Last week, I began posting portions of a paper I wrote for my Biblical Theology course titled, “That Times of Refreshing May Come: A Biblical Theology of Repentance.” This is the fourth installment of a multi-post series. Parts one can be found here, part two here, and part three here. The following is part four:
A CALL TO REPENT / RETURN IN THE KINGDOM
The importance of the Mosaic covenant that hits its zenith in Deuteronomy can be seen in the label often given to the grouping of books that follow Torah in the Hebrew scriptures. This collection of books from Joshua through 2 Kings traces how well, or how poorly, the people were faithful to the covenant. The judges of Israel did what was right in their own eyes (Judg 17:6; 21:25) and despite their military successes against their neighbors, they were disappointments at faithfully following the covenant.
“Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so…. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways” (Judg 2:17, 19 emphasis mine).
They were failing to live in covenant faithfulness to God. Eventually, the people call for a king to lead them. God permits this to happen but not without a strong warning about the consequence. The kings of Israel, and of Israel and Judah after the kingdom divides, are evaluated on how well they followed God. Their faithfulness to the covenant of yhwh determined whether they were judged to be a “good” king or a “bad” king.
Saul was Israel’s first king. Although he had some success militarily, he unfortunately had a heart that wandered away from God and God regretted making Saul king (1 Sam 15:11, 35).
David, in contrast to Saul, was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14; cf. Acts 13:22). However, David was not without his moral failures. His incident with Bathsheba nearly destroyed his kingdom. Surely it was because of David’s repentance and turning to the Lord in the face of his sin that God esteemed him. David’s repentance and turning to yhwh’s graciousness to forgive him his sin and guilt is clearly pictured in some of his psalms, including Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Ps 51:1–2). It is interesting to note how David ends the psalm by affirming that forgiveness through repentance is a heart issue: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:16–17). Indeed, a heart pictured in this psalm is the kind of heart that God desires and requires.
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