How God Responds When His People Turn Back to Him

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God delights to hear from us, and longingly waits for each person to return to Him now, no matter what state they are in. God's blessings are in store for those who repent.

Repentance is a word that carries a lot of religious baggage with it. We usually define repentance as merely confession, or merely sorrow and guilt, or merely as changing our behavior. The truth is, it’s all three. Repentance is changing our minds about sin, self and God so that we agree with God about our sin and commit to truly changing direction. It involves confession, conviction, and change but it’s all three.

Hosea gives us a really beautiful picture of how God responds to the repentance of His people.

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us.
He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.
In just a short time he will restore us,
so that we may live in his presence.
Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.

- Hosea 6:1-3 NLT

It must be pointed out that this passage concerns itself with people who claim to belong to God. It’s not a “salvation” passage, though it certainly has truth for nonbelievers as well. Hosea makes the argument that God Himself has punished us for our sins, yet longs for us to repent so that He can respond lovingly. He makes three promises to those who would turn back to Him.

First, He promises to heal us and to bandage our wounds. We’re all walking around wounded whether we realize it or not. To one degree or another, we are somewhat defined by our hurts, habits, and our hang-ups. Often real repentance involves opening our wounds, exposing the root cause, and allowing God’s healing work to begin.

Second, He promises to restore us to His presence. When King David repented of adultery he asked God to restore the joy of his salvation. He hadn’t lost his relationship with God, but he had certainly failed to enjoy the benefits of that relationship when he held onto his sin in a stubborn refusal to confess it. And in repentance, the joy and power of God’s presence is restored. Our closeness and intimacy with God does not come as a result of our great performance, but rather of the deep work of His grace and forgiveness in our souls.

And third, He refreshes our lives. Repentance is not some masochistic exercise in which we do penance, as though our suffering could somehow pay the penalty of the sins we’ve committed. Instead, it is a pathway to life and to refreshment. Repentance is that moment in which we allow God to open the deepest, darkest parts of who we are so that He can shine His light there and restore new life to us.

We need repentance daily and desperately. And as long as we live in pride and self-sufficiency and self-righteousness, we’ll miss out on the blessings of God’s healing, restorative, refreshing work. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve tried it on my own. I’ve gone lengths of time without allowing God into the depths of my soul and my sin, and it results in misery. I will instead proclaim my absolute dependence on God’s forgiveness and grace and freedom. I discover joy when I depend on Him in repentance.

This might be a good moment to stop reading and start praying. God delights to hear from you and waits for you to return to Him right now.

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