Sin and Repentance
Published May 16, 2012 @ 6:39 a.m.
As we approach our national and state elections I am reminded of 1st Samuel 12:14. This verse is part of a narrative that recounts Israel’s demand for and God’s provision of a King. In previous conversation God has told Samuel that the people are not rejecting Samuel’s leadership. They are rejecting God’s leadership.
One commentator (Bob Deffinbaugh on Bible.org) points out that Samuel gives a long speech recounting the history of Israel to say that Israel’s problem is not leadership. Yes, factually speaking Samuel was growing old. And, there was no question but what Samuel’s sons were corrupt and were not following in their father’s footsteps in serving the Lord. But Israel’s real problem was not who their leaders were. Their real problem was their unwillingness to follow God.
In Samuel’s speech we see the drum beat of Israel’s history. The Israelites would forsake serving the Lord and be conformed to the social and religious practices of the nations around them. A foreign power would oppress them and they would repent of their sin and cry out to God to save them. When Israel repented then God would send them salvation. Israel would again serve God for a while until the process repeated. The point of this narrative is not Israel’s continually following away; but rather, that God always came through for the people when the repented and served the Lord. God is the only rightful King of God’s people but God’s people have rejected God’s leadership. When Israel asked for a king it was because they were unwilling to repent.
Does this sound somewhat familiar? I am as guilty as anyone of pinning blame for our present troubles on our president, congress, governor, and the list goes on. I hear the same sound on the radio, on the television, and at the coffee shop. I read the same things in the newspaper and on the internet. We are all searching for someone else who is to blame for the struggles with money, the moral degradation of our society, and whatever other ill we happen to be wanting to discuss. But the simple truth is that I might just be the problem.
I read 1st Samuel 12:14 as a truth. If the people follow God then the rulers of the people will follow God. If we do not follow God then our rulers will not follow God as well. There is some really good news in this! We often think that one individual is powerless in the face of all the problems our nation and society face. But the truth is that it is in the power of each and every one of us to make a difference. That power begins with seeking God’s face.
Remember the litany that Samuel offers up to the Israelite people? It is the story of sin and repentance. In many ways it is our story. But the good part of that story is that God never wearies of the repentance. It is never too late to repent, turn from our sins, and seek God’s face. But we first have to be willing to face our sin; to recognize that we have wandered from God’s ways and need to return to the Lord. Until we recognize that we have no hope.
But when we turn and repent things will change. When I allow God to exchange my life for the life of Jesus Christ, even though I am only one person, God begins to transform the world. I may not be able to save JPMorgan from a 2 billion dollar blunder nor can I build better cars for GM. But I can seek the face of God and allow the Holy Spirit to transform my life.
Then, according to both the scripture and family systems theory in psychology, because I am being transformed the life of the people around me will be transformed as well. As we become transformed together soon the 2 billion dollar blunders and the failure of the work force will begin to take care of themselves. It just takes individuals willing to be a part of God’s work to make everything happen.