TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

I.  Encountering Sin

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Chapter 37  Part I

Encountering Sin

Inevitably on occasions sin “leaks” into our lives, with its ill effects on ourselves and on our relationship with God. But if we address it as the Bible says to, God promises to forgive our sins and take in hand its effects.

Note that the teaching in this section is applicable to both new believers ridding themselves of their old ways and to believers returning to God after having lapsed into sin. However, the focus is more on the latter – with the former being primarily dealt with in the section Repentance.

Consequences of Sin for God’s People

See also:

Prelude: God’s people still sin

James 3:2  For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. ▤ 

No one is perfect.

1Jn 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ▤ 

No one’s sinful nature has been completely eradicated.

Heb 5:1-3  For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. ▤ 

Even high priests are “liable to moral weakness” (AMP). The same can be said for all leaders amongst God’s people.

Rom 7:18-19  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. ▤ 

Opinions differ on whether Paul is speaking here of a Christian or a pre-Christian experience.

Sin deprives God’s people of his blessings

Not all the references in this and the following subsections actually state that sin was the reason for the consequences of which they speak, but it is clear from their contexts that this is the case. Note that it is Israel’s sin that is largely in view in this and the following subsections.

Jer 5:24-25  They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ 25Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. ▤ 

Isa 63:15  Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautifule habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. ▤ 

e Or holy and glorious

This reflects on the blessings of the people’s relationship with God before their sinful rebellion (cf. v. 10). “The stirring of your inner parts” appears to refer to God’s pity (cf. AMP) or love (cf. CEV, GNT).

Jer 16:5  For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Jer 17:3b-4  Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory. 4You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever. ▤ 

Lam 4:16  The Lord himselff has scattered them; he will regard them no more; no honor was shown to the priests, no favor to the elders. ▤ 

f Hebrew The face of the Lord

The clause “he will regard them no more” suggests that God would no longer take care of them (cf. AMP, NCV, NIV, NLT).

Amos 8:11-12  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. ▤ 

Sin deprives God’s people of rest and peace

See also:

Following on from the previous subsection, rest and peace are further blessings that sin deprives God’s people of.  Note that the first four references speak of “rest” as being a blessing of God or from following his ways. They indicate or imply that if one does not walk in God’s ways – i.e. continues to sin – one fails to find such spiritual rest. The other references similarly speak of “rest” and “peace” being inaccessible, with their contexts indicating that sin was the reason.

Isa 28:11-12  For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people, 12to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. ▤ 

Note that the “strange lips and … a foreign tongue” (v. 11) allude to enemies and captivity – in contrast to rest and peace (v. 12).

Jer 6:16  Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ▤ 

Jer 50:6  My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. ▤ 

The references to roaming and wandering over mountains allude to the sin of the people in wandering away from God – particularly to idolatry, with mountains being favored places for idol worship (cf. AMP). Their “fold” was their “resting place” (AMP, CEV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV).

Heb 3:18-19  And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. ▤ 

This is referring to the Israelites, who had been rebellious, not being able to enter Canaan – God’s place of rest.

Deut 28:65, 67  And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. ▤ 67In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see. ▤ 

The term “a languishing soul” (v. 65) speaks of despair (cf. GNT, NLT).

Lam 1:3  Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.g ▤ 

g Or in the narrow passes

Lam 5:5  Our pursuers are at our necks;h we are weary; we are given no rest. ▤ 

h Symmachus With a yoke on our necks

Lam 3:17  … my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happinessi is; … ▤ 

i Hebrew good

Jer 8:15  We looked for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror. ▤ 

Ezek 7:25  When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there shall be none. ▤ 

God punishes sin, which can mean physical suffering and emotional anguish . . .

See also:

Ps 6:1-3, 6-7  O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. 3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? ▤ 6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. 7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. ▤ 

In v. 1 David appears to be pleading to be spared from any further discipline, being in agony from that which he had already received (vv. 2-3, 6-7).

Ps 32:3-4  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried upj as by the heat of summer. Selah ▤ 

j Hebrew my vitality was changed

The phrase “when I kept silent” (v. 3a) refers to the psalmist’s failure to acknowledge his sin.

Ps 38:3-8, 10, 17-18  There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. 4For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. 5My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, 6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. 7For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. 8I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. ▤ 10My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. ▤ 17For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. 18I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. ▤ 

Ps 102:3-11  For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. 4My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. 5Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. 6I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owlk of the waste places; 7I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. 8All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. 9For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink, 10because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. 11My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. ▤ 

k The precise identity of these birds is uncertain

This is considered one of the penitential psalms (as are the psalms from which the above extracts are taken) expressing sorrow and regret for sin. This is reflected by the reference in v. 10 to God’s anger, pointing to sin as being behind the psalmist’s predicament. Note that the simile in v. 6 points to the psalmist’s withered lonely state.

Isa 64:6-7  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt inl the hand of our iniquities. ▤ 

l Masoretic Text; Septuagint, Syriac, Targum have delivered us into

Jer 4:18  Your ways and your deeds have brought this upon you. This is your doom, and it is bitter; it has reached your very heart. ▤ 

Lam 1:2, 4, 12-13, 15-16, 20-22  She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. ▤ 4The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted,m and she herself suffers bitterly. ▤ 12“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger. 13“From on high he sent fire; into my bonesn he made it descend; he spread a net for my feet; he turned me back; he has left me stunned, faint all the day long. ▤ 15“The Lord rejected all my mighty men in my midst; he summoned an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord has trodden as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah. 16“For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.” ▤ 20“Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death. 21“They heardo my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me. All my enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that you have done it. You have broughtp the day you announced; now let them be as I am. 22“Let all their evildoing come before you, and deal with them as you have dealt with me because of all my transgressions; for my groans are many, and my heart is faint.” ▤ 

m Septuagint, Old Latin dragged away

n Septuagint; Hebrew bones and

o Septuagint, Syriac Hear

p Syriac Bring

Jerusalem is in view in vv. 2a, 4 and the speaker in the subsequent verses is Jerusalem personified. The “virgin daughter of Judah” (v. 15) signifies Jerusalem and her people.

Lam 5:15-17  The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. 16The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! 17For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim, … ▤ 

Ezek 7:16-18  And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of them moaning, each one over his iniquity. 17All hands are feeble, and all knees turn to water. 18They put on sackcloth, and horror covers them. Shame is on all faces, and baldness on all their heads. ▤ 

The last clause refers to heads shaven in mourning.

Ezek 33:10  And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ ▤ 

. . . along with various other troubles

See also:

Deut 31:16-17  And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ ▤ 

Judg 2:13-15  They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. ▤ 

Ezra 9:7  From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. ▤ 

Neh 9:37  And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress. ▤ 

Ps 40:12  For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. ▤ 

The clause “my iniquities have overtaken me” refers to the results of David’s sins, which had overwhelmed him (cf. Lam 1:14 ).

Ps 107:10-12, 17  Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. ▤ 17Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; … ▤ 

Isa 59:9-12  Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. 11We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. 12For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: … ▤ 

The darkness referred to in v. 9 and illustrated in v. 10, refers to their grim predicament, quite possibly also inclusive of spiritual darkness.

Lam 1:5, 14  Her foes have become the head; her enemies prosper, because the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. ▤ 14“My transgressions were boundq into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand. ▤ 

q The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

Hos 8:7  For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it. ▤ 

“For they sow the wind” likely refers to idolatry and possibly also to largely unrestrained sin in general. This “wind” had resulted in a “whirlwind” – God’s devastating punishment.

Hos 14:1  Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. ▤ 

Mic 6:13-14  Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. 14You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger within you; you shall put away, but not preserve, and what you preserve I will give to the sword. ▤ 

  • God’s punishment of Israel’s sin is an example and warning to us:

1Cor 10:5-12  Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christr to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ▤ 

r Some manuscripts the Lord

Sin defiles God’s people – making them spiritually unclean

See also:

Ps 106:39  Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds. ▤ 

Ezek 20:43  And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves, and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. ▤ 

Heb 12:15  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; … ▤ 

The “root of bitterness” denotes either sinfulness itself (cf. AMP) – possibly unbelief in particular (cf. NLT) in light of the earlier reference to God’s grace exhibited in the gospel – or a person (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) who exhibits such sinfulness. Sin in the church can influence others to so sin, thus by it many can “become defiled”.

Lam 1:8-9  Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away. 9Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future;s therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. “O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!” ▤ 

s Or end

“Her uncleanness was in her skirts” (v. 9a) refers to Jerusalem’s uncleanness, caused by her sin (v. 8a). Note that “her nakedness” (v. 8) refers to her spiritual prostitution – possibly in conjunction with actual prostitution – and unfaithfulness to God.

Matt 15:18-20  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. ▤ 

Isa 64:5b-6  Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?t 6We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. ▤ 

t Or in your ways is continuance, that we might be saved

In saying “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (v. 6) Isaiah may be: speaking of the people’s righteous acts being polluted or stained by their sin; implying that even their good acts do not meet God’s standard of righteousness; or possibly using “righteous” in an ironic sense.

2Cor 7:1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of bodyu and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ▤ 

u Greek flesh

Here “every defilement” would appear to refer to all sinful influences that make unclean our body and spirit – effectively our whole being.

God turns away from those who persist in sin . . .

See also:

As sin makes people spiritually unclean, God will ultimately turn away from those who persist in sin, for God in his holiness will not coexist with such uncleanness.

Deut 31:16-18  And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. ▤ 

Isa 59:2  … but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ▤ 

Isa 64:7  There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt inv the hand of our iniquities. ▤ 

v Masoretic Text; Septuagint, Syriac, Targum have delivered us into

Jer 6:7-8  As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me. 8Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land. ▤ 

Lam 3:42, 44  We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven. ▤ 44you have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. ▤ 

Ezek 8:6a  And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? ▤ 

Likewise Psalms 78:60 speaks of God earlier abandoning the tabernacle when his people had turned to sin – “He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, …”

Hos 5:5-6  The pride of Israel testifies to his face;w Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt; Judah also shall stumble with them. 6With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. ▤ 

w Or in his presence

Hos 9:9, 12  They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins. ▤ 12Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! ▤ 

Mic 3:4  Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil. ▤ 

Isa 63:10-11  But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. 11Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people.x Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, … ▤ 

x Or Then his people remembered the days of old, of Moses

. . . God rejects them and thrusts them from his presence

Ps 78:58-59  For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. 59When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. ▤ 

Jer 7:28-29  And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. 29“‘Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.’ ▤ 

Jer 14:10  Thus says the Lord concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” ▤ 

2Ki 17:18-23  Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only. 19Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. 21When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin. 22The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, 23until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. ▤ 

The promised land was God’s land, particularly as his sanctuary was there (although it was in the southern kingdom of Judah rather than in the northern kingdom of Israel, which is largely in view here). By exiling the sinful people from his land, in a real sense God was removing them from his presence – removing them “out of his sight” (vv. 18, 20, 23).

Hos 9:15b, 17  Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. ▤ 17My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations. ▤ 

Jer 7:13-15  And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim. ▤ 

Because of the people’s wickedness and disregard for God (v. 13), God would thrust them from his presence (v. 15). This probably has primarily in view sending them into exile away from his land, but could additionally refer to the destruction of the temple that bore his name (v. 14). In bearing God’s name, the temple signified God’s presence. Its removal would thus be indicative of the people’s exclusion from God’s presence.

Lam 4:16  The Lord himselfy has scattered them; he will regard them no more; no honor was shown to the priests, no favor to the elders. ▤ 

y Hebrew The face of the Lord

This illustrates God’s rejection and expulsion of his people, a consequence of their sin.

  • Due to sin we are not worthy to be in God’s presence:

Ezra 9:15  O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this. ▤ 

Here in repentance Ezra and the people prayed before God; as such they were not intent on persisting in sin and so had not been thrust from God’s presence. But even so, because of their sin the people were not worthy to “stand” in God’s presence – which in view of Ezra’s prostrate position (cf. v. 5) may be a reference to physically standing.

Further implications of deliberately or habitually continuing to sin

See also:

Deut 29:19-20  … one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. ▤ 

The reference is to willfully breaking the terms of the covenant God made with Israel, and thus willfully sinning. Note that v. 19b appears to be meaning that willful sin can bring consequences that also affect others (cf. CEV, GNT), but the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain (cf. NRSV text note).

Heb 10:26-31  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ▤ 

To deliberately keep on sinning after having previously accepted Christ’s sacrifice as payment for sin is by implication to do the things listed in v. 29. The result is that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (v. 26) and so one faces God’s judgment and dreadful punishment (vv. 27, 30-31).

1Jn 3:6-10  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’sz seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. ▤ 

z Greek his

In referring to not having “either seen him or known him” (v. 6), John speaks of not having “recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or… had an experiential acquaintance with Him” (AMP). In saying that the devil “has been sinning from the beginning”, v. 8 may have in view the fact that sin originated from the devil – both sin itself and human sin. Thus those who persist in sin are ultimately “of the devil”, in a sense a product of him, emulating his character (cf. AMP). They follow him and in effect belong to him (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT). In v. 9, “God’s seed” may well speak of God’s nature (cf. AMP, GNT) with the new life that it brings (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT). Alternatively, it may denote God’s word or the Holy Spirit, through which the new life comes.

1Jn 5:18  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. ▤ 

This implies that anyone who does continue in a life of sin has not been born of God (cf. 1Jn 3:9-10 ).

Pray for persecuted Christians

Addressing Sin (I): Return from Sin to God

See also:

Even if sin has not led to a believer completely falling away from God, all sin hinders one from being fully devoted to God to some extent. Thus one needs to turn away from any sin and return to being completely devoted to God.

Stop sinning, turning away from sin

See also:

1Cor 15:34  Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. ▤ 

Rom 6:1-2, 12  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ▤ 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. ▤ 

1Jn 5:18  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. ▤ 

Job 34:31-32  For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more; 32teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’? ▤ 

These words appear to be presented as exemplary.

Ezek 14:6  Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. ▤ 

Ezek 18:30  Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.a ▤ 

a Or lest iniquity be your stumbling block

Dan 9:13  As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. ▤ 

2Tim 2:19  But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” ▤ 

Do not be stubborn, like the Israelites were, resisting God and persisting in sin

In the following verses, references to having hard hearts and stiff necks refer to stubbornness.

Heb 3:7-9  Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. ▤ 

Deut 10:16  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. ▤ 

Prov 28:14  Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. ▤ 

Judg 2:19  But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. ▤ 

2Chr 36:13  He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. ▤ 

Isa 46:12  Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: … ▤ 

Isa 48:4  Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, … ▤ 

Jer 5:3  O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent. ▤ 

Jer 17:23  Yet they did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction. ▤ 

Jer 18:11-12  Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ 12“But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart. ▤ 

Hos 4:16  Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture? ▤ 

Zec 7:11-12  But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.b 12They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. ▤ 

b Hebrew and made their ears too heavy to hear

Acts 7:51  You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. ▤ 

  • The Pharisees stubbornly resisted Jesus and his teaching:

Mark 3:5  And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. ▤ 

So get rid of sin . . .

See also:

Ezek 18:31  Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? ▤ 

James 1:21  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. ▤ 

1Pet 2:1  So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. ▤ 

Col 3:5, 8-10  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:c sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ▤ 8But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old selfd with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ▤ 

c Greek therefore your members that are on the earth

d Greek man; also as supplied in verse 10

Rom 13:12  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. ▤ 

Heb 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, … ▤ 

James 4:8b  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ▤ 

“Cleanse your hands” is a call to clean our lives of sin (cf. CEV, NCV).

Jer 4:14  O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? ▤ 

. . . and get rid of things involved in sinful practices

See also:

Gen 35:2  So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. ▤ 

Judg 10:16  So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. ▤ 

2Ki 23:4, 6-8, 10, 24  And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. ▤ 6And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. 7And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah. 8And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s left at the gate of the city. ▤ 10And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech. ▤ 24Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. ▤ 

e Hebrew might cause his son or daughter to pass through the fire for Molech

Verses 8, 10 speak of Josiah desecrating the places of false worship. Note that v. 8a appears to refer to priests who had been wrongly offering sacrifices to God at local shrines instead of the temple in Jerusalem (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT).

Acts 19:18-19  Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. ▤ 

  • By destroying objects associated with its idolatry, Israel’s sin would be removed:

Isa 27:9  Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin:f when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing. ▤ 

f Septuagint and this is the blessing when I take away his sin

Return to God

Isa 31:6  Turn to him from whom peopleg have deeply revolted, O children of Israel. ▤ 

g Hebrew they

Isa 44:22  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. ▤ 

“I have redeemed you” appears to primarily refer to redemption from captivity, but it may encompass the aforementioned removal of sin. As their redeemer, it is obligatory of his wayward people to return to God.

Jer 3:22  “Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to you, for you are the Lord our God. ▤ 

Lam 3:40  Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! ▤ 

Hos 12:6  “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” ▤ 

Hos 14:1-2  Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vowsh of our lips. ▤ 

h Septuagint, Syriac pay the fruit

James 4:8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ▤ 

Ps 51:13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. ▤ 

  • Make peace with God:

Isa 27:5  Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me. ▤ 

One aspect of returning to God is making peace with him.

Return to God with all your heart – not insincerely

1Sam 7:3  And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” ▤ 

Deut 4:29  But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. ▤ 

1Ki 8:48  … if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, … ▤ 

Jer 4:1-2  “If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, 2and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” ▤ 

The opening statement (v. 1a) may be implying that if the people desire to return, then indeed that is what they should do; just speaking of it is pointless. It needs to actually be done – genuinely, as reflected in the actions subsequently mentioned (vv. 1b-2a). Verse 2a is speaking of taking oaths in God’s name, either truthfully or along with also acting “in truth, in justice, and in righteousness” (cf. NLT).

Joel 2:12-13  “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. ▤ 

The expression “rend your hearts” (v. 13) speaks of the heartfelt sorrow and sincerity that should characterize wayward people’s return to God.

Jer 3:4-5, 10  Have you not just now called to me, ‘My father, you are the friend of my youth— 5will he be angry forever, will he be indignant to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could.” ▤ 10Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Verses 4-5 demonstrate Judah’s insincerity in supposedly returning to God, rendering the exercise as pointless (cf. Hos 6:1-5 ).

Hos 6:1-5  “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” [God:] 4What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. 5Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. ▤ 

In v. 4 God exposes the people’s lack of sincerity in claiming to intend to return to him (vv. 1-3). Their failure to return wholeheartedly meant that they suffered God’s judgments (v. 5).

  • Not turning from sinful deeds prevents one from returning to God:

Hos 5:4  Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord. ▤ 

In returning from sin to God, do what God wants

2Ki 17:13  Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” ▤ 

Ezra 10:11  Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives. ▤ 

The first clause is indicative of turning from sin to God.

Neh 1:9  … but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there. ▤ 

Jer 18:11b  Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds. ▤ 

Jer 26:13  Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. ▤ 

Dan 9:13  As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. ▤ 

The last clause would appear to have in view paying attention to and obeying God’s law (cf. GNT, NIV).

Hos 12:6  “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” ▤ 

Rev 3:2-3  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. ▤ 

2Chr 30:8  Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. ▤ 

Yielding to God (cf. James 4:7 ) and to his will, leads to doing what he wants. The latter of course involves serving him (cf. Judg 10:16 ).

James 4:7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ▤ 

Judg 10:16  So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. ▤ 

On turning from sin, the people served God – i.e. they did what he wanted.

  • Do not return to sin:

Ps 85:8  Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Addressing Sin (II): Deal with Sin before God

Confess your sin to God

See also:

Confessing sin is acknowledging to God that we have committed a particular action that is against his will and is indeed wrong or sinful. Such honesty and openness opens us to God’s forgiveness and purification – and his help.

Lev 5:5  … when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, … ▤ 

This reflects that it is important to confess the particular sins we have committed, rather than merely the fact that we have sinned. Identifying particular sin engenders genuine sorrow and repentance, and enables us to be better aware of committing similar sins in the future.

2Sam 24:10  But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” ▤ 

Here David confesses to an act that was sinful in that it displayed trust in the strength of his own forces rather than in God. It also may have been indicative of pride.

1Ki 8:47  … yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ … ▤ 

Neh 1:6-7  … let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. ▤ 

Neh 9:2-3  And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. ▤ 

Note that the confession of their fathers’ sins as well, may have in view God’s punishment of sins affecting subsequent generations (cf. Ex 20:5).

Ps 32:5  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ▤ 

Ps 51:3-5  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. ▤ 

In conjunction with confessing the sin that he had recently committed (vv. 3-4), David also acknowledges his sinful disposition before God (v. 5).

Ps 119:176  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. ▤ 

Isa 59:12-13  For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. ▤ 

In saying “our sins testify against us” (v. 12a) Isaiah acknowledged the stark reality of his people’s sin in God’s sight.

Jer 14:20  We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, and the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against you. ▤ 

Dan 9:4-6, 20  I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. ▤ 20While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, … ▤ 

Hos 5:15  I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. ▤ 

  • Confess your sins to each other:

James 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.i ▤ 

i Or The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power

That the admonition to “confess your sins to one another” is immediately followed by the command to pray for one another suggests that we should confess to other believers in order for them to pray for us, in regard to our sin and condition. Further advantages are that others can help us in being: assured of forgiveness; and accountable – in both redressing the sin (where applicable) and in facing similar temptations in the future.

Be sorrowful over your sin

See also:

Ezra 9:3-6  As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. ▤ 

Here Ezra expresses his intense sorrow at the unfaithfulness of his people. The tearing of clothes and pulling out of hair is an expression of intense remorse – as is the case with fasting, wearing sackcloth and the use of dust and ashes in some of the following references.

Ezra 10:1  While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. ▤ 

Neh 9:1-2  Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. 2And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. ▤ 

Job 42:6  … therefore I despise myself, and repentj in dust and ashes. ▤ 

j Or and am comforted

Job sat in dust and ashes to express his deep sorrow – that he was “really sorry” (NIrV®) – for what he had unjustly said about God.

Ps 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ▤ 

To be “contrite” (cf. Isa 57:15 ) is to be deeply remorseful and repentant of sin. God wants such “sacrifices” for sin.

Isa 22:12  In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; … ▤ 

Ezek 43:10-11  As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. ▤ 

Being ashamed of one’s sin is an integral part of being sorrowful for sin.

James 4:9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. ▤ 

“Be wretched” means to feel very unhappy.

Matt 5:4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ▤ 

The mourning referred to does not appear to be mourning in response to troubles that occur. Quite possibly it is the mourning of godly people over sin and its consequences – both their own sin and the world’s. Such people will “be comforted”, which may well have initially in view their salvation from sin through Christ’s work; it certainly encompasses the comfort God’s people will receive in the afterlife (cf. Rev 21:4).

  • The godly grief of the Corinthians and its beneficial effects:

2Cor 7:8-11a  For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! ▤ 

Paul had previously written to the Corinthians admonishing them over sin. In v. 9 Paul appears to be saying that he was happy not simply because they were sorry, but because of the effects of such godly grief (vv. 9-11a). Note that the reference to “punishment” (v. 11b) appears to refer to taking action against the guilty amongst them.

Humble yourself before God over your sin – and its consequences

Luke 18:13-14  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. ▤ 

James 4:10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. ▤ 

The call for the readers to humble themselves appears to be in part for their sin of courting “friendship with the world” (v. 4).

Lev 26:40-42  But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. ▤ 

2Chr 12:5-8, 12  Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.’” 6Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.” 7When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. 8Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” ▤ 12And when he [Rehoboam] humbled himself the wrath of the Lord turned from him, so as not to make a complete destruction. Moreover, conditions were goodk in Judah. ▤ 

k Hebrew good things were found

2Chr 33:9-13  Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. 10The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. ▤ 

2Chr 34:27  … because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. ▤ 

  • God continues to abide with those who are contrite and humble:

Isa 57:15  For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. ▤ 

To have a “lowly spirit” is to be humble – here quite possibly a reference to responding to one’s own sin. God continues to abide with people who are contrite and humble regarding their sin.

Ask God for forgiveness and restoration

See also:

We should ask God for forgiveness of sin and, in conjunction with this, for restoration from our unclean state before him and from other consequences of sin.

2Sam 24:10  But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” ▤ 

Ps 25:7, 11, 18  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! ▤ 11For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. ▤ 18Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. ▤ 

In asking for deliverance and forgiveness for his people, the psalmist appeals to the sake of both: God’s goodness (v. 7b), so that his character will be seen for what it is, i.e. good; and God’s name (v. 11a), they being God’s people and identified with him (cf. Dan 9:19 ).

Ps 39:8  Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! ▤ 

The psalmist prays to be saved from his sin and its consequences.

Ps 41:4  As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me,l for I have sinned against you!” ▤ 

l Hebrew my soul

Ps 51:1-2, 7-12  Have mercy on me,m O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! ▤ 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a rightn spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. ▤ 

m Or Be gracious to me

n Or steadfast

Ps 79:9  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! ▤ 

Ps 85:4-7  Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! 5Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. ▤ 

Isa 64:9  Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. ▤ 

The phrase “please look” appears to be a request that God would look upon them with compassion.

Lam 5:21  Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old ▤ 

Dan 9:19  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. ▤ 

Hos 14:2  Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vowso of our lips. ▤ 

o Septuagint, Syriac pay the fruit

Note that the request to “accept what is good” may have in view the offerings referred to in the subsequent clause.

Luke 11:4  … and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation. ▤ 

  • Ask for forgiveness of sins you are not aware of:

Ps 19:12  Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. ▤ 

David asks for forgiveness from sins he was unaware of.

In petitioning God, express your anguish over consequences of your sin – even with fasting

See also:

Note that a number of the references in the earlier subsection Be sorrowful over your sin, contain expressions of anguish that may well be in part also in regard to the prospect of consequences of sin. The following verses show people expressing anguish by such things as: how they address God (crying out to him from their hearts); weeping and mourning; covering themselves with sackcloth and ashes; and fasting.

Lam 2:18-19  Their heart cried to the Lord. O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite! 19“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.” ▤ 

Lam 3:41-42  Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: 42“We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven. ▤ 

The call to “lift up our hearts” – as well as “our hands” – calls for earnest expression of one’s anguish over sin and the consequences being endured, with God having “not forgiven.”

Dan 9:2-3  … in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. ▤ 

The desolation of Jerusalem (v. 2) was one of the main consequences of Judah’s persistent sin. Because of it and the length of time it would last, Daniel prays to God and in doing so expresses his anguish over it (v. 3).

Joel 1:13-14  Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. 14Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. ▤ 

Apparently as a consequence of the people’s sin (cf. Joel 2:12-13 ), an awesome plague of locusts had devastated the land, leaving neither grain nor wine even for offerings (v. 13b; cf. Joel 2:14 ). Thus the prophet calls on the priests – and similarly the people (cf. vv. 5-12) – to express their anguish before God (vv. 13-14a), in conjunction with crying out to God for help (v. 14b).

Joel 2:12-17  “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? 15Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. 17Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations.p Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” ▤ 

p Or reproach, that the nations should rule over them

Jonah 3:4-8  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6The word reachedq the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. ▤ 

q Or had reached

Note that this speaks of the repentance and anguish of the pagan Ninevites rather than wayward people of God. Nevertheless their response is exemplary to all.

Note: Accept God’s discipline for sin

See also:

The consequences of our sin are often the product of God’s discipline. So even though we should ask God for restoration from these consequences – and even express anguish over them – we are nevertheless to also accept such discipline for sin.

Job 5:17-18  Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. 18For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. ▤ 

Verse 18 points to the restoration that God brings for those who do not despise and so accept his discipline (v. 17).

Prov 3:11-12  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. ▤ 

Judg 10:15  And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” ▤ 

The people indicate their willingness to submit to whatever discipline God thought best, if only he would deliver them from the ultimate punishment of devastation at the hands of enemies.

1Sam 3:18  So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” ▤ 

Here Eli acknowledges God’s sovereignty – “He is the Lord” – and possibly also God’s righteousness. In conjunction with this Eli shows his submissiveness to God and acceptance of God’s discipline or punishment, horrific as it was (cf. vv. 11-14).

2Sam 15:25-26  Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. 26But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.” ▤ 

1Chr 21:8-13  And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9And the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10“Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” 11So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Choose what you will: 12either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” 13Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” ▤ 

David shows his acceptance of God’s discipline in making a choice as God had directed. He chooses one of the punishments which entail punishment direct from God’s hand, rather than “fall into the hand of man” (v. 13).

2Chr 12:5-6  Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.’” 6Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.” ▤ 

Ps 39:9  I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. ▤ 

Here David prays to God during a time of illness, which David appears to see as discipline for sin (cf. vv. 8, 11). Note that after demonstrating here his acceptance of God’s discipline, David also asks for relief from it (cf. vv. 10, 12-13). One can accept God’s discipline while also asking to be delivered from it, being ready to accept whatever is God’s response.

Lam 3:27-30, 39  It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope; 30let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. ▤ 39Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? ▤ 

The phrase “bear the yoke” (v. 27) refers to discipline and may also be speaking of willingly accepting it. “Let him sit alone in silence” (v. 28) certainly implies willing acceptance of the discipline that God “laid on him”. In v. 29, “let him put his mouth in the dust” means to bow face down on the ground as an expression of complete submission – “bow in submission” (GNT, cf. NCV). In v. 30, “let him give his cheek to the one who strikes” is another expression of submission; although “one” is probably referring to another person rather than to God, the thought being that the people should accept such ill treatment where God is using it to discipline them.

  • Not accepting God’s correction for sin brings dire consequences:

Zeph 3:1-2, 7  Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! 2She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God. ▤ 7I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then yourr dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.s But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt. ▤ 

r Hebrew her

s Hebrew her

The implication of v. 7 is that because they would not accept correction, their dwelling would be cut off. Note that Leviticus 26:23-24 somewhat similarly speaks of how not responding to God’s discipline for sin brings dire consequences: “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me,  24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.”

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s Response to Repentance

Note that there are also a number of examples in the preceding two sections of God’s response to various aspects of repentance.

Prelude: God seeks to draw his wayward people back to him

See also:

2Chr 36:15  The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. ▤ 

Isa 65:2  I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; … ▤ 

Jer 7:13  And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, … ▤ 

Jer 35:14b-15  I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. 15I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me. ▤ 

Matt 18:12-14  What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of myt Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. ▤ 

t Some manuscripts your

With v. 14 likening God’s attitude to that of the shepherd, the suggestion may well be that like the shepherd in v. 12, God seeks to retrieve any of his people who wander away from him.

  • Elijah’s desire that God would turn his people back:

1Ki 18:37  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back. ▤ 

When we repent God forgives our sins . . .

See also:

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ▤ 

2Chr 7:13-14  When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ▤ 

Ps 32:5  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ▤ 

Isa 1:16-18  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18“Come now, let us reasonu together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ▤ 

u Or dispute

The repentant actions (vv. 16-17) were critical to God forgiving the people’s sins (v. 18b).

Jer 36:3  It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. ▤ 

Luke 18:13-14  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. ▤ 

. . . Further references to God forgiving sin

See also:

Ex 34:6-7  The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for thousands,x forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” ▤ 

x Or to the thousandth generation

Ps 32:1-2  Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. ▤ 

Ps 65:3  When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. ▤ 

Note that the first clause appears to be speaking either of being overcome by the results of sin or of substantial guilt for sin.

Ps 85:2-3  You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah 3You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. ▤ 

Ps 86:5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. ▤ 

Ps 103:2-3, 11-12  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, ▤ 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. ▤ 

Ps 130:4, 8  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. ▤ 8And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. ▤ 

In regard to v. 4, without God’s forgiveness the fear of God that the Bible speaks of would not be possible – it being a fear which encompasses (among other things) worship, service and even longing for God. In place of it there would only be terror.

Isa 43:25  I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. ▤ 

James 5:14-15  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. ▤ 

Presumably this assumes a preparedness to repent (as with the above references) in the person being prayed for, should sin be the issue at hand.

  • God heals repentant people of faithlessness:

Jer 3:22  “Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to you, for you are the Lord our God. ▤ 

Being merciful and compassionate, God saves us from the consequences of our sin

See also:

Deut 4:30-31  When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. ▤ 

In his mercy and also his faithfulness to his covenant with Israel, God would not abandon or destroy them (v. 31). The implication is that he would save them from their distress and the terrible things that beset them (v. 30a) as consequences of their sin.

Prov 28:13  Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. ▤ 

Rather than “not prosper”, those who repent receive God’s mercy. This suggests that in his mercy God saves them from the consequences of their sin.

Jer 3:12  Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. ▤ 

God appears to tell Jeremiah to proclaim this message to the remnant in the northern state of Israel, or perhaps to those in exile, further to the north. That God would save them from the consequences of their sin, if they returned to him, is underlined shortly afterwards by a wonderful promise of restoration that appears to have a renewed Israel of the end time in view (cf. vv. 14-18).

Deut 30:2-3  … and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. ▤ 

2Chr 30:9  For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. ▤ 

Note that God’s graciousness is associated with his mercy (cf. Joel 2:13b ).

Jer 31:16-20  Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. 17There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country. 18I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God. 19For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ 20Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my hearty yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord. ▤ 

y Hebrew bowels

“I struck my thigh” (v. 19) appears to be an expression of remorse. Ephraim’s repentance (vv. 18-19) would lead to God’s mercy (v. 20), and her restoration (vv. 16-17) as reflected in much of the remainder of Jeremiah 31.

Joel 2:13b  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. ▤ 

Hos 14:1-5  Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vowsz of our lips. 3Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” [God:] 4I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. 5I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; … ▤ 

z Septuagint, Syriac pay the fruit

The reference to orphans finding mercy in God (v. 3b) appears to allude to their need for God’s help and mercy.

Luke 15:18-24  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’a 22But the father said to his servants,b ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. ▤ 

a Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants

b Greek bondservants

This portrays God’s compassionate response to repentant sinners.

  • Some consequences of David’s sin remained:

2Sam 12:9-14  Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,c the child who is born to you shall die.” ▤ 

c Masoretic Text the enemies of the Lord; Dead Sea Scroll the word of the Lord

David acknowledged his sin (v. 13a) and – presumably in response – God took it away and David did not die for it (v. 13b). Nevertheless a number of consequences of his sin remained (vv. 10-12, 14) – the reasons given being that he had: in effect despised God (v. 10b); and scorned God in the sight of others (v. 14a; cf. AMP, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT). Regarding the second reason, Nathan may have meant that in David suffering these consequences, God’s enemies would see that such sin would not go unpunished and so would no longer be contemptuous of God due to David’s sin. As such David’s punishment would help redress this serious ill effect of his sin.

When we repent God restores our relationship with him

Lev 26:40-42  But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. ▤ 

Note that “make amends for their iniquity” (v. 41b) appears to refer to the people paying for their sin (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT).

2Chr 30:6, 9b  So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. ▤ 9… For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” ▤ 

Jer 24:7  I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. ▤ 

God in effect promises the unfaithful people that if they returned to him wholeheartedly he would restore his relationship with them to what it should be, the crux of which is that they would be his people and he would be their God. Note that the first clause points to God not only restoring his people’s relationship with him, but enriching it.

Hos 14:2, 4, 8  Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vowsv of our lips. ▤ 4I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. ▤ 8O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.w I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit. ▤ 

v Septuagint, Syriac pay the fruit

w Hebrew him

As in v. 4, in v. 8 God is speaking of the kingdom of Israel as a whole.

Zec 1:3  Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. ▤ 

James 4:8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ▤ 

Rev 3:19-20  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ▤ 

Verse 20 is often used as depicting Christ reaching out to unbelievers, but in actual fact it is the lukewarm members of the church in Laodicea that are in view.

Jer 15:19  Therefore thus says the Lord: “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. ▤ 

God’s promised Jeremiah that if he repented he would again serve God.

  • If after sinning we seek God wholeheartedly, we will find him:

Deut 4:29  But from there [after forsaking him] you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. ▤ 

Note: Not repenting and returning to God brings judgment . . .

See also:

2Ki 17:22-23  The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, 23until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. ▤ 

Job 36:10-12  He opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity. 11If they listen and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness. 12But if they do not listen, they perish by the sword and die without knowledge. ▤ 

Isa 9:13-15  The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts. 14So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day15the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; … ▤ 

Jer 15:6-7  You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you— I am weary of relenting. 7I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people; they did not turn from their ways. ▤ 

Jer 44:5-6  But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods. 6Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they became a waste and a desolation, as at this day. ▤ 

Hos 11:5-7  They shall notd return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels. 7My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all. ▤ 

d Or surely

Amos 4:6-12  “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 7“I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 9“I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 10“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses,e and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 11“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brandf plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 12“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” ▤ 

e Hebrew along with the captivity of your horses

f That is, a burning stick

The persistent refusal of Israel to return despite God’s punishment resulted in more punishments (cf. Lev 26:14-39). Verse 12 indicates that God would further punish Israel for not returning to him. The punishment is not actually specified; instead in an ominous tone Israel is told to ready itself to meet God “as he comes in judgment” (NLT). Note that “cleanness of teeth” (v. 6) appears to allude to a lack of food to eat.

. . . Unrepentant churches face Jesus Christ’s judgment

Jesus Christ is the speaker in the following verses from Revelation.

Rev 2:4-5  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. ▤ 

The phrase “remove your lampstand” implies judgment, possibly in particular the removal of the church in Ephesus as a light of testimony for Christ.

Rev 2:16  Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. ▤ 

This speaks of Christ’s judgment of unrepentant church members in Pergamum. The reference to “the sword of my mouth” possibly means that the judgment would be in accordance with his words or pronounced by his word/s and thus come into being. As such, his words would in effect “cut like a sword” (CEV).

Rev 2:20-23  But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servantsg to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. ▤ 

g Greek bondservants

The phrase “her children” refers to those who followed this self-proclaimed prophetess Jezebel in practicing immorality – her “spiritual” children.

Rev 3:3  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. ▤ 

If the church in Sardis did not obey and repent, Christ would come to them in judgment without warning. Note that here the phrase “like a thief” is not necessarily referring to Christ’s second coming.

  • Failure to repent means that sin is not atoned for:

Isa 22:12-14  In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; 13and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 14The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,” says the Lord God of hosts. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians