October 16, 2015

Repentance is a gift

Ezekiel 32:1–33:33, Revelation 16:1–21, Job 37:9–15

Seeing God in creation is called ‘natural’ revelation, usually displayed in the beauty and intricacy of nature, the power of weather, and so on. Further revelation was in the miracles of Jesus showing God’s power over nature by telling storms to cease, water to change into wine, and healing the sick.

This power was revealed to OT believers also. Elihu, Job’s young ‘advice’ giver, says of God: “He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.” (Job 37:11–13)

I’m impressed that Elihu not only acknowledged God’s sovereign power, but also understood that He can have different motives for doing what He does. However, he applied only one of these to Job by accusing him of being under correction. It seems that in his mind what happened to Job had nothing to do with His land or His love.

Later in their history, God’s people failed even more by not trusting God no matter what happened, but became radically and deceitfully disobedient. God said to the prophet Ezekiel, “Son of man, your people talk about you in their houses and whisper about you at the doors. They say to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go hear the prophet tell us what the Lord is saying!’ So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it! But when all these terrible things happen to them—as they certainly will—then they will know a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 33:30–33, NLT)

This and many other passages reveal that we humans have terribly messed concepts of God and of ourselves. When good things happen, we say, “Oh, there must be a God” but when bad things happen, we curse Him. All through Ezekiel, God warned of wrath and judgment to come. These were all bad things, but would happen so “they will know that I am the Lord.” We want God to prove Himself to us by making us comfortable, but in those days, His plan was exactly the opposite.

The book of Revelation speaks of world-wide judgment. While opinions differ on what these images mean and whether or not they are literal, the message is clear: God will judge sin.

In chapter 16, John describes seven angels and the instructions God gave them to pour out bowls of His wrath. Each one describes nasty events:.

  • The first angel poured out his bowl and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
  • The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea and it became like blood. Every living thing in the sea would die.
  • The third angel poured out his bowl into rivers and springs of water and as they became blood said, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
  • The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. “They cursed the name of God and did not repent and give him glory.”
  • The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast (signifying a godless leader) and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. “People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.”
  • “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty . . . . And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
  • The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, “and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.”

While all of this happens, the people will acknowledge the power of God — they curse Him for doing it — but people still refuse to turn from sin in repentance.

After reading this, I know I am no better. I have a stubborn sinful nature that continually nags at me to do my own thing and ignore God and His commands. Yet Jesus came to change my life, and I am so deeply grateful for His gift of repentance.

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