Dear Friends in Christ,
Often what appears as repentance is really an attempt to minimize the pain we feel as we face the consequences of our own actions.
Take for example the story in Numbers 14 about the people of Israel, their rebellion against Moses’ leadership and their refusal to enter the Promised Land. You know the story – disregarding the exhortations of Joshua and Caleb to have faith in God and take possession of the land (Numbers 14:6-9), the people caved in to the fears of the other 10 spies who said that the land and its people would devour and destroy Israel (Num. 13:31-14:3). They considered stoning Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, choosing a new leader and going back to Egypt (Numbers 14:4, 10). But for the gracious intercession of Moses on their behalf, God would have struck the people of Israel with a plague and destroyed them. Instead, in response to Moses’ plea, God stayed his hand of execution and forgave them (Numbers 14:20). Nevertheless, he required the people to face the consequences of their rebellion, faithlessness, and intent to murder Moses: God required this unfaithful generation to wander in the desert and not to enter the Promised Land for 40 years – “one year for each of the forty days you explored the land.” (Numbers 14: 21-35).
The ten spies who spread the bad report about the land were struck down by a plague – only Joshua and Caleb were spared because of their faithfulness and witness. When the people heard this they appeared to repent. They mourned bitterly. They felt remorse for their actions and attitudes. They even confessed their sin!
But even in the midst of such heartfelt emotion and confession, they were already to repeat their rebellion in what seemed to them to be obedience to God….
Read it all.