Repentance


Ezekiel 25-30 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs for repentance that stops the hand of judgment

Revenge – how sweet it is!  At least that seems to be a prevailing attitude in our culture.  Many have adopted the idiom, “Don’t get mad, get even.”  My husband tells a joke that is appropriate here – A 16-year old boy arrives home driving a brand new truck. The father shouts, “Where did you get that truck?  You don’t have any money.”  The boy replies, “I bought it from a lady down the street for $15!”  Well, this alarmed the father. What kind of woman would sell this truck for $15? She must have an ulterior motive.

The father rushed down the street and asked the woman why she did this.  The woman replied, “Well, I thought my husband was on a business trip, but I just received a call from him from Hawaii.  Seems he ran off with his mistress and is in need of money.  He asked me to sell his car and send him the money…so I did.”  Scary stuff, revenge is.

Revenge may bring some immediate gratification, but the long-term ramifications can wipe that smile right off a face.  Better to put payback in the hands of God, “Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)  In our reading today, Israel’s neighbors were about to feel the heat.

The seven nations surrounding tiny Israel had long persecuted and attacked God’s chosen people.  Even though His own people were sinful and rebellious at times, God would avenge them because they were His responsibility and not that of the surrounding nations.  Judgment was coming to Ammon, Moab, Edom Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and proud Egypt because they rejoiced at Israel’s devastation at the hands of Babylon and cheered at the desecration of the Temple.  Ancient racism toward the Israelites had filled their hearts, as well as jealousy over Israel’s many victories.

God’s vengeance was swift, and these nations eventually met their own fate at Babylon’s mighty sword.  At the end of each pronouncement of judgment, God said something similar to, “When I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord.” (25:17)  Revenge did not come from Israel, it came from the Lord; however, He would have stayed His hand of judgment at the first sign of repentance.  In Ezekiel 18:23, God asked Ezekiel, “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?… Of course not!  I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”  God is merciful.

From these scriptures, we can learn about God’s attitude concerning our enemies.  He knows their past, present and future and why they do the things they do, facts we are seldom privy to.  He will often withhold dealing with an offense towards us because He knows that our enemy’s battle is really with Him, not with us, or He knows that restoration is in the future.  God is merciful; but without repentance, in due time judgment is His to give.

When we take matters into our own hands to get even, we may circumvent God’s divine plan to bring healing and restoration to our relationships.  Jesus said, “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also…Love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:39,44-45)   Sometimes we just get dizzy from turning that cheek so many times, and we start to think He just doesn’t understand the pain from the hurtful things said or done to us, the betrayal and the rejection.  But then, of course, He does. Remember Calvary? 

Moving Forward:  Sunny today, with no chance of revenge.  Should an enemy develop throughout the day, I won’t get even – I won’t even get mad- because God is in control!

Tomorrow @ Luke 19-20

Leviticus 13-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: God provides all that is needed to keep His people alive and well on their journey

“If a man loses his hair and his head becomes bald, he is still ceremonially clean.  And if he loses hair on his forehead, he simply has a bald forehead; he is still clean. However…” (13:40-41)  For those who are hair challenged, I would imagine reading Leviticus 13 brings great relief, although I’m still somewhat concerned about men with hairy foreheads.  Whether clean or not, I’m not sure hair growing on the forehead is a good thing.  But even more disconcerting is that little word however.

God gave Moses specific instructions regarding the healthcare of the wilderness Israelites.  Hospitals, Emergency Rooms and 24-Hour Urgent Care Clinics did not exist on the backside of the desert where this nomadic community of 2 to 3 million people traveled for 40 years.  The priests were the healthcare providers who administered the diagnosis and treatment needed to preserve God’s chosen people.  It’s not farfetched to imagine an insidious epidemic completely erasing this isolated people group from history, but God would not have that!

God provided all that was needed to keep His people alive and well on their journey as long as they paid close attention to those howevers.  Skin lumps, bumps, sores and discolorations on His people were all diagnosed by the priests to prevent the spread of leprosy, the killer of the day, as well as other diseases.  Even clothing and household goods were evaluated for disease-producing mildew and mold.  Individuals deemed unclean were isolated and goods were either purified or burned.

God was concerned about preventive healthcare because it was obviously much less debilitating and more cost-effective than aftercare.  His laws in Chapter 15 regarding bodily discharges, gross indeed, were all about preserving and protecting those He loved.  God really wasn’t surprised when our medical researchers over the past century discovered conclusive proof that diseases, ranging from colds to AIDS, could be transmitted through bodily discharges.  I would think all of heaven offered one big DUH at that conclusion.

If we think the laws and instructions of Leviticus are irrelevant to us today, we should think again.  Yes, the blood of Jesus protects us, but so does His wisdom. There’s a reason that may go all the way back to Leviticus that I carry disinfectants and hand sanitizers when I travel.  After rereading Chapter 15, I’ll be thinking twice about trying on clothes in mall dressing rooms.  I’m just saying…

All God’s instructions regarding healthcare were essential to protect His people and get them to the Promised Land.  For us today, equally important is what leprosy and the like represent to us.  Sin is much more menacing than any physical disease could ever be.  It may start small, like the white patch or bump with leprosy, seemingly insignificant; however, if left unchecked, it will bring eternal death to us.  Daily examination before our High Priest for His diagnosis is the best preventive healthcare for the soul that I know.  As far as treatment, His blood has it all covered!

Moving Forward: His wisdom protects my life today and guides my steps, and His blood treats whatever ails my soul. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 6-10

Psalm 78-80 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs to restore our hearts and our land

Recently I heard a speaker at church share a portion of his life story, and I thought he was telling my story because our early years were similar.  I understood so well the feelings he was sharing and the gratitude of God’s faithfulness to him.  I sense this same familiarity when I read Psalm 80, not on a personal level but about my nation. 

@ Psalm 80
Asaph, or one of his descendants, wrote this song of prayer probably after the fall of his nation, Israel, to Babylon.  Israel had worshipped many gods through the years, but Asaph made it abundantly clear that his song was to the true and living God, “Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel…O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory…Show us your mighty power.  Come to rescue us!” (1-2)  He was calling on the God who was their Shepherd, the God who sat above the cherubim of the Ark, on the mercy seat, and he was crying for mercy.

In his Psalm, Asaph reminded God of how He brought His people out of Egypt and planted them in Israel like a grapevine that rooted and filled the land, but because of their sin, He broke down their walls of protection, and they were devoured by their enemy.  “Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies.  Look down from heaven and see our plight.  Take care of this grapevine that you yourself have planted” (14-15) was Asaph’s desperate plea for the salvation of God’s people.  Would I be so bold to compare my nation’s state of affairs today to God’s chosen people?  Well, in a sense, yes I would.

True American history tells me that our forefathers left a land overseas where they felt in bondage to prescribed worship.  With Divine providence, they were planted in a new land, dug deep their roots and filled the land.  Their nation was based on the principles and guidelines of God’s Word, the Bible, with a commitment that all men could worship, or not worship, as they desired.

Factual history tells me that my early leaders sought God’s direction for everything including the laws that would govern their new land, and they put God’s words in their documents, on their monuments, and throughout their White House.  They trusted Him to be their Foundation that would not crumble.

Sadly, through the years we have come to worship many other things and have been weakened by those who would once again like to control who and how we worship, an enemy slowly chipping away at our Foundation.  This is the condition the Israelites found themselves in before their enemy captured them and took them away to Babylon. But here is the difference between then and now:  I’m not leaving!

I’m not forsaking this land that I believe was ordained by God to be His tool to share eternal freedom through Jesus to the world. I’m offering now, not when it is too late, my song of prayer to God, my Shepherd, Who sits on the mercy seat, “Turn us again to yourself, O God.  Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.” (3,7,19)   Before you do anything, God, turn us again to you, our Foundation, and then shine your grace and mercy on us to save us.

According to God’s Word, He will answer this prayer, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Who will join me? 

Moving Forward: In celebration of our Day of Independence this week, how can I help but pray for our nation to return to its roots, founded on Him.  “Revive us so we can call on your name once more.” (18) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 8-9

2 Samuel 10-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He draws us to repentance and forgives our sins

When bystanders are interviewed after a robbery or an attack, each one gives a little different account of what took place.  Some focus on the victim, some see only the robber and others will give an accurate description of clothing worn.  The observers focus on the part of the altercation that means the most to them, the part that captures the heart. Our hearts will generally dictate our focus.  In our reading today, David had a heart condition, and it obviously directed his focus. 

@ 2 Samuel 11
David > gentle shepherd > giant slayer > great warrior > brave king > God’s own heart > adulterer……What?  Say it isn’t so!  How does this happen?

“In the spring of the year, when Kings normally go out to war…David stayed behind.” (1)  Spring was the time for kings to pursue and to conquer with the blessings of good weather, not too cold, not too hot.  The leader of Israel was on assignment to regain the land that was promised to Abraham.  It was not the time to rest on any laurels or bask in the glow of past victories.  David neglected his duties, and that neglect resulted in a tangled web of sin, murder and cover-up. Sir Walter Scott’s famous saying certainly would apply to part of this scenario, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

At any point in this painful account, David could have changed the outcome. Perhaps he could have practiced the eye bounce method when he first saw Bathsheba on her roof.  He could have spent some time with one of his many wives or concubines. He could have confessed his sin immediately and bore the consequences like a man. But the problem began when he failed to do what he had been purposed to do.  While it may be a stretch to expect David to have admired his neighbor’s hydrangeas rather than the bathing Bathsheba, he really should not have been in this position in the first place.  Before there was lust, murder and deceit, there was a heart problem.

We’re not privy to what caused David’s heart problem, this man who had been described as one after God’s own heart (I Samuel 11:14).  Perhaps he was fatigued from all he had endured up to this point, and isn’t this when the enemy often attacks?  David would have been better served to ask God for strength to go to battle.  Perhaps he felt entitled to a little R & R or a little something extra for all his past goodness.  Pride is the precursor to a downfall (Proverbs 16:18).  There was a reason David stayed behind, and this begs the question, am I doing what God has purposed for me to do or have I put myself in a position to compromise?

The good news in this story is that David repented of his dreadful sins, and God forgave him.  Sadly, the repercussions of his acts were widespread and long-lasting, all of which could have been avoided if, in the spring of the year, David had gone to war.  As I walk through each day, where does my heart direct my focus?  And if I should sadly find myself on the edge of compromise, do I look for the hydrangeas or do I see the harmful thing.  Tough questions, but worthy of the asking. 

Moving Forward: Today I ask the tough questions to keep me true to my purpose and to keep my heart focused on Him. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 54-56

Psalms 51-53 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will never reject a broken spirit and a contrite heart

The ocean is dramatic, the mountains are majestic, but for me, nothing beats the white and purity of newly fallen snow, pure and simple.  Of course, science tells us that this moisture falling through the atmosphere collects dirt particles and debris, etc., but as its glistening blanket covers the earth, we only see spotless white.  In light of this, it’s humbling to imagine ourselves as whiter than snow because of His purification, but this was the cry of David’s heart as he cried out to God in repentance. 

@ Psalm 51
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be whiter than snow… Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (7,9-10)  God forgave David for his dreadful sins in the Bathsheba moment of his life because of true repentance.  Forgiveness didn’t come because of David’s sorrow for having been caught in his sin or because he feared losing God’s favor, but because of true repentance. Contrition was shown through repentance when David asked of God:

  • Wash me from my guilt (2)
  • Purify me (7)
  • Return my joy (8)
  • Create a clean heart in me (10)
  • Renew a right spirit (10)
  • Restore your presence and Holy Spirit in my life (11)
  • Make me willing to obey, (12) a fearsome request
  • Forgive me (14)

He didn’t ask God to roll back the clock or ignore his sin, and he didn’t offer immediate sacrifices to ease the pain of it all or stop the hand of God.  In return for God’s forgiveness, David said:

  • I will teach your ways to other rebels (13)
  • I will sing of your forgiveness (14) which he did in many, many Psalms
  • I will praise you with unsealed lips (15)

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one…the sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (16-17) It’s human nature to blame others for our sins or even to blame original sin (5-6), but then this would not be true repentance.  A broken spirit says, “I did it.”  A broken and repentant heart says, “I did it. I will do right.”  This He will not reject.

Every day I ask God to purify my heart of all wrong doings – deliberate sins to be sure, but also those more secreted sins, like unforgiveness, judging others, pride, envy, resentment, etc., sins that often lead to deliberate sin when left unchecked.  Secreted sin led David to adultery and murder when first he lusted.  In response to my prayer, God so faithfully reveals to me where I have failed, and when I repent, He forgives and purifies my heart.  And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

Moving Forward:  Purify my heart today, dear Lord.  Make me whiter than snow! 

Tomorrow @ Job 35-36

Jeremiah 22-26 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the ruins, He will search for a people who will love Him

My mother often said to me “Be careful what you ask for from God because He might just give it to you.”  Perhaps she was thinking of Israel’s insistent request to God for a king.  “All the elders of Israel met at Ramah…with Samuel.  ‘Look,’ they told him, ‘you are now old, and your sons are not like you.  Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.’” (I Samuel 8:4)  And so God gave them their kings.  Now in Jeremiah, after almost 500 years of mostly evil kings, the kingdom was coming to an end at the hand of Babylon.  The Israelites received from God what they had asked from Him. 

@Jeremiah 22-23
Bad kings, bad shepherds, bad prophets – bad times for Israel. Jeremiah had preached repentance to the nation for 23 years, but no one cared to listen.  The kings ruled unfairly, the selfish religious leaders deserted the sheep, and the prophets spoke lies and words to tickle the ears of their listeners.  Some of this sounds rather …. current.

“If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words.” (23:22)  Instead, they made up dreams and stole messages from each other.  And in their audacity, they thought that God wouldn’t notice. “Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?  Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” (23:24) Can no one see us when we close our eyes? Just as ridiculous.

I remember when I was young – or was it yesterday – I thought I was free and clear if no one saw when I did something wrong as if God did not get the memo that day.  According to Psalm 139, He knew everything about my life before I was born, so chances are I haven’t fooled Him about a thing – the bad and the good.  God sees all that we do, and He still loves us.  He just can’t help Himself. 

@Jeremiah 24
Bad figs. “Then the Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’  I replied, ‘Figs, some very good and some very bad, too rotten to eat.’” (3)  The bad figs represented the Israelites who stayed in Jerusalem after the Babylonian siege.  They had every opportunity to turn from their sin and repent, but they chose not to do so. 

Good figs. The good figs represented the hope of Israel – those exiles to Babylon who chose to follow God, like Daniel.  A remnant of hope would remain after this terrible period in Israel’s history. Tucked away in the middle of all this badness was something good.  Jeremiah 23:3-6, “But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them.  I will bring them back to their own sheepfold…For the time is coming when I will raise up a righteous descendant…He will be a King who rules with wisdom…And this will be his name:  The Lord is our righteousness.

Jesus, the righteous descendant came, yet Israel is still struggling to accept Him.  Regardless, Israel exists today because it has known His mercy through the decades.  He has seen it all, and just as with all of us, He still loves them.  He just can’t help Himself. 

Moving Forward: Today when I make my petitions, I pray for His will.  Lord, don’t give me what I ask just because I want it, but give me what you know to be good for me.  I am ever thankful for your grace to me – and to Israel.  In response to your great love, may our hearts be ever contrite before you. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 13-14

Jeremiah 17-21 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires to shape us into vessels of honor

Years ago I visited a potter who allowed visitors to take a stab at the potter’s wheel.  My attempt became a literal mud-slinging contest between me and the wheel – the wheel won.  The condition of my clothing testified to that fact.  One thing I learned that day was that the master skills of the potter are difficult to replicate by a novice, and the example given to Jeremiah by God at the potter’s shop in Jeremiah 18 became very real to me.

With the Master Potter willing to mold us into useful vessels of honor, why do we choose to allow novices to mold our lives?  We often let our own willful desires or those of others to influence and shape us. The results are never what God intended.

“[I] found the potter working at his wheel.  But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.”(18:3-4)  As long as the clay was soft and moldable, the potter was able to crush and remold it; but in time, the clay became dry and ultimately hardened.  It was no longer possible to refine its shape into something useful.  Sadly, this was the shape that Israel was in. 

Repentance would have challenged God to start over with the nation that had not turned out as He had hoped.  He would have molded it into a nation of honor, but repentance did not come. So God allowed the hardened vessel to be smashed as foretold in Chapter 19 through the Babylonian invasion.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (17:7-8) While traveling the countryside, I’ve always been able to know where the rivers and streams are located by the outcrop of trees and shrubs that grow alongside them.  Their roots have reached into the water source.

When we make the Lord our hope and confidence rather than choosing the dictates of our own desires, our roots reach deep into the Source.  Instead of becoming dry and hardened, we remain fresh and supple, and our presence points others to that Source as they travel life’s countryside.  Even in this, we are useful vessels of honor for Him. 

Moving Forward: A cherished old hymn comes to mind, “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way.  Thou art the potter; I am the clay.  Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.” 

Tomorrow @ Mark 11-12

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