The Hour of Repentance
By Grant Marshall
Concerning the judgement of Jerusalem — Isaiah 29
9 Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
10 For the LORD has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).
11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”
13 And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honour me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
14 therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
The times seem to be speeding along so fast. Chaos and uncertainty seem to have become tangible elements in even the most simple of everyday tasks. Putting our trust in what used to be ‘the normal things’, is now something that triggers elements of doubt. Our world of information gathering and data systems has made everyone a potential threat. We are learning to speak and communicate in a very different way now. When once upon a time we were open and not afraid to tell of our personal lives and opinions to one another, we now have to be on guard lest we offend or give out too much detail. Sharing our thoughts is part of being human. Conversations over the garden fence, and chats around a neighbourly cup of tea, seem a strange thing to do these days. Yet, in this strange communication world, we are willing to give the most intimate of details to strangers over the phone, or through some social networking platform. So its not surprising that we are seeing the populous duped and scammed through ever more ingenious schemes.
In reality, our neighbour is not the threat, it is the faceless ones, the bandits of the super internet highway. We live in a time of contradiction, therefore, we guard our conversations and our information from real people and give them openly and without thought to those we do not know or cannot see. It is a very sad day.
How naive we have become. However, it is not hard to see why we do this. Families, in the 21st century are more fractured than ever. Communities are broken and distrust is widespread and not a very good human trait. It is of course a trait which we inherited from fall. It is as if this thorn of distrust is one that pierced our flesh as we exited from the gate of the garden. As a result of not trusting God, we were told to be forever watchful and to be looking over our shoulders.
The media and the governments are full of corruption at high levels and innocent people suffer - it’s the same old story.
Members of our human race are simply wicked people and the leaders who are meant to govern our lives, instead of giving freedom are just shortening the invisible chain we have all forgotten we carry since we became thinking people. Slavery, it is sad to say, begins at school. The reality we live in is a perceived mode of movement in a construct of rules we learned as innocent children and the sad thing, in truth is, that people very easily follow the rules if they know there’s something in it for them. There is the heart of it - people do things for gain, even if it’s doing something good. The good thing done just makes you feel good. This said it does not negate the fact that despite the incredible levels of love and sacrifice given by people in their daily roles and jobs, the untrustworthy seem to be the ones who sit in the expensive leather seats of boardrooms and governments.
It is hard to focus on any single event that draws our attention, now. Matthew’s and Luke's discourse of events that will overtake the world, all seem to be happening together. Wars, famine, earthquakes, civil unrest, disease and economic collapse are not rumours or odd events any longer, they are happening all at once, and if the prophecy is true, then things are going to get much much worse.
In the meantime, there is one thing, for me at least which is very concerning. It is the level of focus of Christian prayer upon the state of the nation when it should be upon the church.
The story of Samuel tells us how God removed the high priest Eli, who was, remember, responsible for training the boy Samuel. Samuel was dedicated as a first fruit offering to the service of God by His mother Hannah. Samuel was a Nazarite. 1Samuel 1:9, and furthermore, Hannah sought the Lord and prayed from her heart v12-14.
Hannah was grieved because she was childless, but was dearly loved by her husband. We see a similar story in the life of Sarah, Rebekah and Samson’s mother, coincidentally, nameless in the narrative.
Samuel and Samson are key figures when it comes to the paradigm of the church. In Samuel’s day, the temple worship had become corrupt; Eli, the high priest was in charge, and despite the complaints from the people, he refused to engage in correcting his priestly sons Phinehas and Hofni for their disgraceful behaviour. In the end God judged Eli with an early death and placed a similar prophecy upon his descendants as they will all die in the prime of life.
God also called Samson to be a Nazarite and judge from the tribe of Dan. Scripture tells us that the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him at a young age. Though the story of the two boys begin similarly, they are both used to bring judgment; Samuel upon the priests and, Samson upon Israel and the church.
Samuel was a true and Holy priest — he represented the true shepherds that would come in time to replace the profane and disloyal priests who presently lead the ekklesia. Samson on the other hand, represents the church; set apart and called to be holy, yet turns away from the laws of God. Their love for Him is no longer important. They have come to believe that they can do whatever is right in their own eyes and that God does not see them. The Church and Israel are the same, and thus we see that the actions of Israel in her rebellion, are the same as what will happen to the church. The church will turn away from their God and mix the profane with it.
In the end, God uses Samson to judge the pagan temple and the worshippers within. Samson as a pattern, represents the loss of power and the blindness that comes upon God’s people when they disregard the life they are called to live.
It was only through Samson’s struggle that his anointing returned. His humiliation as a failed leader and representative of Israel, caused him to be brought out and to entertain His pagan captors. In the end, his story shows us that the judged will be judged by the supreme judge of all the universe.
Today, we see Samson’s life reflected in what the church is involved in. It is very easy to see the pattern Samson shows us.
If we see this pattern what should we be doing about it?
A further consideration in matters of Christian prayer, as I have witnessed it over the years, is the focus on Islam. Friends, Islam is not the problem. The problem is the church’s lack of repentance and the understanding of what repentance truly means. We realise, that God will turn a disobedient nation over to the rule of others and that the new rulers will be a heathen race. This is another dynamic pattern God uses for the correction of His rebellious children. We can’t, therefore ask God to deliver us from evil if we don’t repent or know how to repent. Repentance is to the God of Israel, not the god of a man-made institution.
Stadiums of gatherings and worship don’t impress God much when it is full of lip service. However, we once again don’t negate the genuine and broken hearts of those who find true repentance at such times. But these times should not be found in such places per se, they should be found in the secret closet of prayer and fasting.
I am afraid, that this is something we must relearn and grasp. Turning back to God’s word, is not the answer only. We must turn back and be holy. We must separate the profane from us. If we are called to be a priestly nation, then we must learn from Eli’s problem. We must become the priests that God will use to replace the defiant ones who now hold office amongst the brethren.
Unfortunately, most fail to see that reconciliation in the ministry is what we should all do. It’s not just up to a select few. Returning back to God means we must walk a repent and live a self-denied life. We must realise that our lives are not our own and that our saviour’s precious blood has purchased us.
It is the course and future of every believer, but it comes at a price - self-denial and the carrying of a personal cross. This too must be understood and be reconciled in our hearts, and let us not be confused any longer Putting up with bad things, sickness, death, marriages, jobs, and relationships is not carrying the cross, they are the normal things of life. To carry the cross means to refocus your thoughts on the Kingdom and become a shepherd disciple of Christ, who gives up his desires for the lost sheep.
Service is not about ministry, and concepts about ministry need to change. Ministry is not a job or a role for one’s talent. Ministry is about serving in humility and administering the shepherd's heart of Jesus. That’s how hard it has to be — to be a true disciple of Christ. Many are called but few are chosen.
When we focus upon the things of the world and that includes what’s happening in it, and pay less attention to what’s happening in the house of the Lord, then don’t be surprised if you get caught in the temple of Dagon, as Samson did, when God brought judgement upon it.
God is calling his people to come out of captivity into the freedom He has provided and live a life that is holy unto Him. We must look at the shoes we are wearing. We can’t have one foot in the camp of the holy and the other in the dung heap.
Calling and praying for things to change in the nation, is not the prayer of the saints. It is to pray for the Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done and that means in us too no matter the cost. Change in the nation comes when the people of God repent, not when unbelievers repent. Praying and repentant believers and disciples will change the world.
That is the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14. It is God’s repentant and humble people praying that brings the blessing upon the land.
Let us continue to pray with repentant and broken hearts and only seek the Father’s heart in this hour. His will is being done and the work of His Spirit will not return to Him void.
15 Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
16 You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?
(The story of King Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33 is also a wonderful account of YHVH's forgiveness and how the plight of a nation can be changed when leaders repent. No matter how far we turn from God, a truly repentant, humble and broken heart He will not ignore. Friends, we need to realise that YHVH is the covenant-making God. All the covenants were made by Him so that He can dwell with us. Heb 8:8 tells us that God found fault with the people. We draw from the promises of God that His covenant people will always receive forgiveness and mercy when they truly repent )