This week, in our readings, we completed Solomon’s contribution to scripture and entered the prophets. Ohhhh… the prophets! Their voice is best summed up as a call from God to repent. John the Baptist and also Jesus Christ, God’s Son, preach this same message. The true call of God through the church to a lost and dying world is this message of repentance as well. (Luke 24:47, Acts 17:30, 2 Peter 3:9) We echo God’s message: “Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand!”
Our theme this year as we read through the scriptures is… what? Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness! This is our hope! This is our struggle! This is our primary mission! This is the first step of repentance. No one bypasses this critical step of repentance and enters the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “No! Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3.
Paul tells us that godly sorry works repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10. How can we repent if we never face the horror of our condition in sin? Who will turn to God when this world’s temporal pleasures and short lived thrills are considered more valuable and desirable than God’s word and will. Why should I let go of the fun of sin when eternal life in Christ seems so distant and dim, and the enjoyment of fleshly desires is so prevalent and in my face? What does it take to turn a people comfortable in their sins to renounce sin and turn to a holy and righteous God? That’s what the prophets were after. That’s what God was doing through the words He gave to them. God’s word, believed, produces repentance.
Repentance is not simply a change of behaviors, it is a change of mind and heart. It is thinking anew the way of God’s will and that produces changes of heart, mind, words and actions toward God’s will and way. Repentance is a kind of spiritual internal conversion that bears fruits of righteousness. It is a gift of God! A letting go of sin and darkness and a longing hunger and thirst for righteousness. Repentance has to do with eternal hope. Those that repent turn from darkness to light, from the temporal fleshly entrapments to eternal glory and everlasting joy. Real, unending hope!
The prophets will give us astonishing hope in the midst of their warnings. Their message is clearly a corrective call, with stern rebukes, reprimanding admonishments, and serious alarms. The prophets are given visions from God, some look like nightmares, that shatter the flippancy and rain on the parade of Israel’s party.
You can’t read the words of the prophets without it stirring your feelings. These are emotionally charged books. God speaks. “Thus says the Lord,” proclaims the prophet. God’s words come crashing in on the comfortable sinners in Israel. The King of kings has had enough! The Ruler of righteousness is coming in judgment against sin and disobedience. He will cleanse away all of its rottenness and filth. He will uproot, tear down, overthrow and destroy everything that stands against His word.
How? How will God do this? Does He appear in the sky and rend the heavens and come down? No, not yet. That day will come! But until that day, God will work through the governing nations that He Himself has established, and use them as His tools of punishment. Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and others don’t even realize that God is using them for His purposes. They are blind. They, who are mere tools in the hands of the Lord, think that they are in control. But they are simply pawns in God’s hands, moved about to do His bidding. When He is finished using them, He will in turn punish them as well, for their own evil.
The prophets tell us these things. Without their voices, we would be tempted to see history unfolding as mere human driven events. If we did not believe in the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we would believe that everything simply happens by chance and coincidence. But the prophets were able to foretell these things. They were inspired of God to hear God’s plans and see how God, the King of kings, was moving history according to His own righteous purposes.
Let’s take a look at Isaiah 1. In the time we have left, let’s hear the voice of God calling His people to repentance. (Read chapter 1).
Do you hear what God is saying? Do you understand His message here? His words describe Jerusalem under siege by Assyria. This happened under the reign of Hezekiah. Chapters 36-37 tell the story. I don’t believe Isaiah waited until then to write these words. I could be wrong, but many prophets spoke of these things years before they actually occurred. That’s part of what made their words so powerful.
Later we will read Hosea, who spoke of the destruction of Israel many years before it happened. But it happened! When the prophets spoke, they sometimes stated things in the present as if it was happening as they spoke. Other times they spoke of the future in past tense. God already knew what would come and He spoke through the prophets to call the people to repent. When we read Deuteronomy we find God saying things about the future as warnings, “Don’t forget me! If you do, this is what will happen.” But then He says, “When you do forget and go through all that I will do to punish you, turn back to me.”
When Solomon is dedicating the temple, he prays just like this. When we sin and are punished and even taken away into foreign lands, and there we remember the Lord, and turn and pray toward this place, hear us, Lord and forgive.” (2 Chronicles 6).
God knows us. He not only knows what we are like, God knows our past, present and future! He knows! His word to us was then, is now, and will be until we enter glory: repent!
Isaiah 30:15 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.
What will God do to bring us into His Kingdom and righteousness? What does it take?
The cross of Christ stands as a demonstration to show what extent our God will go to save us.
God shatters our selfish excuses. He exposes our sinful fleshly passions. He disrupts our enjoyment of evil. He even sacrifices His only begotten Son. Why?
Think of the value God places on you and having a relationship with you. What does God have to do to get this world’s attention? Who will go for Him? Who will speak His message? Those who repent and are cleansed.