What was God looking for as a reaction from His people? If we can discover this we can apply it to our own situation here some 2,800 years later, I think. Well, when God comes in public and righteous anger directly at us what does He want? Contrition.
'Contrition' is defined by the dictionary as 'sorrow for and detestation of sin with a true purpose of amendment.' In that sense, I could have titled this 'Repentance in the Controversy.' Follow me through a few verses of Bible study today; I think it will help you.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. (Micah 7.9)
This passage, in my opinion, is speaking of Israel's ultimate restoration from and vengeance on her enemies. But until that time comes, Israel's attitude must be one of sorrowful contrition, willing to bear whatever punishment the Lord chooses to dish out – even if that punishment comes from the very enemies that she will someday permanently triumph over. Around Micah 7.9 is indicated in context sorrow for her sin, acceptance of the justice of the consequences, patience in enduring her consequences, and faith in the ultimate triumph of God's plan.
Micah 7.7 ¶ Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. <patience/faith>
8 Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. <faith>
9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. <sorrow/contrition/patience/faith>
10 Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets. <faith during the consequences>
11 In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed.
12 In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain. <faith during the consequences>
13 Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings. <contrition/acceptance of the consequences>
We see this same contrition called for repeatedly throughout Scripture when God has a controversy with someone.
Take Cain, for example. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. (Genesis 4.13) In other words, Cain said, 'God, You aren't being fair to me. This punishment is not right or just.' The truth is God is always just and Cain needed to accept that, to embrace God's working in his life.
Take Esau, for another example. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. (Hebrews 12.17) He sorrowed for what he had lost, but not for what he had done. The proof is that he did not change. He never knuckled under, so to speak, and allowed that God was right in what God allowed and did in his life.
On the positive side, we note the wonderful example of the church at Corinth. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul chewed them up one side and down the other. What was their response? Acceptance. Godly sorrow. Repentance. Change. Zeal in the change.
II Corinthians 7. 8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
David is another wonderful example of contrition. He accepted that he was wrong and God was right. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. (II Samuel 12.13) He sorrowed deeply in a godly way, and came back to the Lord in his heart as well as his actions.
Ps 51. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Peter, who cursed and swore and rejected His Messiah, came in contrition to full repentance. Peter remembered the word of the Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26.75) How do we know his bitter weeping was more spiritual than Esau's? The rest of Peter's long life of service for Christ tells us.
|Saint Peter Repentant, Francisco de Goya, 1825|
How did God, through Micah, direct Israel to respond to His work in her life? With contrition and repentance. He called on them to accept their guilt, to be sorry for their crimes, to patiently endure whatever He chose to put them through as a result, and then to change.
…and I suspect that is the same requirement He makes of us.
You know what God is looking for in your life? Contrition.