The oppression against the Israelites had shattered their lives. They were subjected to a foreign nation; their homes were destroyed; their property and crops confiscated, possessions stolen, and spouses and children abused. People were brutalized and often killed. Under this cruel, savage treatment, the hearts of God’s people were crushed and broken. At long last, helpless and hopeless within themselves, the Israelites cried out to the Lord, confessing their sins. Crying out to the Lord for help was the result of the chastisement of the Lord, a clear picture of calling on the Lord only in times of emergency. They confessed their terrible desertion of God and their having engaged in false worship and idolatry. But note the response of the Lord. Shockingly, He did not accept their confession. Why? – because it did not include repentance. They were confessing
their sins, but they were not turning away from their evil. They wanted forgiveness and acceptance, but they wanted to continue in the ways of the world. They wanted the pleasures, wealth, and comfort of the world without having to suffer the oppression and evil that permeated the world and that is so characteristic of heathen nations.
Confession without repentance is never accepted by God. God reminded the Israelites that He had repeatedly rescued them from the oppression of their enemies In fact, He had rescued them from seven major enemies, the very enemies whose gods they were now worshipping. Because of their terrible evil of false worship, God charged them with repeated apostasy. He charged them with having forsaken Him and turning to the false idols and worship of this world. Consequently, He refused to hear their confession and to rescue them. And He challenged them to cry out to the false gods they were following. Let these false gods deliver them from their distress! Their trust in false religion and false gods was a perversion, a deception and a lie; for these false gods could do nothing to help the Israelites. God’s children had done the unthinkable: they had forsaken the Lord God Himself in order to worship the false gods of this earth – gods created in the minds of men. God issued His challenge for the Israelites to cry out to the false gods they had chosen over Him. In the past, He had responded to their cry, but no more. There had to be more than just crying out: there had to be genuine repentance.
The Lord’s rebuke or chastisement was all the Israelites could bear. In desperation, they again confessed their sins, but this time they repented. They totally surrendered themselves to God and to His will for them. They cried out for God to do with them whatever He thought best, but begged Him to rescue them immediately. They clearly could bear no more. Their repentance was not just a verbal confession; but they turned away from false worship, destroyed the false gods they had been worshipping, and they began to follow God in a renewed commitment. Once the Israelites had confessed and repented, God responded in compassion. He heard their cry and began the movement to deliver His dear people from their cruel, crushing oppression.
Listen to this message here: