The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

Repentance (PDF) PDF version


In Judges 10, we find the record of the Israelites fighting against the Ammonites. Verse 6 describes Israel's spiritual condition at that time:

Judges 10:6
«Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baalims and the Astoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord and they did not serve Him»

As they had done many times in the past, the children of Israel abandoned the Lord, and followed the gods of the various nations around. The Lord was not indifferent with this behavior. Verses 7-9 tell us:

Judges 10:7-9
«So the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon. From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years - all the children of Israel who were on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, in Gilead. Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan, to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severally distressed»

The fruit of Israel's behavior, was deep distress. At the end, the people whose gods they chose to serve, became their own oppressors. Fortunately, in their distress they turned again to the Lord. Verse 10 tell us:

Judges 10:10
«And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, «We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!»

As the prodigal son of the Luke's gospel, made the decision to return home - confessing his sin - when the once rich land was hit by famine, so also the Israelites, during this deep distress, turned to the Lord and confessed their sin to Him. Then verses 11-14 give us the Lord's reply:

Judges 10:11-14
«So the Lord said to the children of Israel, «Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress»

Israel was God's chosen people. He had saved them time after time, again and again, only to see them betraying Him once more. However, would He not forgive them any longer? Had His forgiveness finished and He would reject Israel forever? Verses 15-16a tell us what the children of Israel did after the Lord's reply:

Judges 10:15-16a
«And the children of Israel said to the Lord, «We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray. So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord

The first time Israel went to the Lord, THE FOREIGN GODS WERE STILL IN THEIR MIDST. They confessed they had sinned. However, had they TRULY REPENTED when they were still keeping their foreign gods? The confession of the sin is not necessarily repentance for the sin. Genuine repentance has to do with the heart and it is accompanied by a change of the heart. In verse 10, the Israelites confessed they had sinned but the foreign gods were still there. That's why I believe God pointed them to the idols when He said «go and cry to the gods you have chosen». These gods were still there!! It is only in verse 16 that Israel put them away and started serving the Lord again. Immediately after this, we read about the Lord's reaction:

Judges 10:16
«And His soul could no longer endure the misery of the Israel»

As soon as Israel truly repented - and this was now obvious by their respective actions - God was there to deliver them once more. As soon as they repented, the Lord could no longer endure their misery. Judges 11 - 12 describe us how He delivered them from the people of Ammon. He did not do it because of their righteousness or because he was sure they would not turn away again. In fact, in chapter 13 we see them turning away once more. He did it just because He loved them, and once they had honestly returned to Him, He was there, regardless of what they had done or what they would do in the future.

1. God's heart - the case of Ahab

I love the historical books of the Old Testament. It is like small biographies that show how the Lord worked with various people, evil and good. There, in I Kings, we find among others the record of a very evil king, the king Ahab. I Kings 16:30-33 and 21:25 give us his «CV» and his …….. «achievements»:

I Kings 16:30-33
«Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, MORE THAN ALL WHO WERE BEFORE HIM. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshipped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. AHAB DID MORE TO PROVOKE THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL TO ANGER THAN ALL THE KINGS OF ISRAEL WHO WERE BEFORE HIM.»

And I Kings 21:25
«But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel»

Ahab is described as the most evil king of Israel. No one was like him in evilness. Elijah, confronted this king in I Kings 21. There we read:

I Kings 21:20-22
«So Ahab said to Elijah, Have you found me O my enemy? And he answered, «I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord: Behold I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin»

This was the Lord's verdict against Ahab. He and his family would not have a good end. Yet, let's not think that this pleased God. As Ezekiel 18:23 says:

Ezekiel 18:23
«Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the Lord God, and not that he should turn from his ways and live?»

God's pleasure is not in judging the wicked but in seeing them repenting. Whoever repents is acceptable to Him. Would however this be available even for Ahab, the most evil king of Israel? Verses 27-29 tell us:

I Kings 21:27-29
«So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about in mourning. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, SEE HOW AHAB HAS HUMBLED HIMSELF BEFORE ME? BECAUSE HE HAS HUMBLED HIMSELF BEFORE ME, I WILL NOT BRING THE CALAMITY IN HIS DAYS» in the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house»

The Lord's judgment was upon the whole house of Ahab. However, his repentance and the fact he was humbled before the Lord, were enough to postpone the judgment for the great evil he and his family had done. Unfortunately, his family and he himself later, continued in evilness - see for example I Kings 22 and II Kings 3:1-3 - and the decision of the Lord that Elijah announced, was indeed carried out in the days of Joram, Ahab's son (see II Kings 9-10)

2. God's heart: the case of Manasseh

Ahab was not the only king of Israel that did evil. In fact, there were many others that behaved like him. One of the them, king of Judah this time was Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, who unfortunately is not known for the same reasons as his father. In the summary of his kingdom given in II Chronicles 33:2, 9 we read:

II Chronicles 33:2
«he [Manasseh] did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel»

and II Chronicles 33:9
«So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel»

As it seems, Manasseh was the counterpart of Ahab in Judah. Both of them surpassed in evil the nations that inhabited the land before! The evilness of Manasseh and the people was confronted by the Lord but with no result: they would not REPENT. Verses 10-11 tell us:

II Chronicles 33:10-11
«And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore [as a result of their response] the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon»

The Lord tried to correct the king and his people. He did not want to see Manasseh in the state he ended up with. However, without repentance this was unavoidable. Fortunately, as with the Israelites in Judges 10, the resulted affliction was also a turning point for Manasseh, who started now seeking the Lord!

II Chronicles 33:12-13a
«Now when he [Manasseh] was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him»

When Manasseh was in Jerusalem, in peace, God would speak but Manasseh would not listen. Now that he was in chains, it was Manasseh's turn to start speaking to God, HUMBLING HIMSELF BEFORE HIM. And let's see whether the Lord listened:

II Chronicles 33:13
«and [after Manasseh humbled himself before the Lord] He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God»

When he was in Jerusalem, Manasseh became another champion of evilness. When however in affliction he turned to the Lord, He did not start calculating the evil this king had done. Instead «He received his entreaty» and restored the repented king back to his throne.

3. God's heart: The case of Nineveh

This case is the topic of the short book of Jonah. The Lord spoke to Jonah and gave him a specific assignment. Verses 1 and 2 tell us:

Jonah 1:1-2
«Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, «Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me»

We all probably know what Jonah initially did and how he disobeyed God - his case could very well be one more case in this article. However, in chapter 3 we see him going finally to Nineveh:

Jonah 3:1-4
«Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, «Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you» So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three day journey. 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»

What God wanted through Jonah was to warn Nineveh for the coming judgment, if they did not repent. Verses 5-9 tell us how the people of Nineveh received the Lord's warnings.

Jonah 3:5-9
«So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, «Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?»

In contrast to Manasseh, the people of Nineveh PAID ATTENTION TO WHAT GOD WAS SAYING, and the king with his nobles commanded all to fast and pray. Then verse 10 tells us what the Lord did:

Jonah 3:10
«Then God saw their works [not simply their words], 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 relented from what He would do to Nineveh, and this because the people of Nineveh REPENTED.

4. Conclusion

Though sin blocks the way to God, repentance opens it widely. Even in such cases as those of Ahab and Manasseh, this way was wide open, when they humbled themselves before the Lord. The question therefore is not whether the Lord will forgive us. His forgiveness is given, if there is REPENTANCE. If therefore we have sinned, have we REPENTED? Not just in words but GENUINELY in the heart. Have we mourned and wept for the sin or we just continue with the same hardened heart, deceiving ourselves that … there is no problem and justifying the sin instead of repenting for it? Here is what James suggests:

James 4:8-10
«Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up»

In all cases we have seen, the repentance was accompanied by a change of the heart, by mourning for the sin and by humbling before the Lord. May the Lord open our eyes and may we open our hearts to Him, making them transparent, without hidden parts, excuses and reasonings. May those of us that we are not in his hug, DRAW NEAR TO HIM, REPENTING, AND HE WILL DRAW NEAR TO US AS WELL.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou