|Vol. 13 No. 2 February 2011||
The Old Testament contains the history of God calling His people to repentance. From the dawn of creation, He has been calling the human race to repentance. When He asked Adam where he was, He was extending His hand in compassion. He was giving Adam the opportunity to acknowledge his sin and repent. Instead, Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent; the serpent didn’t say another word – he had said too much already – and God punished all three of them!
When Cain murdered Abel, and God asked him where his brother was, He was again extending His hand in compassion. He was giving Cain the opportunity to acknowledge his sin and repent. Instead, Cain became angry and defensive and left God no choice but to punish him!
Disobedience and rebellion were the hallmark traits of the children of Israel. When God finally had His fill of their foolishness and ingratitude despite all He had done for them, He made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until they all died!
Numbers 14 gives the sordid details of the Israelites’ refusal to enter Canaan. The consequences of disobedience and rebellion started with the ten spies that brought back the bad report. Moses had prayed on behalf of the entire congregation. In Numbers 14:19 he said, “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
Verses 20-23 show just how far God was willing to go. We must never forget that repentance does not cancel consequences. In response to the prayer of Moses God said, “I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD – because all these men who have seen My glory and the sign which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.” Repentance must be timely as well as genuine.
God said to Moses and Aaron in verses 26-29, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings which the children of Israel murmur against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live, says the LORD, just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: ‘The carcasses of you who have murmured against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.’” God makes two exceptions. Verse 30 reads, “Except for Caleb…and Joshua…you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.”
Numbers 14:36-37 reveals the consequences these men had to bear as a result of their bringing the bad report. “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation murmur against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD.”
The people mourned greatly and said in verse 40, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!” Moses informed them their change of heart was too little too late! Verses 41-42 say, “And Moses said, ‘Now why do you transgress the command of the LORD? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you.’” Again, the people did not listen to Moses, and they were defeated by the enemy. God always allows us to make our own freewill choices, but we do not get to choose the consequences of those choices!
The Book of Jonah is a most refreshing account of God relenting when the people repented even though the prophet initially refused to go to this Gentile nation. When God got Jonah on board with His purpose and plan, his sermon was only eight words long. Jonah 3:4 says, “And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’” It is perhaps the most responsive evangelistic effort in history with the least amount of words! Verse 5 says, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.” When the word came to the king, he laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. He said in Jonah 3:9, “Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?”
God’s longsuffering was demonstrated to the zenith in Jonah 3:10. “Then God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” God relents when we repent!
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ made a statement about repentance and repeated it as He further emphasized His point. Luke 13:1-5 records Jesus being told about Galileans who had suffered and died at the hands of Pilate. Others had died as the result of a tower falling on them. He stated these were not worse sinners than anyone else because they had suffered these things. However, in verses 3 and 5 He says, “…but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Christ sent the apostle John with a message to the seven churches in Asia. Only two of the churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, were not commanded to repent. The other five churches were told what the consequences of failing to repent would be.
The church at Ephesus had left its first love. They were told to repent or else! Revelation 2:5 says, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.”
The church at Pergamos had compromised its faith and was no longer sound in doctrine and practice. It was told to repent or else! Revelation 2:16 says, “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”
The church at Thyatira had become sexually immoral and corrupt. They were told in Revelation 2:21-22, “And I gave her [Jezebel] time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.”
The church at Sardis had spiritually died. It was told in Revelation 3:3, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”
The church at Laodicea had become smug and lukewarm in its presumptuous opinion of itself. It was told in Revelation 3:18-19, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”
Repentance is a cornerstone attitude for anyone seeking an acceptable relationship with God and Christ. Repentance is a profound changing of our will that opens our lives to God’s will. Into the Abundant Life is a book published by the “Truth for Today World Mission School” out of Searcy, Arkansas. Two of the many statements in the chapter on repentance read: “Time and eternity will convict us all that the big issue of life is repentance! Mankind travels one of two roads before God: the way of repentance or the way of rebellion.”