The Old Testament Israelites seemed to have a routine. They would rightly worship God, experience the blessing of following His statutes, fall away by worshipping idols, experience the results of the removal of God’s blessing, repent in sackcloth and ashes, rightly worship God, experience the blessing, fall away, experience consequences, repent, rightly worship… You get the idea.
Reading the text, it is never surprising they worship God. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, guided them 40 years in the desert, gave them the Promised Land, and led them as their King and God. It is also not surprising when they fall away. They were surrounded by pagans and people who refused to recognize God, and we ourselves have all experienced the temptation to follow the world rather than the Word. Nor is it surprising when they were punished for their apostasy.
But it always surprises me how they repent.
In the book of Judges, the writer typically says the people “cried out” to God. This was their repentance and plea for God’s help. But in 2 Kings 22, the young king Josiah repairs the temple and the Book of the Law is found. In response to hearing God’s word he “tore his clothes,” in angst, sorrow, and humility.
1 Kings 22:27 shows King Ahab tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth, and fasting.
The entire nation of Nineveh called for a fast for repentance in Jonah 3:5.
The Israelites met together, fasted, and confessed they had sinned as a nation. Repentance followed in 1 Samuel 7:6.
There are many more examples that could be given, but the point is that the people came together confessing they had sinned as a nation. That is where America is right now. We are a nation who has rejected God and we need to repent.
On the surface, America has a race issue.
On the surface, America has a problem with valuing life.
On the surface, America has a problem with hate.
On the surface, America has a problem with authority.
On the surface, America has a problem with idolatry.
On the surface, America has a problem with love.
At the root, America has the problem of rejecting God and His statutes. All the problems of America can, and will, be fixed if we only repent.
Repent of racism and meditate on Mark 12:30-31.
Repent of hatred and meditate on 1 John 3:15-16.
Repent of pride and meditate on 2 Chronicles 32:26.
Repent of idolatry and meditate on Joshua 24:23.
Repent of not loving and meditate on 1 John 4:20.
This may sound like a clarion call for the country, but it is not. This is a call to the church in America. When we repent, and repent we must, it cannot be for the purpose of regaining an idealized picture of “our America” again. Attempting to sway God for our personal comfort is only another form of idolatry. When we repent, it must be because we see the depth of our personal sin and know we have rejected our Savior and Redeemer. We must repent with the only personal gain in mind being God creating a clean heart within us (Psalm 51).
It is not until we, the body of Christ, leave our cushioned pews and fall to our knees, throw on sackcloth and ashes, fast, openly weep, and cry out at the top of our lungs for God’s forgiveness that change will happen. We are to be salt and light to this world, but we have lost our saltiness. Our light has diminished to the point we are a flicker where we should be a blaze.
I don’t know what this looks like for you. I’m still learning what this looks like for me. But let us continually keep our eyes on Christ, study the Word of God, and humbly repent as God reveals our sin to us. It will not solve the evils of the world, but it will equip us to push back against those evils with the beautiful light of the gospel.