in worship (at least for a time).  In the process, all of the idolatry that had been in the north was plainly seen by any from the south who would go there.  There were high places of worship everywhere in the former northern kingdom – “on every high mountain and under every green tree.”  Those were the things that God had invited Israel to repent of, and they never did.  Thus they suffered the consequences.  They were “backslidden” away from the Lord, and estranged from Him.
    • What’s the difference between a backslider & a pagan?  Practically speaking, not much other than their place of origin.  The pagan non-believer doesn’t have the pretense of having been in a relationship with God; the backslider seemingly started off in a relationship with the Lord, but slid away from Him.  The backslider ends up at the same place as a pagan, doing the same sins & living the same way – only with a false assurance that he/she belongs to God.
    • The question to ask the backslider is: what assurance?  Our assurance of salvation can only be found in Christ Jesus.  If we are not presently IN Christ, what assurance can someone claim that they’ve ever had salvation in the first place?  It doesn’t matter what card they may have filled out at a crusade, or what aisle they may have walked in the past – what is their relationship with Christ right now?  Do they HAVE a relationship with Christ right now?
    • What about the Christian that has engaged in sin – are we left without assurance, as if we ourselves are backslidden away from the Lord?  Do we have any assurance of our faith?  It all depends how you respond to the Lord’s prompting.  If you are grieved because of your sin, and your heart desires to repent though you understand your own weakness, then you have great assurance!  Those who realize that our only hope is the Lord Jesus have solid assurance of salvation.  It is those who have no conviction of sin, whose hearts are hardened that need be concerned.
  • God’s point in showing this to Jeremiah was that the southern nation of Judah had seen the sin of northern Israel/Samaria.  They saw the evidence of their sister’s idolatry, and they also saw what God did with them in judgment.  And yet Judah remained unchanged.  Thus they were without excuse of their own.

8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. 9 So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.

  • The “certificate of divorce” is a reference to the Assyrian conquest of Israel/Samaria.  Israel had been married to the Lord God, and though God hates divorce, He allowed Israel to be divorced from Him because He was left without choice.  Their adultery had given no other option.
  • One would think that all of this would have caused Judah to repent.  There were times of brief revival in the southern kingdom, but sadly, they would not last.  The kings of Judah started to engage in greater and greater sin, doing the same things that their northern relatives had done: they “defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.”  I.e. they worshiped idols carved from rocks and wood.  They gave themselves to the false gods of pagan nations, and played just as much the harlot as the northern kingdom.

10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the LORD. 11 Then the LORD said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.

  • Considering that both nations engaged in terrible idolatry, how would Israel have “shown herself more righteous”?  Simple: at least they hadn’t lied about their sincerity in worship.  Israel never admitted their sin, but they never really claimed to follow God in truth, either.  They just tried to add God in with all of the rest of their idolatry.  Judah, on the other hand, claimed to be righteous.  They had the temple in Jerusalem, and they performed the ritual of sacrifice, even though their hearts were far from the Lord.  The Jews gave God lip-service which was meaningless, and even what they gave was perverted in the first place.  When they turned to God, they turned “in pretense,” which was abhorrent to God.
  • That’s the way ritualistic worship is, any time it is performed without sincerity.  When people walk through the motions of repentance, without their hearts truly grieving over sin, it’s meaningless.  That’s true whether we participate in a mainline denomination & do a ritual on Ash Wednesday, or whether we’re participate in a non-denominational church & just mouth words of the sinner’s prayer.  God doesn’t want our insincere ritual; He desires a heart that is truly broken & a person who truly throws him/herself upon the mercies of Christ Jesus.  Psalm 51:16–17, "(16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise." []  God does not delight in empty ritual, but in sincere & contrite hearts – and that is something anyone can give at any time!
  • Invitation to repent #1 (vss. 12-14a)

12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not remain angry forever.

  • Jeremiah was a prophet living in the southern kingdom, but God gave him a specific word for the northern Samaritans: repent!  “Return, backsliding Israel.”  They had sinned against Him, but He did not desire that they forever remain estranged.  He desired their true repentance and restoration to Himself.  In vs. 5, God knew that the people wondered if God would “remain angry forever,” and in vs. 12 He answers the question: No.  Could God remain angry?  Sure.  As long as the people remained shamelessly in their sin, God would continue to cut them off, but the moment they turned, God would be right there – ready to receive His people in grace.
  • Why?  Because God is “merciful.”  We serve a merciful God!  People often imagine God as angry or vindictive, and the Bible does indeed speak of the anger of God.  The problem with our view of God’s anger is that we think God gets angry like we do.  We get angry for all the wrong reasons, and lose our tempers in unjust ways – and we inevitably imagine that God is the same way.  Not so!  God is infinitely just & righteous.  When God gets angry, it is a righteous anger.  He is just as angry as the situation requires for as long as it is required.  (Which can be eternity, when we speak of the subject of hell.)  But when people repent, and atonement is made through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, the anger of God ceases.  His anger doesn’t need to fall upon us, because it has already fallen upon Christ.  Once His anger is completed, what is left?  Mercy.  THAT is what we experience in Jesus, and that is what all people everywhere can experience in Jesus!
  • God had but one requirement for His people…

13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the LORD.

  • In order for God’s anger to be put away, then true confession needed to take place.  Unlike Judah, who pretended to worship God & did not, Israel’s/Samaria’s problem was that they did not admit that they had sinned at all.  They had engaged in all kinds of idolatrous harlotry, but they never called it what it was.  God’s requirement to them: confession.  “Acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God.”  They needed to confess.
  • Keep in mind that confession is simply agreement.  In this case, it is to agree with God that sin is sin.  Confession isn’t just a recital of the things we think God wants to hear; it’s an admission that everything that God says about our sin is correct.  In confession, our view of our words/deeds come in line with how God views it.  No longer do we try to justify our actions & make excuses for them – the excuses stop, and we just call it for what it is.  For Israel, they needed to admit that their “worship” was heinous idolatry.  For us, we may need to admit that our “internet temptation” really was horrific pornography, or that our “harsh words” were really venomous hatred of our brother, etc.  Whatever the case, we stop making excuses, and we agree with God that our sin is truly as sinful as what He says that it is.
    • BTW – there is a promise for those who confess in truth: forgiveness!  1 John 1:8–9, "(8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." []  Just as God invited Israel to confess & repent, so does God invite us!  We who believe upon Jesus still trip & fall into sin.  Sometimes we might even find ourselves in a season of sin – a time of backsliding.  What do we do about it?  Confess!  Go before the Lord Jesus in humility & contrition, admitting our sin & turning from it.  And the promise from God is that He will restore us in forgiveness.  (What are we waiting for?)
  • Promise of Kingdom restoration (vss. 14-18)

14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

  • God reiterates His invitation for Israel to repent.  Why did He even offer the invitation in the first place?  Because He had a covenant relationship with His people.  Again, He had a marriage-type relationship with them.  Yes, God had given them a certificate of divorce (vs. 8), and no, God could not casually restore their relationship after unrepentance harlotry (vs. 1), but none of that means that God ever stopped loving His people.  After all, He was “married” to them!  He did not desire thoughtless worship, but He certainly desired their true repentance.  And His promise was that if they DID truly repent, then God WOULD receive them back.  His mercy and grace is better than their sin, and upon their sincere confession and turning, He would give them the restoration that God always desired for them.
  • What would that be?  The restored kingdom.  God would bring them “to Zion.”  Remember that this is a word to the northern kingdom of Israel.  Their capital was the city of Samaria; it was the southern kingdom of Judah that had its capital in Jerusalem.  Yet God promised to bring them to Zion/Jerusalem.  God is referring not only to a restored northern people, but a restored Kingdom of Israel as a whole.  God would bring the northern people back into a fully restored fellowship, which included a King from the line of David (something which the northern kingdom had not experienced since the moment the nation split).  In addition to the capital of Zion (with the Davidic king), God promised godly leaders or “shepherd according to My heart.”  They would receive leaders and teachers who would guide the people into the word and precepts of God, and who would not lead them astray as their kings of the past had done.
  • All of this sounds wonderful!  But when will it all take place?  After all, Israel remained decimated by the Assyrians, and had virtually lost all its identity by the time of Jesus.  By that point, the people were fully known as Samaritans, and they had no idea how to worship God (though some did rejoice over the Messiah when Jesus was revealed to them).  Through the centuries, the northern kingdom still was never truly reunited in a glorious godly way.  Even today, the modern nation of Israel incorporates much of what had been known as Samaria, but much is still estranged, claimed by the Palestinians as the West Bank.  To date, this prophecy remains unfulfilled…which suggests that it points to the Millennial Kingdom.  At that point, all 12 tribes of the nation will be gloriously restored as the Kingdom of Israel, ruled over by Christ the King, the Son of David, and those who teach and lead the people will be servants of the One True God, able to teach the people correctly.

16 “Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the LORD, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.

  • Why will the “ark of the covenant” no longer be remembered during the Millennial Age?  Because it will no longer be necessary.  The ark of the covenant famously carried the stone tablets of the 10 Commandments and various other artifacts that the Lord God commanded be placed inside.  These things were there, not as objects of worship, but as objects of remembrance.  They served as memorials for the people, to help them know the provision and presence of the Lord God among them.  The ark was placed within the tabernacle/temple as a symbol of the throne of God, with the blood of sacrifice placed upon the mercy seat (the covering/lid for the ark).  Yet during the Millennial Kingdom, it will no longer be needed.  Jesus will not need a symbolic throne because He will dwell among His people.  Memorials of the past provision of God will not be needed because God will provide for His people on a daily basis (just as He did during the days of the wilderness).

17 “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. 18 “In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers.

  • God tells of the total reunification of the Kingdom: “the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel.”  He tells of the total supremacy of the Kingdom: “all the nations shall be gathered to it.”  He tells of the total holiness of the Kingdom: “no more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.”  It will be a glorious time in which the praise and glory of Christ Jesus will be known not just among Israel, but among all the nations of the earth!
  • THAT is what God desired for His people, but that is exactly what they could not experience as long as they continued in their unabated sin…
  • Israel’s present sin (vss. 19-20)

19 “But I said: ‘How can I put you among the children And give you a pleasant land, A beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?’ “And I said: ‘You shall call Me, “My Father,” And not turn away from Me.’ 20 Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” says the LORD.

  • How could God give them the blessings of the Kingdom, when they were not acting as the people of the Kingdom?  How could God treat them as children, when they were not willing to call God their “Father,” and humbly submit themselves to His hand?  They had dealt “treacherously” with the Lord, and they left God without any options.  He wanted to bless them, but He could not ignore their sin.  To blind Himself to their sin would deny His holy justice.  As much as He loved His people, He was forced into a place where He had to righteously discipline them.
  • This is exactly what sin does to our relationship with God.  He desires that we would walk in close fellowship with Him, being filled with the Spirit, and experiencing the blessings of the abundant life.  There’s no question about God’s desire for us in this.  Even with His people Israel, the overwhelming theme of the law recorded in Deuteronomy was that His people learn to love Him & to rejoice in Him.  THAT was God’s desire for His people; not blind, robotic, begrudging obedience, but true sincere love & a blessed relationship between a people and their God.  That’s God’s desire for us, as well.  Jesus came that we might have life, and have life more abundantly (Jn 10:10).  The greatest commandment for us is that we would love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30).  We are called to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4), and to walk filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).  God has loved us to an extent that we can barely imagine – we can hardly grasp the width & length & depth & height of it (Eph 3:18).  THAT is God’s desire for us, that we would know & enjoy this relationship with Him.  The problem is that sin gets in the way of all of that.  Sin throws up roadblocks between us and the Lord.  God has great desires for us to use us for His glory, but He cannot ignore our sin.  Especially as Christians – our sin WILL be dealt with by our God.  As our Heavenly Father, He must deal with it because He loves us as His own children.  Thus He will do what He needs to do to bring us to a place of repentance.
  • That’s exactly what Israel WILL do one day, as God prophesies about it…
  • Future repentance and confession (vss. 21-25)

21 A voice was heard on the desolate heights, Weeping and supplications of the children of Israel. For they have perverted their way; They have forgotten the LORD their God.

  • THAT is true contrition!  People can fake going through the motions – they can walk through all kinds of rituals & do all kinds of things.  Culturally, it would have been common to tear their clothing & sit down in dust & ashes.  Any of that could be faked.  But when someone weeps to the point that their voice is “heard on the desolate heights,” that’s a sign of true sorrow over sin.  Of course, even loud wailing can be fake…people used to hire out mourners to wail for the dead.  But this is different.  The picture God is painting here is one of sincere sorrow.  Obviously God knows the difference between reality and ritual – after all, He can see the heart.  He sees the future, and He sees a people who are broken over their sin.  They saw how their steps were “perverted” (twisted), and how they had “forgotten the LORD their God.
  • No one likes sorrow, but sorrow CAN be a good thing, when it is a sincere sorrow over sin.  Paul made that point to the Corinthian church, after he had to chastise them for the way they had handled some problems.  2 Corinthians 7:9–10, "(9) Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. (10) For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." []  Was Paul happy that they were sorry?  No.  He was happy that their sorrow brought them to a point of true repentance.  That’s what God desires from each of us in our sin.  He doesn’t want us to beat ourselves in acts of penance – He doesn’t want us to try to force out tears.  He simply wants us to come to a point that we see our sin for what it truly is & be mature enough to have it break our heart. [Liv’s tears]  That’s the point that we’re humble enough to be receive the healing and forgiveness of God that He desires for us.

22 “Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.” …

  • The invitation remains!  God had not given Israel a one-time shot at repentance & forgiveness.  He could have – but He didn’t.  He called them long ago in the past to turn from their sin, and they did not.  They continued on & have experienced the consequences of their actions for centuries now.  But the invitation remains.  At some point during the Tribulation, the northern tribes of Israel WILL repent.  They will respond to the invitation of God, and receive the forgiveness available to them through their Messiah King, Jesus.
  • It is not too late for ANY of us to repent!  It may be too late to avoid certain consequences, but it is never too late for a person to be restored to the God who created him.  That’s true for the believer & the non-believer.  Until the moment we draw our last breath, we have every opportunity to come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved.  If our hearts are humble, and we are willing to surrender our lives to Jesus, then we can be saved at any age.  If the robber hanging next to Jesus upon the cross could be assured of Paradise, so can any person, even if they have lived his/her whole life without Christ.  (That said, this is not a decision to postpone!  We do not know when our last breath is going to be.  We do not know how long our hearts are softened enough to respond to the call of Jesus.  If you hear Jesus calling you to repent, then you need to do it NOW.)
  • The call of repentance is also to the backsliding believer.  The person who knows Jesus died on the cross for them, and whose only hope is in Christ, yet has been holding onto some kind of unconfessed sin is a person who has a miserable existence.  It is to know the truth of Christ, yet to live under the constant weight of guilt.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  That guilt can be released tonight – it’s not too late to confess it to God.  God continues to give His invitation to return & repent!

…“Indeed we do come to You, For You are the LORD our God. 23 Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, And from the multitude of mountains; Truly, in the LORD our God Is the salvation of Israel.

  • Finally, repentance takes place!  They will turn away from their false gods of the past to recognized that only the LORD God is God. “You are the LORD our God.”  They claim the I AM as their own, knowing that their only help & “salvation” is in Him.
  • Repentance always involves a turning from and a turning to.  It’s one thing to turn away from false gods, but it’s quite another to turn to the truth.  After all, just because someone turned away from the Canaanite god of Baal and turned to the other Canaanite god of Molech didn’t mean they repented unto salvation.  To be sure, there was a turning – but it was turning from false to false.  What was needed was a turning from the false to the truth – and that’s what took place when they turned to Yahweh God as being their God.  Their hope was in no other; only the Lord.
    • Likewise our only hope is in the Lord Jesus.  It doesn’t matter what we turn from if we never sincerely turn to Him.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn 14:6)  If we don’t come through Jesus, we cannot come at all.  In Him is the hope of our salvation.
    • If repentance doesn’t lead you to Jesus, then you haven’t experienced godly repentance!

24 For shame has devoured The labor of our fathers from our youth— Their flocks and their herds, Their sons and their daughters. 25 We lie down in our shame, And our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the LORD our God, We and our fathers, From our youth even to this day, And have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”

  • Not only did they turn to God in faith, but they finally took responsibility for their past & confessed their sin.  They had engaged shamelessly in their idolatry in the past, going from false god to false god, and refused to admit any culpability or sin.  Yet in sincere repentance, all of that changes.  They understand how they had been covered with shame, and how their sin had polluted the land & carried the consequences of their expulsion from the land of promise.  They had not “obeyed the voice of the LORD,” and their conquest by foreigners was the result.  This was full confession, completely agreeing with God – and God would accept it!  (Which He will go on to show in Ch. 4…)

Conclusion:
This is what God had desired for His people all along.  Obviously He did not want them to sin, but when they DID sin, He wanted them to admit it, turn from it, and be done with it.  That’s what confession & repentance is all about.  If they had simply done that, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  When we sin, admit it – turn from it – and be done with it.  If it’s so simple, why is it so rare? The steps are simple, but our pride is steep.  We don’t like admitting the sinfulness of our sin.  We prefer to make excuses, and come up with justifications.  We try to blind our eyes to the consequences, or pretend that God doesn’t really care about the things we’ve done.  We think we can gloss over the issue with meaningless ritual, and avoid the hard reality of true godly sorrow and contrition.

The thing is, there’s no shortcut.  If we are to be restored to a full blessed relationship with the Lord God, then there is no way to avoid confession & repentance.  It’s hard – it can hurt – but it has to be done.  Like a dirty wound that needs to be painfully scrubbed before a bandage can be applied for healing, so do our dirty hearts need to be scrubbed through confession and repentance in order to receive the healing and forgiveness of Jesus.

But the good news is that forgiveness is available!  No one needs to live under the weight of guilt.  Anyone and everyone can be freed of that burden, if we simply do things God’s way.  So what are we waiting for?

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