THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE

Christ-following, Discipleship, Worship

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”  Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”  This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” You said, ‘No, we will free on horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.”  Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”  Isaiah 30:8-22

“Stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”  This is, as it always has been, the point of greatest conflict. Confrontation with the Holy One threatens our most fundamental views of ourselves and the world. A.W. Tozer communicated this very eloquently in his perceptive book, Knowledge of the Holy:

“The natural man is a sinner because and only because he challenges God’s selfhood in relation to his own….Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one. His constant assertion of self, as far as he thinks of it at all, appears to him a perfectly normal thing. He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself…Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, ‘I AM’. That is sin in its concentrated essence, yet because it is natural it appears to be good. It is only when in the gospel the soul is brought before the face of the Most Holy One without the protective shield of ignorance that the frightful moral incongruity is brought home to the conscience…’What shall we do?’ is the deep heart cry of every man who suddenly realizes that he is a usurper and sits on a stolen throne. However painful, it is precisely this acute moral consternation that produces true repentance and makes a robust Christian after the penitent has been dethroned and has found forgiveness and peace through the gospel.”

For some, I suspect a very few, the confrontation between the True King and the usurper results in ready repentance and relinquishment of the throne of their life. O happy few! For many others, there is considerable struggle before the moment of surrender. We stubbornly resist to our detriment when all the while “the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion”. How much better, though, is the final surrender than the tenacious refusal. There is no winning that battle. The Lord IS the Lord and no rebellion or denial will change the situation. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” but if you will have none of it, you will have none of Him…and that is death.  Surrender and live.

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