5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
It's easiest to spot the distinction in children. But that's only because they haven't yet learned to disguise their insincerity. It's also easy to spot the same distinction in the first two kings of Israel. But that's only because the Scripture shows us their hearts.
In the pediatric version, the conversation goes like this:
Me: "Did you push your little sister?"
The young transgressor: (eyes downcast) "Yes sir."
Me: "Did you say you're sorry?"
The transgressor again: (eyes rolling, and mumbling in her direction) "Sor-RY!"
There is genuine regret, but not a drop of genuine repentance.
And so it was with Saul. He regretted his disobedience of God's clear command. He regretted Samuel's sentence. He regretted his bruised ego, and his loss of status, and his public rebuke. But as Saul will demonstrate throughout the rest of his life, that regret often only postpones repetition.
It's exactly the same for you and me. When we disobey the Lord, we often regret it deeply. But if we're honest, it's not so much our broken relationship with God, but the crumbling of our self-made kingdom that stings us. We regret the shame and sadness and loss. But we find ourselves caught in the Saul-cycle of trying to shore ourselves up, only to spiral further and further from the Lord's loving embrace.
King David understood true repentance. He was a deeply sinful man. He was confronted by a prophet and suffered humiliation. But David ran toward God, owned his own sin, and turned in humility for the Lord's healing redemption. It was the cold loneliness of estrangement from God that wounded David most poignantly. He cried out to be re-made, to be restored, to be clean again. In what may have been his lowest moment, King David lamented and repented,
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
It's our story too. True repentance leads to redemption, because we hear the voice of our Savior calling us to confess, to turn from the sin-stained hiding we're so prone to, and to receive the Lord's kind forgiveness. We ache for a clean heart and a right spirit. We long to change, and to be changed.
And the Lord's breathtaking promise is that, like David, when we repent, he is faithful and just to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. He will change us. He will give us His joy. He will make us new.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.