The Time for Repentance has Passed

The Time for Repentance has Passed

And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” Exodus 32:27

In my addiction, while diverting opioids for my own use, I knew the potential consequences. I understood that, if discovered, I’d lose my job, my medical license would be in jeopardy, and my marriage would likely be over. I also knew that if I kept using, I would eventually get caught. Still, I always thought I had time to repent. I’d gotten away with it so many times that I thought, One more time won’t hurt. This will be the last time, and then I’ll get sober. I didn’t stop though, and eventually, my dark secret was dragged into the light. That was a day of abject fear and panic as I desperately wished I could go back and change the past. I asked God’s forgiveness, begging him to give me one more chance. Please get me out of trouble God! I swear I’ll get sober! But the time for repentance had passed. God had been long-suffering, but even his patience came to an end as he allowed consequences to descend upon my life like a hammer of righteous judgement.

I’ve got to think the Israelites in today’s passage must have felt the same. In the story, many of them worshipped a golden calf idol, offending God. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he called God’s faithful to his side and commanded them to kill those responsible for the people’s treachery. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell (Exodus 32:28). I imagine that the guilty wished they could go back and change the past. They probably even begged God’s forgiveness. The time for repentance was gone though, and their judgement day was at hand.

We may find this terribly harsh of God. We may even prefer to believe that the New Testament Jesus – who’s all about love and mercy – has replaced the Old Testament God of wrath. God though, is still offended by sin. He may be patient, merciful, and long-suffering, but if we insist on going our own way, he eventually allows terrible consequences. We may be eternally forgiven, but as I often say, forgiveness doesn’t cut the strings between our self-destructive behavior and its effect. If we pursue destruction, we’ll find it. So, if we’re struggling with some addictive, toxic behavior, the time for repentance is now. We may think we have tomorrow, but if we persist, there will come a day when repentance is no longer an option.

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