August 26, 2009
Repent, Rescue, Repeat
"Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD's sight."
Judges 10:6a (NLT)
When life gets hard, have you noticed how easy it is to sin? I have found during some of the toughest circumstances I face, I am easily lured into sin. The lure seldom comes from new temptations. It usually comes from areas of sin I "thought" I had left behind, repented of and turned away from. Our enemy is cleaver and cunning. He knows our areas of weakness and comes back to those places when we are at our lowest, in hopes to seduce us back into a pattern of sin. It is an age-old ploy. He doesn't stop using the tactic because he continues to have success.
The enemy's success can be proven by looking back at the repeated sin of idolatry and disobedience of God's chosen people, the Israelites. The ebb and flow of the Israelites' sin started soon after their exodus from Egypt. They had barely cleared the banks of the Red Sea when they began to worship a man-made golden calf. Even though the Lord showed grace and forgave their sin, they continued to be lured in this same sin until it became a pattern. When they faced their toughest times: hunger, thirst, and threat of death, they quickly turned against the Lord, looking for other places of safety and hope.
As we read through the Old Testament we find the Israelites became more and more blatant about their sin. They no longer tried to hide it. They worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but still held true to their devotion and worship of the pagan gods. Joshua called their sin evil. Evil is an ugly word, which means morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked. God's Word tells us that the Israelites' evil lead to their misery and their misery grieved the Lord (Judges 10:16). Our sin grieves the Lord and causes us misery as well.
Misery comes from the Hebrew word "`amal." It means to toil, trouble, labor, mischief. I found the meaning of toil to be very interesting: hard and continuous work, exhausting labor or effort. Habitual sin, like that of the Israelites' idol worshiping is exhausting to keep up with. It takes continuous effort to stay involved in sin because one sin leads to another that leads to another. It is toilsome and drains the life out of us. The Israelites sinned until they felt helpless and trapped, at the point of exhaustion. Then they would repent of their sin and beg the Lord to forgive them, promising their wholehearted devotion. In His continual grace God forgave them, but they would eventually fall back into their sin cycle.
As I read about the cycle of repent, rescue, repeat among the Israelites I have come to the conclusion that they never truly repented at all. True repentance of sin as repentance means in the Bible is to turn back. Basically, turn 180 degrees and don't look back. This is not what happened with the Israelites. They enjoyed their sin, but when the going got tough they cried out to the Lord. They simply offered the Lord "lip service" because they wanted to be rescued from their tough circumstances. They never depended on God long enough to allow Him to change their hearts.
Are you tired and miserable? God intended our life to be lived to the fullest, where He alone can make our joy complete. The only way to live this life is to put our safety and hope in the Lord by turning our hearts completely toward Him, leaving our sin behind and letting Him turn our hearts from the lure of sin. I want to be a 180 degree "repenter." I don't want to be a rescue-crying sinner who calls on God to bail me out when life is too exhausting and I am completely miserable. I want to escape the cycle of repent, rescue, and repeat. I am going to ask God to help me change my heart in the issues that I struggle with repeatedly. Will you join with me in this prayer?
Dear Lord, I ask You to forgive me when I fall into the cycle of rescue, repent, and repeat. Forgive me for treating Your forgiveness so causally. I give You permission to have Your way with my heart, changing it to be completely restored toward You and no longer falling prey to the lure of habitual sin. My desire is to live in complete obedience to You, the One and Only true God. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Living Free in Christ CD by Wendy Pope
Messy Faith: Daring to Live by Grace by A.J. Gregory
Answer the reflection questions in your prayer journal or on a piece of paper. Confess any sin to the Lord. Pray today's prayer aloud.
God's forgiveness is beautifully portrayed in the story of Gomer and Hosea. Read Francine River's skillful retelling of this biblical story in her book, Redeeming Love.
Am I in a pattern of habitual sin? If so, what is the pattern?
What is the Lord saying to me about my sin?
Psalm 32:5, "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD' - and you forgave the guilt of my sin." (NIV)
1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)
© 2009 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
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Matthews, NC 28105