Repentance (Step 2)

Godly sorrow, the first step in the process of repentance, is marked by an attitude of humility that recognizes the damage that one’s sin has caused. A description of godly sorrow can be found in Lamentations 2:10. It says, “The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads:  they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.”

Perhaps, the most obvious sign that a person has repented of his sins is the absence of pride. Typically, guilt subsides when true repentance begins to take place. A lack of guilt enables the sinner to see that what has happened is a matter of cause and effect. God is not responsible for our bad fortune, he is the one that tries to prevent us from doing harm. Lamentations 2:17 declares, “The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in days of old.”

If God were not in control, there would be no reason to obey him. The fact that he does what he says he’s going to, proves to us that God is able to make things happen according to his plan and purpose for our lives. When we sin, we are trying to control or alter our own destiny. When we realize that we cannot alter the course of our lives in a positive way, we see that it is foolish to ignore God’s warnings and try to succeed without his help.

We reach the second step of repentance when we are willing to talk to God about what has gone wrong in our lives. We are instructed in Lamentations 2:19 to, “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches, pour out thine heart like water before the face of the LORD: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of the young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.” The Hebrew word translated arise, quwm (koom) is sometimes used to signify empowering or strengthening (6965). In this instance, it is most likely suggesting a restoration of relationship and communication.

It is clear from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that the desired outcome of repentance is a restored relationship with God and our fellow man (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). The key to a right relationship with God is an understanding that his commandments are not optional. It is easy to believe that we are free to choose whether or not we want to live according to God’s word, but the fact of the matter is that there will always be negative consequences if we choose to disobey him.

Having a relationship with God is a prerequisite for forgiveness. God does not forgive strangers. The type of relationship that is necessary is not only personal, but also intimate. The phrase in Lamentations 2:19, “pour out thine heart like water before the LORD” is similar to a phrase used by king David in Psalm 62. David said, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him” (Psalm 62:8). The idea being we are to express sincere and intense conviction when we communicate with God.

Disobedience

The disobedience of God’s people involved more than just breaking his commandments. At the heart of the Mosaic Law was an intent to establish a relationship between God and his people that involved ongoing communication. Many times, God’s people were encouraged to listen to the voice of the LORD and to pay attention to his instructions, but the people chose to ignore the God that had delivered them from bondage.

The final act of disobedience by the remnant of people left in Judah was leaving the Promised Land to live in Egypt, the place that they had been delivered from. It says in Jeremiah 43:7, “So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes.” The residence of Pharaoh was in Tahpanhes, so most likely this was a city that catered to his needs, a place where jobs as household servants were abundant.

After the last remnant of people left Jerusalem, Jeremiah received a message from the LORD. He said, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein” (Jeremiah 44:2). The lack of life in Jerusalem was a testament to the complete desolation that God had brought on his people. No one remained because there were none that had been faithful to his commandments.

In a final act of retaliation, God swore to destroy the remnant that had departed to Egypt (Jeremiah 44:14). If this weren’t bad enough, God’s people made it clear that their relationship with the LORD was over. They would worship the queen of heaven, Ishtar, instead. They said to Jeremiah, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil” (Jeremiah 44:16-17).

Trouble makers

After the fall of Jerusalem, it says in Jeremiah 39:9-10, “Then Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained. But Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard left the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.” Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan governor over the cities of Judah and had Jeremiah released from prison. “Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were in the land” (Jeremiah 40:6).

Everything was fine until the captain of the forces which were in the fields, that had escaped with king Zedekiah when he tried to run away from Nebuchadnezzar, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor in the land (Jeremiah 40:7). The leader of the men, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, wanted to kill Gedaliah and take back control of Judah. Even though the captains of the forces tried to warn Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:13-14), it says in Jeremiah 41:2, “Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.”

A power struggle between Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and Johanan the son of Kareah resulted in Ishmael escaping to the Ammonites and Johanan and all the military men that were with him looking to Jeremiah for advice about what to do next. Jeremiah was asked to pray to the LORD and was told that whatever God said, the men would obey his instructions (Jeremiah 42:6). Jeremiah received this message:

If you will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you  to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land. But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: and now therefore here the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your face to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt;  and there ye shall die.

Afterwards, Johanan accused Jeremiah of lying to him (Jeremiah 43:2). In spite of Jeremiah’s warning, it says in Jeremiah 43:5-7, “But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah: even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah. So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes.”

A coward

The kings of Israel and Judah had a responsibility as the earthly representative of God to defend and protect his people. In some instances, the king was considered a savior because God used him to deliver his people from their enemies (2 Kings 13:4-5). Like their Messiah, the king of Judah was endowed with special capabilities that enabled him to intercede for the people, and yet, many of Judah’s kings neglected their responsibilities and sought help from foreign kings (2 Kings 23:35).

King Zedekiah, the last king to rule over God’s people, had access to God  through the prophet Jeremiah. After Jeremiah repeatedly told the king and his people that Babylon was going to attack and destroy Judah, king Zedekiah began to seek counsel from Jeremiah secretly (Jeremiah 37:17). Although the king knew Jeremiah was telling him the truth, he had already made up his mind to disregard Jeremiah’s advice.

The reason king Zedekiah met with Jeremiah secretly was so that no one would know he planned to use the information Jeremiah provided to save himself from going into captivity. While the rest of the nation was deceived into thinking the king of Babylon was going to retreat as he had when the Egyptians came to assist Judah, king Zedekiah knew the end of his nation was nearing, and so, he distanced himself from Jeremiah to make it seem as though he wasn’t paying any attention to his message.

Jeremiah was placed in a dungeon and left for dead (Jeremiah 38:9), but king Zedekiah rescued him and arranged a meeting. It says in Jeremiah 38:14, “Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD, and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me.” Zedekiah used his position as king to gain an advantage over the prophet Jeremiah. He wanted Jeremiah to reveal the future to him and Zedekiah intended to use the information for his own benefit.

Jeremiah told the king exactly what he needed to do to avoid Jerusalem being burned to the ground. The kings response showed his true motive for disobedience to God’s command was a lack of concern for anyone but himself. It says in Jeremiah 38:19, “And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.” Jeremiah assured Zedekiah he would be safe if he obeyed the LORD and encouraged him to listen to the voice of the LORD (Jeremiah 38:20).

In spite of Jeremiah’s warning, Zedekiah chose to keep the truth hidden and threatened Jeremiah with death if he told anyone else what he revealed to the king (Jeremiah 38:24). In the end, Judah’s army believed they could withstand Nebuchadnezzar’s attack and many of the people waited inside the walls of the city until it was too late for them to surrender and save their own lives (2 Chronicles 36:17).

Recompense

God intended his children to be different than everyone else. He rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land so they could prosper and live there for ever. When the Mosaic Law was implemented, God made a way for his people to be forgiven of their sins and again to prosper even though they had made mistakes. As a result of their special treatment, the Israelites became wicked, and selfish, and took advantage of God’s mercy toward them (Jeremiah 5:27-28). In some ways, God’s people acted as if the LORD was their servant, instead of the other way around. God asked Jeremiah, “Do they provoke me to anger? do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? (Jeremiah 7:19). In other words, God was saying that the people had lost sight of who they were and why he had delivered them from slavery.

The main thing the people of Judah had forgotten was their responsibility to do the will of God. The LORD reminded Jeremiah, “But this thing commanded I them saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jeremiah 7:23). Just because their sins were forgiven didn’t mean God’s children were exempt from suffering the consequences of their wrong behavior. In effect, God had told the Israelites from the beginning that it would go well for them if they obeyed his commandments, but if they didn’t, they would be punished (Deuteronomy 28:15). In condemnation of their wrong choices, the LORD stated, “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsel and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:24).

Jeremiah warned the people  of Judah of terrible days to come. He described the scene of a great slaughter that would take place at a sight known as the “valley of the son of Hinnom” where children were burned in a fire pit as a sacrifice to pagan gods (note on Jeremiah 7:31). As if he was paying a recompense to the unfortunate children that had been killed there, the LORD said he would turn the valley of Hinnom into a cemetery when the people of Judah were slaughtered there by the Babylonian invaders. He said, “Therefore, behold, the days will come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Himmom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place. And the carcasses of the people shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away” (Jeremiah 7:32-33).

The curse

It’s hard to imagine that God knew Israel would end up going into captivity even before they entered the Promised Land, but along side the blessings of obedience listed in Deuteronomy 28 are the curses of disobedience which state:

And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you dood, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone…Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant  of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: for they went and served other gods, and worshipped them , gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them; and the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: and the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them unto another land, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 28:63-64; 29:25-28)

Hoshea, the last king of Israel, reigned from 732-722 B.C. Shalmanezer, the successor to Tiglath-pilneser king of Assyria, conducted a three-year protracted siege against Israel that ended in 722 B.C. “At that time, according to Assyrian annuls written on clay ‘I (Sargon) besieged and conquered Samaria, led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants…I installed over (those remaining) an officer of mine and imposed upon them the tribute of the former king” (Campaign of Shalmanezer V).

The explanation of Israel’s captivity was that they did not believe in the LORD their God. “And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them” (2 Kings 17:15).

God did not force the Israelites to obey him. He gave them a choice (Deuteronomy 30:19) and clearly stated the consequences they could expect (Deuteronomy 28). Israel’s disobedience resulted in God rejecting them and turning them over to their enemies to be punished (2 Kings 17:20). After the king of Assyria removed them from the land, he “brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of God” (2 Kings 17:24).

The resettlement of Samaria with a mixture of cultures and nationalities led to diverse religious practices and idolatry. It says in 2 Kings 17:29 that even though the people were taught God’s divine law, “Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.” In a very hypocritical manner, these people practiced syncretistic religion. “They feared the LORD, and served their own gods” (2 Kings 17:33).

Out of control

The story of Jonah reveals to us that God’s purpose in choosing the Israelites to be his people was not to exclude the rest of the world from having a relationship with him, but to demonstrate his sovereignty and control over his creation. Jonah’s view of the world was that boundaries existed around God’s kingdom. There were certain areas outside of God’s control. God showed Jonah that he controlled everything and could accomplish his will in spite of Israel’s disobedience.

When Jonah received instructions to go to Nineveh, he chose to go to Tarshish instead because he thought it was outside the boundary of God’s control. It says in Jonah 1:3, “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” One way to think of fleeing from the presence of the LORD is that you are hiding from him. He can’t see you and is therefore, unaware of what you are doing. Jonah thought if he got far enough away from Israel, he would be outside the boundary of God’s awareness and control.

Jonah’s trip to Tarshish was interrupted by a hurricane (Jonah 1:4). As the ship was beginning to be broken into pieces, the men on board searched for a cause for their misfortune. “And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah” (Jonah 1:7). Jonah’s attempt to conceal his identity was another way he thought he could escape God’s control. When he was exposed through the casting of lots, Jonah realized God was with him on the ship.

The men on the ship did not know the LORD, and yet, they believed he was in control of the storm that had overtaken them. “Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee” (Jonah 1:14). The phrase “hast done as it pleased thee” conveys the idea of, you know what is best, we will leave this in your hands. The men had placed their  trust in God.

Jonah expected to die when the men threw him off the ship. Rather than submit himself to God’s will, Jonah preferred death. But, even when Jonah tried to escape God through death, he was not successful. “Now the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

 

 

A fatal mistake

Ahab’s insistence  on going his own way is evident in his decision to attack Syria after entering into a peace treaty with king Ben-hadad (1 Kings 22:3). Ahab didn’t seem to understand that he was not free to do as he pleased. As God’s representative to the nation of Israel, Ahab was required to do God’s will, even if that meant staying at home and minding his own business.

The role of the  prophets was to inform the king of God’s will, but the prophets in Ahab’s kingdom were telling him what he wanted to hear rather than speaking God’s word to him. At the request of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, Ahab agreed to consult a prophet that was faithful to God, Micaiah, before attacking Syria.

And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak. (1 Kings 22:13-14)

At first, Micaiah told Ahab what he wanted to hear, that he should attack the Syrians and the LORD would deliver them into his hand, but Ahab knew he was lying. “And Ahab said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (1 Kings 22:16).

Ahab knew it was a mistake to attack the Syrians, but he did it anyway. Ahab believed he could beat the Syrian army in his own strength, without the LORD’s help. Under normal circumstances, Ahab’s army might have been able to beat the Syrians, but the covenant between Ahab and Ben-hadad prevented Ahab from attacking Syria. Therefore, “the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel” (1 Kings 22:31).

With Ben-hadad’s entire army coming after him, king Ahab didn’t stand a chance. Ultimately, it was the LORD’s divine judgment that sealed Ahab’s fate, but Ahab’s foolishness put him in harm’s way unnecessarily. If Ahab had listened to Micaiah, his life would have been spared.

How are the mighty fallen!

After king Saul was killed in battle, David sang a dirge to commemorate the powerful warrior that had sought to kill him. Three times in his song David chants, “How are the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19, 25, 27). He is not asking a question, but stating the fact that a proven warrior has gone down in battle. As we commemorate our veterans who have given their lives for their country, so David wanted to bring honor to the first king of Israel.

Although Saul’s life had ended in tragedy, David wanted people to remember that much good had been accomplished during king Saul’s reign. In his song, David also acknowledged the death of Saul’s son Jonathon. There was no better way for David to express his sadness over the loss of his good friend Jonathon than with these words:

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathon: Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished! (2 Samuel 1:26-27)

David and Jonathon were more than companions. I think the best way to describe their relationship would be kindred spirits. When David referred to Jonathon as his brother, he was not speaking of their relationship in a legal sense, but a spiritual sense. You could say David and Jonathon were brothers in the Lord, they shared a common faith much as Believers today do. Their love for each other was supernatural or what is referred to as agape lover, the kind of love God has for his children.

The loss of Jonathon made David’s transition to being king a bitter sweet experience. Jonathon imagined himself by David’s side as he ruled over Israel, but in actuality, all of Saul’s sons were killed except one who escaped and later became crippled. Saul’s disobedience affected the lives of everyone around him and when he died, his legacy went with him. It was truly a very sad ending to what was once a wonderful life.

The end

This blog is dedicated to my niece Stephanie who died of a drug overdose this past weekend. She was the victim of child sexual abuse and never recovered from her trauma.

It is hard to explain why Christians don’t always end up with a wonderful life, but there are at least two factors that can cause someone that has submitted his life to God to follow a pathway of self destruction. Everyone has a sin nature that is not changed when a person is transformed by the Holy Spirit and God will not force a person to obey him even if that person has been anointed for a particular job in God’s kingdom.

Saul’s life was derailed when he chose of his own free will to disobey God’s command. His position as king of Israel made him accountable for the destiny of the nation and therefore, God could not just let Saul go his own way. After he let Agag the king of the Amalekites live, God decided to replace Saul with a man whose heart was right toward him, a man who would seek to do God’s will instead of his own. David was a young shepherd when God called him to be king. His defeat of Goliath showed that he was willing to do anything to honor God before the enemies of Israel.

As a result of David’s success, Saul determined that he was a threat that needed to be eliminated. David was certain that Saul wanted to kill him, so he went to Jonathon, Saul’s son for help. David’s plea to Jonathon reveals the love between these two men and the anguish David felt that they could not be friends.

And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathon know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death. (1 Samuel 20:3)

Jonathon’s love for David caused him to have to choose between his loyalty to his father and loyalty to David, the man he loved as his own soul (1 Samuel 18:1). After speaking to his father, “Jonathon knew that it was determined of his father to slay David” (1Samuel 20:33).

The word translated determined, kâlâh (kaw – law´) means to end (3615). In Saul’s case, kalah meant that he had made a firm decision. There was no way to change his mind. One of the ways the word kalah is used is to represent “coming to an end” or “the process of ending” (3615). When Saul decide to kill David, you could say it was the end or the process of ending his walk with the LORD. Saul had the potential to rule over Israel for ever, but his stubborn determination to go his own way ruined not only his future, but the future of his son Jonathon as well.