Most of us are repeatedly burned by the same sins, bad habits, and inappropriate attitudes. We claim to repent, yet must remember that true repentance means more than sorrow for what we have done. God defines repentance as a turning away from sin while turning to God. It is action, not just feeling.
In Judges 2:1–7, God sent His angel to preach. This angel was of one essence with the Father and spoke directly with His message. The angel’s words were direct: “I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you into the land . . . I said, I will never break my covenant with you. . . . But you have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?” (vs. 1–2). God had blessed them, but the people had broken their agreement with God. They had failed. The angel’s question, “Why have you done this?” brought guilt and grief. I hope that we might focus on this question, for it is asked of us, too. “Why have you done this?” The Bible says the people lifted up their voice, and wept (v. 4).
TEARS OF REGRET. When God’s angel confronted them, a great outpouring came forth. The conviction of the people’s sins brought sorrow. They could have denied the angel’s claim. We often do. We put on a front of obedience, but we have become great experts at living untrue lives. We have become proficient in putting on super-spiritual fronts. Fortunately, God’s people did not do so in this text. They could have been dishonest, gotten angry, or had their feelings hurt, like we often do. Instead, they wept . . . tears of regret.
The end result of disobedience is hurt and sorrow. It is not a life of happiness and pleasure, but of pain. Instead of having the best of two worlds, the Hebrews found that disobeying God by worshiping other gods became “a snare to them” (v. 3). If you give sin an inch, it will take a mile. If you let God take second place, then you have given Him last place. You will lead yourself to sorrow, to pain, to tears of regret. You will end up saying, “Why have I done this?”
We need to shed tears of regret, but the tears must have a stopping point. If not, the regret can paralyze the present. We cannot change or erase past sins, but we can shut the gate on them. Let us shed tears of regret, then close the gate.
MOVED TO REPENTANCE. Regretting their actions, the Israelites decided to do something about it. Instead of lamenting their plight, they repented. God’s continuing love for His people in the midst of their sins is a beautiful picture of the Father’s grace. We are sinners in need of redemption, and repentance is the first step on the road of spiritual recovery. We think we can hold onto all of the flesh and at the same moment be possessed of the Spirit of God. Repentance implies much more than a “change of mind.” It is a changing of the state of one’s mind. It is a conversion, a reorientation of the personality.
CAUSE FOR REJOICING. After the people learned to regret their ways, after they repented, they were able to rejoice (v.7). They were able to clearly see what God had done for them. The “great works of the Lord” are cause for rejoicing in any generation. Fulfillment took the place of emptiness and service took the place of sorrow. Life had meaning.
We too need to rejoice in the great things of God, especially in His forgiveness. This rejoicing must lead to a life of service. The message of the angel rings clear even today. We have let God down. We are asked simply, “Why?” We are confronted with the need to regret our sins, to repent, then to rejoice in service. It is time to weep and then act.