To this point in Judges, the people have not been repentant, only whiny. They complain about the oppression, but seem unconcerned about their iniquity and rebellion toward Yahweh. They had no idea up to this point. But now…
And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 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.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. (Judges 10:10 — 16 ESV)
The question I have here is whether this change is literary device, or a legacy from past judges. Are the people finally getting the point? Or, have they all along, and the author is including the detail here, he omitted before? This is a serious question for me, because Yahweh seems unimpressed with any evident progress made here. So, have they been aware all along, and confessed in this way in the past?
On the other hand, is confession repantance? Or, does confession progress toward repentance only when the words accompany a change of mind and heart, and then result in action? When is repentance authentic? Or, is that even the point? The people clearly weren’t authentic in Gideon’s day, and Yahweh delivered them.
But, here, Yahweh has had it. He’s no longer interested in delivering them, only to have them betray Him again. So, whether the change is only in that the detail was included here, or, this is truly a new development for them, it doesn’t impress Yahweh. He refers them to the gods with whom they have “cheated” on Him.
This concerns me. Can I exhaust the mercies of my Master? This isn’t simply an “Old Testament problem” either. Read the first three chapters of Revelations, and see how similar is my Master’s view there to Yahweh’s here.
So, if the people have been “putting away the foreign gods from among them” before, Yahweh knows this won’t last. But if, as I fear, this marks a new development for the people, that Tola and Jair have left a 50 year legacy of faithfulness imprinted on the people, then development isn’t what gets my Master’s attention. I can’t claim “improvement” to win His favor in the face of continual failure.
On the other hand, His mercy eventually overcomes His pain of rejection. He becomes impatient over the misery of Israel. Literally, “His soul was shortened in the misery of Israel.” Yahweh felt the misery of His people in His soul. We don’t think of our Master having one of those, but it seems He does. The misery of those He loves hurt Him more deeply than the hurt of their betrayal.
How can we not weep for our Master? How can we be so callous as to turn a blind eye to His pain, and harden our heart toward the hurt we cause Him; He who loves us without limits? We don’t expect our human friends to put up with what we put our Creator and Savior through. We know the standards of our human relationships, but we flagrantly disregard the standards of our spiritual relationship. And which is more important? Our actions say something other than our bumper stickers.
Perhaps weeping over our misery is the wrong response. Maybe weeping over the pain we have caused our Master is a better response. Perhaps when we acknowledge the relational pain we cause Him, then we truly repent. When we mourn plight of our Master, then we join Him in the amazing relationship He wants with us.
Those are my questions as I peek through this knothole at His work and play. What do you see of our Savior through your knothole in the fence?