For 120 years, Israel and Judah were united as one nation bearing the name of Israel.  In 930 BC, the nation of Israel became two nations, Israel and Judah.   In 723 BC, the nation of Israel fell to the Assyrians.  Before Israel fell into the hands of the Assyrians and became their slaves, there were 2 hundred years of warning from the Lord.  The conduct of the kings of Israel went from pretty bad, to bad, to much worse.  Elisha, Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and other prophets spoke to the people to let them know that God was displeased with their conduct.

God wanted Israel to know that they could repent and he would immediately forgive them and bless them.  In fact, they were being blessed during those 200 years by a merciful God.  Occasionally, some of the people would turn back to the Lord but overall the nation went the way of sin and selfishness.  It seemed that they were bent on either destruction or determined to see if God would actually punish them.

As I read this portion of the Old Testament, I am always reminded of one of my mother’s favorite phrases before she would punish us, “You are begging for a spanking.”  It seemed that Israel wanted to see how far they could go into sin before God would smack them.  Eventually, he did punish them but it was with great sorrow on the part of God.  It is clear from the scriptures that God never wanted to have to punish his people.

I was struck by the 200 years of warnings and tolerance that God showed to Israel.  Even more important, God said, “Repent and I will forgive.”  While he gave warnings again and again telling the people to change and turn back to Him.  He was slow, slow, slow to punish.

However, God told them repeatedly that forgiveness was available instantly.  All they had to do was go to their knees, go to prayer and go back to him and he would immediately forgive them. 

Amazingly, the narrative that God has for all the people of every nation is the same.  Repent, I forgive.  However, the road to destruction may meander around with lots of turns and curves that all lead to a dead-end but may even be paved with material prosperity and blessings.  God is slow to punish but instantly forgives when we truly repent. 

As I shared this remarkable message of repentance and restoration to the members of Special Gathering this week, their eyes were glued to me as they soaked in this simple message of true hope and love.  The message of God’s love is clear, plain, yet life changing.  IQ doesn’t matter.  Repentant hearts does matter.

Having a slow and go God allows us all to have access to the love of Christ.  Forgiveness and repentance are available immediately for all.

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