[This is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.]
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.
“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
When we sin, we are revealing and expressing a wrong belief our hearts have about about God (regardless of what our intellect thinks).
And, to make matters worse, the trust that our hearts are withholding from God in those moments is actually being given to other things that are not God. This is because we are, by nature, worshipers. We will worship something as good, sovereign, loving, affirming, strong, and secure. If it’s not God (as revealed by our sins), then it will be something else.
These things in which we put that kind of trust are called idols.
Where are these idols? This desert of life: after our freedom from slavery but before we enter the Promised Land.
How do we fight them? By trusting that we are who Christ has purchased us to be.
How do we know we can trust this? His covenantal nature. He has bound himself to us in a shocking way so that we might know who He is so we can trust who we are so we don’t have to listen to the whispers of the idols all around us.
These idols, at all times, are whispering their own invitations to spend resources we do not have to seek life where there is none to find.
Here in the above text we find not only a God who invites us, but a God who doggedly pursues and has given us every resource to hear Him, know Him, and come to Him. We see that the response He demands of us is simple and consistent: hear and come. All through the chapter are variations of those two themes.
In order to come to God after hearing his call, we must trust what we have heard. This is what my old pastor calls “intelligent repentance”.
Repentance is not just saying “oh that’s bad, I need to stop.” It’s doing the deep heart work of figuring out what these idols are whispering to us–what are the nature of their invitations; and (even more importantly) why do we actually end up responding to them?
Repentance is inclining our ear to what God has said about Himself, His Son, His people, and His world; and then bringing ourselves, by faith, in line with who we truly are. Trusting He is Who He says He is, trusting we are who He says we are.
Christ, this Word, is faithful. He is effectual. He has a purpose. He accomplishes that purpose. He brings joy. He brings worship. He causes fruit to be borne and a name for God to be made in us.
And lastly, Jesus is an everlasting sign that God speaks to us as His people, and His people will not be cut off. And so we can trust. We can rest. We can run. We can incline our ear and come to our Father freely and purely.
Not because of what we’ve done or realized, but because of who He is.
So let’s learn to recognize those seductive whispers of the idols that steal our joy from God. Learn the whispers and forsake those things–even good things–that rob our deepest longings for God. Let’s learn these whispers well; not just for ourselves, but so that we can help others know them also.
It is part of our privilege as Christians to expose how our brothers and sisters are not trusting some part of who God is and help them see the idols that they are trusting. It’s messy. It hurts. But it leads to freedom and rest. So, “let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).
In other words, let us repent.