Confession is a divine sadness
which leads to divine joy.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
It sounds very religious. Somewhat medieval. Definitely uninspiring.
We’re told daily to look to the future, to move on, to leave the past behind. But God challenged Israel to take the past seriously. It wasn’t as simple as moving on for her—it’s not that simple for us, either.
A few decades earlier in Israel’s history, King Josiah tried to move on. He instituted reforms and endeavored to set Israel free from the idols she insisted on worshiping. It didn’t work. Josiah died, and Israel slid back into her old habits like a drunk to a bottle, like a junkie to a needle, like a glutton to a buffet.
It’s impossible to move on until the past is acknowledged and dealt with. First things first.
. . .
God’s words sound harsh, but medicine doesn’t always taste good. God was interested in healing and restoration, not in some temporal metaphysical hedonism.
Describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities. (v. 10, NRSV, emphasis mine)
Ouch. At first glance, it almost seems like God’s indulging in a little bit of “I told you so”. Dig deeper and you realize God is reminding Israel of this necessary step: repentance. Israel sinned and was judged. God returned to his temple, and called Israel to return too. The final impediment was Israel’s attitude.
When they are ashamed of all that they had done, make known to them the plan of the temple. (v. 11, NRSV, emphasis mine)
Repentance was not something that God required for his sake—it was for Israel’s sake. She couldn’t move on until she felt ashamed and repented. Then a new and restored life with God could begin.
. . .
Repentance is not something God requires of us for his own sake, either. Repentance is a tough medicine that helps us.
Being ashamed isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s necessary. I think it was C. S. Lewis that said the proud could not see God, because they were too busy looking down on others to look up. It’s impossible for us to move ahead in our relationships with God, until we’re ready to acknowledge our inadequacies and look up for help.
I like the way Mike Roe said it: “Look up, for crying out loud”.
. . .
Lord God, thank you for your tough love. Grant me the humility to accept it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.