The “non-apology apology” has become standard practice in public scandals. Even people caught telling lies, perpetrating massive corruption, or engaging in sexual deviance rarely acknowledge the wrongness of their actions and ask for forgiveness. Instead of repentance, we’re more likely to hear, “Mistakes were made” or “I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”
As we’ve read through the book of Judges to this point, Israel had always readily acknowledged their misery— they have cried out to the Lord— but they had not readily admitted their mistakes, much less their sin. Hebrew scholars have noted that the verb translated as “to cry out” does not necessarily imply the admission of sin and repentance. Finally, in chapter 10, for the first time in this narrative Israel acknowledged their offense against God. We see finally clear evidence of repentance.
Besides crying out to the Lord because they are experiencing the oppression of foreign armies, Israel also put away their foreign gods. For the first time in this account of their cycles of sin and deliverance, they recognized the nature of true worship: we must choose whom we will serve. The Lord God will not tolerate rivals for our praise.
Israel didn’t merely feel sad about having worshiped idols. This repentance wasn’t merely a matter of salty tears of regret. This repentance is active, decisive.
We should be clear that it is not Israel’s repentance that moves God to mercy. Throughout the book, God has acted to deliver Israel not because they were repentant but because He is gracious. God shows mercy because it is His nature to bridle His righteous anger— He becomes “impatient” over the misery of His people (v. 16, ESV).
Apply the Word
Few of us find it easy to confess our sins, even privately in prayer. We might regret the sin and its consequences, but repentance requires us to face the truth about our sin: It is a violation against God’s holiness. Thankfully, He promises both forgiveness and the power to choose godliness (see 1 John 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:7).