“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
“What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth—then my judgments go forth like the sun. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
I’m ready to give Israel an “atta boy” when Yahweh reads them the riot act. They sounded so good to me, but God saw through the insincere words to their hearts and noted the absence of a key ingredient to repentance — a changed life.
We’ve all done it. We’ve felt some guilt for our lifestyle, heard a sermon that brought us to a point of regretting our behavior, had a friend confront us and knew we needed to change, but in the end we did nothing. We said the right things, like Israel did (maybe through one of their leaders), but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to alter our conduct.
What this suggests is that the key to real change is real repentance. How wrong do I see my attitude or behavior? How wicked does my own heart appear to me? How desperately do I need forgiveness? In short, how much do I need my relationship with God? This is the gauge of true repentance.
Just think of the husband who says he’s sorry for using pornography, but feels some justification in that his wife doesn’t sufficiently meet his needs. There shouldn’t be much confidence that he will change. Or think of the fellow worker who sullies your reputation to get ahead in her boss’s eyes. She may acknowledge to you that it was wrong, but if her underlying belief is that it is up to her to make her own success, who’s to say she won’t do it again?
God “requires steadfast love” and we only experience steadfast love when we recognize how undeserving of love we are. “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). And the reality is, we are in need of great, even gargantuan, forgiveness. There is no little forgiveness with God when it comes to us. Sincere repentance comes from the realization of supreme sinfulness and always leads to transformed behavior.
- Lessons From the Old Testament: Not by Might, nor by Power (thimblefulloftheology.wordpress.com)
- True Repentance (Frontline Ministries)
- True Repentance: God’s Highway to the Heart, Part 1 (Grace to You, John MacArthur)