Marks of Genuine Repentance
Jeremiah 50:4-5
In those days, and in that time, said the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together…

I. It is said, "THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL SHALL COME, THEY AND THE CHILDREN ON JUDAH TOGETHER." In other words, these two people, who, though members of the same family, had so long lived in a state of the most deadly hatred and hostility, when touched by a feeling of genuine contrition, shall "come" "together"; shall amalgamate; shall forget their former subjects of contention, and approach in one body. the throne of love and compassion And such is the constant effect of genuine religion. Vice, by increasing our selfishness, by sharpening the natural irritability of the temper, by filling us with a feverish anxiety about the objects of time and sense, "separateth even chief friends." In like manner, a merely speculative and ceremonial religion rarely fails to disunite its followers. But on the contrary, serious, heartfelt, spiritual scriptural religion binds and consolidates. Never, till the temper of real contrition, with all its train of accompanying graces, enthrone itself in the mind; never, till real Christianity take the place of that which is nominal; never, till we love God better than we love ourselves; never, till we choose rather to sacrifice our interest and indulgences, than to disturb the peace of the Church, and rend the seamless garment of our Redeemer.

II. It is here said of the people of Israel and Judah, that "THEY SHALL COME WEEPING." As the tenderest parent sees with joy the tear of penitence steal over the cheek of his guilty child; as no pang is deeper than that inflicted by the discovery that a state of separation from himself costs the child of his bosom neither fear nor anguish; thus our Father, which is in heaven, expects in us, the prodigal children of His family, sorrow and anguish of soul, till our reconciliation with Himself is accomplished. But how is it possible to reconcile with language such as this, the conception, so prevalent in the world, that the proper object of life is amusement, and our reasonable and legitimate temper of mind thoughtlessness and a spirit of almost ceaseless dissipation? It is indeed true, that the temper of mind becoming the man who is reconciled to God is peace, and cheerfulness, and joy: — "Rejoice in the Lord; and again I say, rejoice." But peace of mind before reconciliation — peace, when the Lord has a "controversy" with us — peace, this is not the peace sanctioned by Scripture, but a state of repose leading to almost inevitable destruction. The true penitent is there described as "going and weeping." It is not, indeed, my intention to affirm that tears are the necessary, or the only sufficient, expression of grief for sin. Many a sad heart would delight to weep, but cannot.

III. These returning penitents are described as "SEEKING THE LORD THEIR GOD." Here is one of the grand distinctions between true and false repentance. That sorrow of the world which "worketh death," ordinarily evaporates in a few unmeaning words or tears. The real penitent, on the contrary, is not merely startled by his danger; he detests his offence. His soul longs for emancipation from its corruptions, and for a full and free entrance into the presence of the Lord.

IV. It is said of the returning penitents in the text, "THEY SHALL ASK THE WAY TO ZION." It is something in religion to have discovered that we are out of the way. The next mark of genuine repentance is a lively, persevering anxiety to be put into the way. But this anxiety will not discover itself in blind and random efforts to search out the path by our unassisted powers; but in humbly and earnestly availing ourselves of every appointed channel by which safe and sure intelligence on this all-important subject may be conveyed to the soul. The penitents in the text "ask their way." Distrusting a heart which has often misled them, they go for instruction to the servants of the Lord, and especially to Him who loves to "go before" his sheep, and lead them to the pastures of their proper happiness. And, observe, the place which they are said to seek is Zion, — he "city of their solemnities"; the holy city; the city in which dwelleth the Great King; where His temple arises; where, having laid aside the thunders of His just indignation, He sits between the cherubim, to dispense mercy and love to His guilty creatures. The real penitent never stops till he reaches the city of God. And however bright the sunshine, and clear the fountains, and extensive the prospects, which cheer him on the journey; and however wise and strong and compassionate the Guide who goes with him, and delights to succour, to defend, and to bless him, he neither puts off his armour nor rests from his labour till he sits down in eternal tranquillity in the paradise of God.

V. It is said of these penitents in the text, they ask their way to Zion "WITH THEIR FACES THITHERWARD." In other words, they are really bent on discovering the city which they profess to seek. Their eye is upon its towers; and their hearts are honestly impelling them in the right line of direction. Their inquiry has no alliance with the empty curiosity of the man who has no intention of adopting the advice which he solicits, and follows one path when his guide directs him to another. But, hearing a voice behind them, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it," they implicitly follow the leadings of providence and the suggestions of the Spirit.

VI. The individuals in the text are described as saying, "COME, AND LET US JOIN OURSELVES TO THE LORD IN A PERPETUAL COVENANT THAT SHALL NOT BE FORGOTTEN." Such is uniformly the desire of the true penitent. Are we not the sworn enemies of sin, the world, and the devil? And how have we fulfilled our engagements to God? Will any single man venture to lay his hand on his heart and say, I have fulfilled them as I ought? And, if not, what is our duty to-day? Is it not to say, as in the text, "Come, and let us join ourselves," &c.?

(J. W. Cunningham, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.

WEB: In those days, and in that time, says Yahweh, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together; they shall go on their way weeping, and shall seek Yahweh their God.

God's Deliverance of Us from Spiritual Bondage
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