A Call to Repentance

John David Clark, Sr. - June, 1994

"And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, `I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people, if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.'"

Anyone who knows the books of the Old Testament well, also knows that the commonly accepted view of God in the Old Testament as harsh and cruel is false. If those books reveal anything, they reveal God to be inexplicably patient and forgiving. So merciful was He to His first covenant people, and so slow to wrath, that they sometimes assumed that He approved of their evil ways! Consider this message from God to His people from Psalm 50:

You hate instruction, and cast my words behind you. When you saw a thief, then you consented with him, and have been partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother. You slander your own mother's son. These things have you done, and I kept silence. You thought that I was altogether such an one as yourself.

Many a time do we hear pleas from Israel's ancient prophets for God's vengeance to come upon the wicked. Surely if the Almighty were as violent and vengeful in the Old Covenant as He is often made out to be, they would have had no need to cry out for Him to do something! Many a righteous man earnestly prayed to understand why the wicked were not immediately destroyed by God - indeed, to understand why they seemed to be continually blessed!

So, the notion, held by many, that God in the Old Testament was a cruel despot is far from the picture which the Scriptures actually paint.

For the ones who really know the Bible, the fact that God did curse His Old Testament people with the plagues mentioned above, and many more horrible curses besides, does not in the least diminish His image as a loving, compassionate God. They know, as did Israel's prophets, that He did not deal with His people according to the measure of their sins. Wrote the Psalmist, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide, neither will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear him. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him. For He remembers our frame. He remembers that we are dust."

Indeed, when we read of the conduct of the Old Covenant people of God, we wonder how God endured with them so many centuries, humbling Himself to plead with them and to warn them of the things which their sins would bring upon them. We marvel at His deep sorrow because of the evils with which He would curse His own people. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee [to destruction], Israel? My heart is turned within me...."

"He does not afflict willingly", wrote Jeremiah. But for anyone who really knows the Old Testament story, Jeremiah's observation on God's loving and tender-hearted character is unnecessary.

It impresses every diligent student of the Scriptures to observe how often and how quickly God forgave the wretched iniquities of His people when they humbled themselves before Him. A man who does that is often called a "sucker". Yet, Jesus commanded us to be like the Father, and to forgive from the heart anyone who sincerely repents of evil, even if he does so 77 times a day (Mt.18:21-22)! Some of the most famous words of God ever recorded are these from Isaiah 1:18: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. What mercy! What love!

Despite God's earnest pleas for Israel to turn from ungodliness, they continued in their rebellion, breaking His heart and bringing upon their own heads such suffering as can scarcely be described. Puzzled by their refusal to accept God's generous offer for mercy, the young prophet and priest, Ezekiel, echoed the thoughts of God's heart. "Why will you die, O house of Israel? I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies [in sin], saith the Lord. Wherefore turn yourselves [from sin] and live!" But they would not.

When we compare the spiritual state of the people of Israel when Jesus finally arrived on the scene with the condition of the church today, we are forced to conclude that the church is now, as Israel became, a cursed people. I know how blasphemous that may sound to some of you, but I contend that the evidence speaks for itself.

The church - those who have been baptized with the holy Spirit - are scattered and divided against themselves, teaching and financially supporting hundreds of conflicting doctrines and rituals. So little power does the church possess that sickness is a normative experience and there is little real expectation for healing. So little love exists among the brotherhood that we are found angrily mocking one another's doctrines more often than we are found grieving over our lost fellowship. So little wisdom and unction exists in the pulpits that congregations typically take the minister's sermons as mere suggestions for living rather than as the word of the living God. And they are very many times justified in doing so. We are a sick, confused, divided, robbed, and terribly content people. We, the nation of saints who belong to Jesus Christ, are cursed by God. As Israel was, so we are. And the fact that so many can see the condition of the church and still boast that "the church is alive and well" and that we are "more than conquerors" only demonstrates how completely we have been turned over to the powers of demonic delusion. The church is not well at all, and it is barely alive.

Still, all is not lost, because God is still God. Though our sins be as scarlet, we can still be made white as snow. Though they be like crimson, we can still be washed and made clean as wool in the blood of the Lamb. God still has no pleasure in the death of one of His children who has set himself against the ways of the Most High. We can be revived! There is hope because God does not change! He is ever listening for the cries of His people. He is full of compassion, quick to forgive and heal, easily entreated by those of a sincere and humble spirit!

The promise to heal us and to "restore that which I took not away" is for us in this covenant as well as for the people in the first covenant, if we will only meet God's condition: acknowledge that we have sinned and turn from those things which are evil in God's sight!

If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that they have walked contrary to me, and that I also have walked contrary to them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the land. (Lev.27:40-42)

It is imperative that we turn from vanity and serve and worship God as He commands us to do! If we will repent, surely He will forgive and heal us! But we cannot accomplish the required repentance without being told specifically what we are doing wrong, and that is our greatest problem. For the leaders of God's people, the men and women to whom the church looks most for guidance, are lying to the family of God. They are not turning the saints toward the ways of God's holiness but away from them! "O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." A few weeks ago the Spirit of the Lord showed me that the worst examples of His righteousness are those ministers which are on television. They are the ones who are most guilty of perverting the gospel "for filthy lucre's sake". The very worst examples of righteousness are the very ones who are most available to the sheep. Only God can change this. And He will, if His people cry out to Him in humility and repentance!

O, God, help us to make straight paths for your holy feet to walk upon! Help us, O God, to make room for the blessing to come! People of God, we must repent of our lovely water baptism ceremonies, so that there might be a mighty outpouring of the baptism which Christ alone can give! We must renounce our "meaningful" carnal communion services, that the communion of the saints may be restored! We must repent of all our dead symbolism, that we may walk together "in the newness of life" in Christ Jesus. We must repent of our participation in that vain religion which calls itself after the name of our Savior. We must repent of our toleration of all sin among us. Oh, God! Let us fully and rightly see our miserable spiritual condition, that we are a stubborn and rebellious generation in whom is much good talk, but little real faith and almost no power and truth at all!

When we read the book of Acts, we see genuine ministry, the fruits of a real anointing and of faith. We see in that holy book the works of believing men and women who were not cursed by God, the ways of a church whose faith pleased the Lord. We see righteousness in action. The ministry we see now is vomit compared to that faith contained in the holy Scriptures. Our earnest prayer should be, and the prayer of the righteous is, "God, deliver us from this curse!"

The curse which came upon Israel was in time given the name of "Judaism". It was a perversion of the Law of Moses which in word professed adherence to the Law, but in doctrine and in deed denied its authority over their lives. The curse with which God has punished the rebellion of the church also bears a name, the name "Christianity". And as with "Judaism", Christianity professes much love for our Lawgiver, but with its dead ceremonies, rituals, and "doctrines of devils", it rejects his lordship at every turn. When God hears the cries of honest hearted saints for deliverance and sets them free from the curse which He has placed upon us, it will be a deliverance from Christianity itself. And when we walk out of that Babylon of "doctrines and commandments of men", there will be great joy - not only among the liberated saints but in heaven itself!

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