Prayer and the Sinner

Judges 3:9 and 15  9 The Israelites cried out to the LORD. So the LORD raised up Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother as a deliverer to save the Israelites….  15 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and He raised up Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed Benjaminite, as a deliverer for them. The Israelites sent him to Eglon king of Moab with tribute money. Judges 4:3-4   3 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, because Jabin had 900 iron chariots, and he harshly oppressed them 20 years.  4 Deborah, a woman who was a prophet and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

 

Six years. From the age of 12 until the age of 18 when I was finished with high school, I never cried. A tear never fell from my eyes during my junior high and high school years, and I was very proud of that accomplishments. Six years without crying, so at the age of 18, in spite of my childish looks and skinny frame, I considered myself to be a man.

Six years without tears did not make me a man. Those years made me proud and self-sufficient. Those years gave me a feeling of superiority over others who couldn’t hold back the tears. Years without tears does not make one strong, it makes one hardened and proud. The Scriptures call us to be people who mourn and respond to the times of grief in this world. Sinners who find grace in the hour of need are those who mourn in sin and call out to God in prayer when afflicted.

God responds to the sinner who mourns

If there was ever a time when God should have washed His hands of our helpless race it was during the age of the Judges. For hundreds of years the Israelites were rescued from their persecutors by God’s strong right hand, only to abandon God in the days of peace and return to sin. Generation after generation, the people cried to God and God delivered. God delivered, and the following generation was so grateful for the LORD’s salvation that they worshipped Baal. God should have left our entire helpless race for good in those days.

But He didn’t. Every time His sinful people cried out in their sin and affliction, God answered and provided. The LORD hears the cries of His people. He responds to His people as they mourn. When you fall into sin, don’t despair. Don’t wallow in guilt in fear. Instead mourn and cry over your iniquity. Call out to God for forgiveness. As God was faithful to respond to His people who cried, He will be faithful to respond to your tears of confession as well. Blessed are those who mourn.

God responds to the sinner who returns  

The Israelites not only made it a pattern to cry out to God, they also made it a pattern to return to God. It’s easy to miss in the midst of all the sin and failure in Judges, but the book of Judges is also a book of repentance. Many generations turned away from their sin and turned toward the LORD. Gideon’s generation followed the LORD during Gideon’s leadership and only returned to Baal after his death. Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, and Barak all led the people into periods of rest.

Prayer for the sinner should be more than an emotional outburst from the pain of sin. Prayer should be the start of turning away from the sin and the selfishness and toward holiness and mercy. This is the moment when you can commit to walk away from the way of the world and into the Way of the LORD. Will you be perfect in your repentance? Probably not in this life. You may fall back into the same old sins again next Tuesday or in 2019.

Don’t forget that each day of resting in Christ is a victory. Each day of walking away from sin is a triumph through the grace of the Spirit. The cries of the people of Israel would have meant nothing without the actions of repentance. When you find yourself stuck in the same sin again like the Israelites in the days of the Judges, don’t despair or throw in the towel. Cry out and ask for forgiveness. Pray and ask for a heart of repentance. Don’t worry about tomorrow, walk right this day.