“Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me.'”
Read through the book of Jeremiah, or really any of the Old Testament, and you might get the idea we serve a vengeful God.
Whenever the Israelites sinned, whenever they did wrong, whenever they made a mistake, didn’t sacrifice the correct animal, forgot to celebrate a feast, touched a dead body, reaped all of their field instead of leaving the edges for the poor, didn’t wash their cup or their hands or themselves correctly, or even just looked in the wrong direction, God would punish them.
It seemed they were always doing something wrong.
Even in this portion of Jeremiah’s story, the children of Israel had messed up again. They refused to follow God’s command, began neglecting the poor and the widow and the orphan, turned their back on God and started serving other gods.
So God promised to punish them.
In the eighteen verses preceding the one above, God promised the his heart would not go out to the Israelites. He said he would send them to death by the sword, death by starvation and send some into captivity. He promised the dogs to drag them away and the birds and wild animals to devour their bodies. He told them that no one would have pity on them and that He Himself would reach out to destroy them. He would turn their married women into widows, kill the mothers of their young men and bring them nothing but anguish and terror. He would allow their possessions to be plundered, their enemies to enslave them and His fire to burn against them.
The Israelites rejected God, continued to backslide and unleashed God’s wrath upon themselves.
But in the midst of their punishment, in the midst of the devastation, in the midst of God promising to utterly destroy His own people, He does something amazing.
He promises to restore them, if they repent.
If they would rend their hearts, if they mourned over their mistakes, if they turned away from the lifestyle they were living and began following God’s commands again, He would bring them back, clean them up and restore them to a right relationship with Himself.
Repentance isn’t just a contrived act of feeling sorry.
It isn’t about just apologizing and asking for forgiveness.
Repentance is turning away from the sin and shame and darkness, and turning back to Him.
When we do, when we take the action to leave our sin behind and run after God, He promises to restore us, to shape us, to give us life and love and blessing, so that we can serve Him.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as you face the sins within your own life, may your first reaction be to repent. May you find yourself turning away from your sinful ways, giving up the things that kept you from God, quitting the shameful acts you once committed, and running towards Him. And may you, as you turn back to Him, find that the restoration and hope and courage you need is right there waiting for you.