1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:1–3, NKJV)
The great day of the Lord’s judgment was about to descend upon “undesirable” (shameless) Judah. Before it did, God’s prophet Zephaniah called on people to repent and return to humble righteousness. God’s fierce anger would be unleashed against the nation that had turned its back on Him. Babylon executed God’s punishment, but those who would “seek the Lord” found shelter from the storm of divine wrath. God decides when He will bring down a nation for its stubborn sins (Jeremiah 18:7-11). Now is the time for men and women to seek the Lord and find shelter for their souls. Judgment is coming, not merely upon nations, but upon the whole world (2 Peter 3:10-12). The mercy and salvation of God in Christ Jesus protects those who live by faith, doing His will (2 Peter 3:13-15).
17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV)
Pride prevents repentance and salvation from sin. It is only when we realize the depth of our sin against our Father in heaven, that we become willing to entertain the thought of returning to Him in search of His compassionate forgiveness. God is always ready to give it. Just as a father whose child has wandered far away from him, wasting the blessings of the father’s love, God is always ready to receive and forgive the sinner who repents and abandons sin with a servant heart. There is no doubt that God compassionately forgives repentant sinners. The real question is, when we sin, will you and I humble ourselves before God, repent, and come to Him and cast ourselves upon His mercy?
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” (Matthew 15:10–13, NKJV)
Jesus openly rebuked the religious leaders for their hypocrisy of elevating religious traditions above the word of God (see Matthew 15:1-9). Instead of accepting the correction and repenting, the Pharisees were offended when He exposed their sinful error. Their traditions focused on spiritually inconsequential things (ceremonial washings, etc., Mark 7:3-4), persuading people to conform to their traditions to be considered “clean” or worthy before God. The Son of God does not approve binding religious traditions that originate with man. Jesus explained to the crowd that food does not defile a person, but what comes out of a person’s heart (see Matthew 15:17-20). Like Jesus, we must have the boldness to use the Scriptures to help people see their sin and the way of salvation. Otherwise, how will the lost soul he or she needs salvation (Rom. 10:13-14; 2 Tim. 4:2)?
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19, NKJV)
It is a recurring failure of human beings to think of God in human terms. By doing so, many have concluded that God is capricious and arbitrary; He is not. Many think God is OK with their sin; He is not (Jas. 1:13). Many apparently think God lies to us in His word (since they choose to ignore it and disobey it); He does not. God’s word does not exist so that we can manipulate it to say whatever we please. It exists to establish our faith, and to assure us that God always keeps His word. Today’s passage confidently affirms that when God speaks, what He says is true. When God speaks, He will do what He says; God does not lie (Heb. 6:18). When God speaks, His integrity is on the line, and He will always make good on what He says. Therefore, you need to learn what God’s word says. It has the power to bless you with salvation, and it has the power of condemnation. It is the standard of truth that will judged us all on the last day (Rev. 20:11-15).
And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3, NKJV)
In the centuries leading up to the flood, the hearts and lives of men and women became increasingly wicked. They turned their attention and affections away from God and toward sensual, sinful desires and violent conduct (Gen. 6:1-7). God responded with the judgment of a worldwide flood, but not before extending His longsuffering toward sinners. Although their condemnation was certain and just, God extended His patience for 120 years leading up to the flood. God saw man’s wickedness, yet still the “Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah,” while this preacher of righteousness built the ark (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5). Evidently, Noah was occupied with building the ark during the last 100 years of this 120 year period (Gen. 5:32; 7:6). There is a limit to God’s contending with evil people. He desires their salvation, but His justice also demands judgment against evil (1 Tim. 2:3-4; Rom. 2:1-11). The fact that the Lord has not yet destroyed the world in the promised judgment of fire is once more a token of His longsuffering toward sinners (2 Pet. 3:9-12). Now is the time to repent of your sins. Judgment is assured. Time is running out.
19 Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Acts 26:19–20, NKJV)
We dare not overlook the necessity of repentance in God’s plan to save sinners. Paul was true to his commission from Christ to be His witness to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-17). As he preached the gospel, he explained that “they should repent” in order to “turn to God” (conversion, Acts 3:19). Without a fundamental change of heart (repentance) toward God and the sin we have committed against Him, we cannot be saved (Acts 20:21; 2:37-38; 17:30). When repentance occurs, changes in one’s life necessarily follow. That is what conversion means. The Christians chooses to stop practicing sin. The Christian chooses to begin and continue living for Christ (Gal. 2:20). Obeying the command to be baptized, without first having real faith and genuine repentance, is powerless to “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Neither will it wash away unholy relationships; they, too, must cease (“works befitting repentance”). Minds must change toward God and sin to be saved. Repentance is not being sorry for sin. It is the complete change of heart that occurs because of godly sorrow for sin (2 Cor. 7:10). Without it, you cannot be saved.
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31, NKJV)
This passage does not excuse or encourage sins committed out of ignorance. Indeed, it plainly says that God “now commands all men everywhere to repent” of their sins – including sins of ignorance. This verse does acknowledge the forbearance of God, who mercifully gives sinners time to repent before interposing His just penalty against their sins (see Acts 14:16-17). Ignorance will not be an acceptable defense to free us from our sins and their wages (which is death, Rom. 6:23). God’s command to repent is merciful, since it seeks to prepare us for the coming day of judgment. Additionally, God has assured us of the future judgment by raising from the dead His appointed judge; Jesus Christ. Escaping eternal punishment on Judgment Day is a compelling motive to repent of our sins. God has been very clear. He will impose His punishment “on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). Are you ready for the Judgment Day? Now is the day of salvation in Christ (2 Cor. 6:2; Acts 4:12).