Repentance is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It means admitting we were wrong, and determining not to do it again. “I kicked myself for my stupidity” captures that concept pretty well!
Jeremiah, chapters 31-32; 1 John, chapter 4
Jeremiah 31:15-22 (NLT):
This is what the Lord says: “A cry is heard in Ramah – deep anguish and bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted – for her children are gone.” But now this is what the Lord says: “Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,” says the Lord. “Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. There is hope for your future,” says the Lord. “Your children will come again to their own land.
I have heard Israel saying, ‘You disciplined me severely, like a calf that needs training for the yoke. Turn me again to you and restore me, for you alone are the Lord my God. I turned away from God, but then I was sorry. I kicked myself for my stupidity! I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days.’
Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” says the Lord. “I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came. Come back again, my virgin Israel; return to your towns here. How long will you wander, my wayward daughter? For the Lord will cause something new to happen – Israel will embrace her God.”
Rachel Weeps for Her Children
This passage begins with a familiar verse – Rachel weeps for her children. We know that passage because of its connection with Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:13-18). But prophetic passages like this also have a “near-term” meaning. In this instance, the near-term meaning refers to the exile to Babylon. Many of the people of Jerusalem have already been carried off, and Jeremiah has prophesied that the city will be destroyed and everyone else will be exiled or killed. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted – for her children are gone.
But while we tend to think in terms of “final” results – her children are gone – God is not limited by our limitations nor our timetables! Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you…There is hope for your future. Now, there is an important qualification to this: the specific “children” who were killed or carried off to Babylon would not be coming back; the exile would last for 70 years. But collectively, “Rachel’s children” would come back; the Jews would return from exile and once again live in the land of promise.
I Kicked Myself for My Stupidity
Verses 18-19 are interesting. God is reporting what “Israel” has said, and these verses give us a roadmap for repentance. They
- Acknowledge that God has disciplined them
- Ask God, “Turn to me again and restore me”
- Recognize that You alone are the Lord my God
- Admit their guilt: I turned away from God
- True repentance, which involves sorrow for what happened (then I was sorry) as well as admitting they were wrong (I kicked myself for my stupidity!) and agreeing with God’s righteousness and justice (I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days)
Too often, we want to just say “I’m sorry” and then act as though nothing happened. True repentance involves admitting we were wrong, accepting the consequences of our actions, and turning away from our sin and turning toward God. And kicking myself for my stupidity is a great way of understanding what it means to turn away from our sin!
I Kicked Myself for My Stupidity
It’s not very popular these days to refer to ourselves, or others, as “stupid.” And I’m certainly not suggesting that we should belittle others by calling them stupid! But acknowledging our sin and accepting our responsibility sometimes requires us to admit how wrong we were. The NASB translates this as “I slapped my thigh [in regret].” That’s not a phrase we normally use, so I did some checking and found this explaination:
“After the mother grieves and God answers, the lost child speaks (Jeremiah 31:18-19). It is a speech of sorrow, regret, and repentance. It is an admission of resistance to the discipline of God. The speaker admits turning away, but now is ashamed at his own actions” (W. Brueggemann, International Theological Commentary: Jeremiah 26-52, pp 64-65). Sorrow, regret, repentance, admission, and shame. I kicked myself for my stupidity seems a pretty accurate description!
The key to forgiveness, healing, and spiritual growth is to take responsibility for our own actions. That may not be popular to those who seek to blame others and claim to be victims, but true healing and grown cannot begin until we accept our personal responsibility and guilt. As David prayed in Psalm 51:4: “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”
Father, it’s not easy for us to admit that we were wrong. But we know that forgiveness requires confession. And while you don’t “beat us up” and belittle us, you do call us to acknowledge how wrong we can be. When we think back to our rebellion against you, and our resistance to your way, it seems very appropriate to say, “I kicked myself for my stupidity.”
Thank you for forgiving us! Thank you for reminding us that we are still your “darling children” (verse 20). Even though you often have to “punish” us by allowing us to experience the consequences of our actions, you still love us – and surely will have mercy on us. What a great and loving God you are! Amen