GOD commands us to REPENT from our SINFUL WAYS: "Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, 'Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.' Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God." (2 Kings 17:13-14)
Any nation upon this earth will be ultimately judged on the basis of whether it is adhering to the righteous standards set by God or, whether it is dabbling with sin. God’s Word is very clear on this subject: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). In this context, the author of the two books of Kings took pains to explain methodically the destruction and eventual captivity of Israel as a direct consequence of neglecting the righteous standard set by God and dabbling with sin. Eventually, we should understand that this will hold true for any individual who does not repent but rather persists in his/her sinful ways!
The reason for the fall of Israel and her capital city Samaria as well as the demise of the northern kingdom is clearly stated to be its spiritual failure in turning from the living God to worshiping idols thus imitating their heathen neighbors. What happened among them was spiritual adultery in following after and worshiping idols (vv. 9–17) due to the fact that Israel had become totally corrupt starting from their top leaders down to the least person in the nation of Israel (vv. 7–9, 21). Throughout their 300-year history the Israelites worshiped other gods, and had ignored the warnings of the prophets. Despite repeated warnings (vv. 13, 14, 23); Israel had persisted in every form of idolatry and licentious worship (vv. 10–12, 16, 17). They had rejected the terms of the covenant that God had made with them (17:13–18). As a whole, Israel had broken the statutes and commandments of God completely (vv. 15, 16).
In fact, the verses 7–23 explain the underlying reasons why God was displeased with Israel and allowed the nation to be conquered and exiled. They had feared other gods, walked in the customs of the nations, built high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images everywhere, and multiplied their idolatry. They had refused to listen to the prophets of God but had stiffened their necks in their pride and had refused to believe in God’s Word. They had turned their backs on God’s commandments and adopted the man-made religion of their neighbors. They were so zealous in their pursuit of evil that they had even offered up their sons and daughters to false gods. Thus, Israel had a case record of continual spiritual harlotry (see Micah 6:3–5, 9–16).
However, time and again God had sent chastisement and His prophets to bring about their repentance and restoration. To put this plainly, God had graciously sent His prophets repeatedly to warn Israel to turn from her idolatries and return to God, but they refused to respond. Instead, they had rejected His statutes and commandments, and broken His covenant with them in willful rebellion (vv. 15, 16). Ultimately God could do nothing else than bring about the threatened judgment as He had spoken to them earlier through His servant Moses (compare vv. 20–23 with Deut. 28:47–68).
Let us never forget that God commands us to repent from our sinful ways as well. To repent means to change/renew our mind, turn away from sin and dedicate ourselves to amend from our sinful ways. The Bible provides us with seven principles of repentance, listed below:
- Recognizing and admitting our sins before God – as King David did: "For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me" (Psalms 51:3)
- Feeling a godly sorrow for our sins – as Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: "Now I rejoice…that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner" (2 Cor. 7:9)
- Forsaking our sinful habits completely – as King Solomon wrote: "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy" (Prov. 28:13)
- Confessing all our sins directly to God – as King David cried out to God: "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight" (Psalms 51:4)
- Making right any wrong that we have done in the past - as the repentant tax collector Zacchaeus declared to Jesus: "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold" (Luke 19:8)
- Forgiving others who have wounded us in the past – as our Lord Jesus has taught us: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matt. 6:14)
- Obeying God's commandments completely – as Apostle John declares: "Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:14)