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REPENT!

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Isaiah 44:22




When was the last time that you heard a sermon on repentance? If you answered, ‘not too long ago,’ you are one of the lucky few who attend a bold and aware church. True repentance is not a popular topic. It never has been. However, it is necessary for a relationship with our Creator. The Old Testament prophets reported to the religious leaders and the religious leaders would report to the kings. The prophets were never popular with the leaders because their message was always the same. Repent! In other words, change your ways and turn back to Yahweh.


Throughout the Old Testament, the appointed leaders of Israel and Judah were to keep focused on the Law of Moses in order to lead the people. They failed to do so and allowed for idol worship to infiltrate the culture and they too participated in the perverse worship practices of the pagan nations around them. These practices included temple prostitution, infanticide, and all sorts of cultic-fertility sexual perversions, all for the promise of future prosperity.

These behaviors were strictly forbidden in the Pentateuch. The fact that the leaders were encouraging the people to recognize false religions and to participate in their perverse rituals was bad enough, but the outflow of these actions drew people away from the Creator and not toward him. A nation that had been formed by God and separated as his special treasure (Exodus 19:5), had quickly turned their backs on him due to the weak leadership of the nation.


What the people and their leaders were guilty of was apostacy. They had integrated the false religions of other nations in with the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, causing them to fall away from a pure faith in their God. The mixing of many belief systems and faithful to none is known as syncretism. This was the downfall of the nation of Israel. The prophets called for repentance, but the leaders wanted prosperity by any means, so they turned to other gods and the people followed. Few remained faithful to their God and repented, these were the remnant that God would use to rebuild the nation of Israel after their exiles to Asyria and to Babylon.


When Jesus (God’s Messiah) came into his ministry, his first message was to repent (Matt 4:17). Just like the prophets of the their ancestry, they were called to repent. What was different in the first century A.D. from the eighth and the sixth centuries B.C. when God’s people were taken as prisoners and forced into exile, was that the nation of Israel was punished as a group for their lack of repentance and their corporate sins against their God. During the intertestamental period, however, faithfulness to the God of Israel became more of a personal quest.


Jesus spoke directly to those whom he healed and often told them to go and “sin no more.” Everyone was treated on an individual basis. When Jesus’ message was too harsh for the world to hear (John 6:52-71), he turned to his close disciples and asked them, if they would walk away as well? They would have to make their own decision as to what they would believe.


True repentance is still required to come to a saving faith. However, because of the work of the Christ, people are no longer accountable for the sins of their parents or the decisions of their leaders (unless they aided in the bad behaviors). God made it possible for everyone to become aware of the evil in the world and how to break free from its grip through Jesus. The kingdom of God is now accessible to all through Jesus as he meets everyone right where they are, so the word of God is available to everyone. Repentance is the key to freedom. However, be aware of the syncretism that still exists in our culture and knowing God through his word is our best defense from falling prey to false religions.

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