The LORD was very angry with your fathers. 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.
— Zechariah 1:2, 3
Repentance is the key to life, and this Zechariah passage is one of the most important passages on repentance in the Bible because it communicates so clearly why repentance is needed and God’s response. Even though Israel was part of God’s covenant community, He was angry with them periodically because of their attitudes and behaviors. The verses mention three times that He is the Lord “of hosts” which means “armies,” perhaps emphasizing His authority, power, and willingness to act on that anger when it rises to a certain level. The reality of God’s anger and possibility of divine retribution is also true for Christians when we refuse to listen to the voice of God and obey His Word. In the New Testament Jesus’ anger is perhaps most vividly seen in His rebuke to the seven churches (Revelation chapters 2 and 3). It’s a misunderstanding of what God is like if we think that His extravagant love means that He is not sometimes justifiably angry with Christians.
What’s beautiful and wonderful about the Lord is that He will return to us when we repent and return to Him wholeheartedly. As He forgave and restored the Israelites when they returned to Him, so He does for Christians today when we return to Him with humility, repentance and obedience. He lessens or removes judgment (1 Cor 11:27-32), and gives a fresh filling of His Spirit. He gives joy, strength, blessing, hope, and new direction!
When repenting of sin it can be helpful to think of disobedience to God in two main categories, the first being explicit Biblical commands that have been broken and there are over 1,000 commands for righteous living in the New Testament. For example if Christians are harboring unforgiveness, they can expect the judgment of God (Matthew 18:21-35), or if husbands are not treating their wives with kindness, and wives not being subject to their husbands, they can expect their prayers to be hindered (2 Peter 3:1-7). Christians are to love especially fellow Christians earnestly with a pure heart (1 Peter 3:22), quickly availing themselves of the opportunity to repent when not doing so.
The second category of repentance is centered on commands that have come from God through hearing His voice, but have not been obeyed. Jesus makes clear that we do not belong to Him if we do not hear and obey His voice (John 10:7-30). Every communication from Him needs to be taken seriously and promptly obeyed. As a matter of fact, during the great Welsh revival of 1904, Evan Roberts declared that to be in God’s good graces Christians needed to “obey the Spirit promptly.” When refusing to obey Him the Scriptures declare that our hearts become calloused and hardened, drawing God’s displeasure, anger and sometimes judgment (Hebrews 3:7-4:13).
During your devotional time this morning or evening, take time to ask the Lord to reveal to you any area in your life that may be displeasing to Him, whether it be disobedience of explicit Biblical commands or disobedience of specific actions the Holy Spirit has spoken to you about that need to be obeyed. God loves to return to us and restore us when we return to Him!
Dear Lord, thank You for making me Your child through the blood of Jesus Christ, and bring to my mind right now every specific way of my life that needs to be repented of. I do not want my heart to become hardened, but always sensitive to Your Spirit. I know from Your Scriptures that You will bless me and receive me as I return to You with a whole heart. Amen.
Founder and CEO, Christian Union
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