WHAT IS GOD LIKE?

# 14 THE GOD WHO COMMANDS REPENTANCE

 

The God of the Bible is the God who commands us to come to him in repentance:

To those who had deserted him for other gods he said:

'Return ... to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously ... " ' [Hosea 14:2]

'Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love ... ' [Joel 2:13]

'Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.' [Isaiah 55:6-8]

To those who were labouring with a formalized, legalistic concept of God and religion, he said:

'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.' [Matthew 11:28-29]

Here our Creator, against whom we have rebelled, and whom we have rejected, calls us rebels to reconnect with him.

Here the Holy One, whose eyes are too pure to look upon iniquity, commands us sinners to come back to him.

Here the just One, the Judge of all the earth, whose laws we have broken and whose judgment is upon us, instructs us, the guilty ones,  to return to him, not to be judged but to receive pardon.

God extends an invitation, a command, an unexpected offer: he invites us sinful, guilty rebels to return to him, and he promises to those who return to him compassion and forgiveness - a free pardon. He promises to replace the turmoil of our guilt with his rest.

As we read these amazing verses we tend to focus on the command - to repent, to return, to come; or on the offer - of forgiveness, of rest, of pardon. Neither of these is the key factor. The essential thing, the primary thing, is that in these commands what God is instructing us to do is to return to him. To come back to him, to seek him.  It is not the turning, or the coming or the seeking that is the most important thing: it is the returning to, the coming to, the seeking the Lord. It is turning away from and casting aside whatever 'god' we have been embracing or acknowledging or worshipping instead of the Lord God, the Almighty One, our Creator, and coming back to him and to him alone.

For those who do return to him, for those who do come to him, the one true God who stands before us in Jesus Christ, his Son, he promises incomparable, immeasurable grace, pardon and forgiveness.

All that hinders us responding to this amazing grace is our own stubborn hearts:

'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.' [Matthew 23:37]

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007