Every once in a while, my daughter will do something wrong, and we’ll tell her to apologize. But when she does, she sometimes makes light of it, almost singing, “I’m sorrryyy.”
And that’s how Judah was. God said of them,
You have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can. (3:3-5)
With their lips, they said “I’m sorry,” but their actions showed they were not sorry at all.
God then compared them to the northern kingdom of Israel that had been exiled. God said that he divorced them because of their adulteries (that is, he exiled them because of their idolatry). But despite seeing this, the people of Judah didn’t repent. Oh, they said the words of repentance, but did not truly repent in their hearts. God said of them,
“In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord. The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.” (3:10-11)
What does God mean by this? “Either repent, or don’t. I’d prefer outright rebellion than false piety.”
But of course, true repentance is what God truly wants. And so he says,
“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the Lord, “I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,” declares the Lord, “I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,” declares the Lord. “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband…Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (3:12-14,22)
How should we respond?
Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. (3:22)
And as God says,
Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts. (4:3-4)
In other words, soften your heart towards God. Break up the hardness of your heart. Pull out the thorns of sin. And cut out the things in your life that would keep you from him.
When we do this, our repentance will not only affect us, but the people around us.
As God says,
“If you will return, O Israel, return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.” (4:1-2)
In short, when we return to the Lord in true repentance, and truly start living for him, all the people around us start to be blessed as he works through us to touch them.
May we all have hearts that are softened towards him that we may touch the world around us.