“And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.” (Judges 2:4)
Repentance can come too late (e.g., Esau and Judas), but it can also come too often. In fact, it can reach a point where it even wears God out (Jer.15: 6b). For this reason, I always brace myself, spiritually speaking, when I start through the book of Judges, where we are forced to follow along as Israel sins, repents, then asks and receives deliverance so many times it makes your head swim.
Things were fine (most of the time) as long as Moses, Joshua, and the elders of their generation were alive. But we find in verses ten through twelve of Judges two that the next generation somehow did not get the message of what it was to really know God; and, as a result, “they forsook the LORD God of their fathers.” This was the source of their erratic spiritual experience. If God knows me, I have soul salvation (“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them” Jno.10: 27). If I know God, I have soul stability (“[T]he people that do know their God shall be strong…” Dan.11: 32).
When an angel of the Lord reminded this new crop of Israelites just how good and faithful God had been to their fathers, chiding them for their own disobedience in the light of such faithfulness, verse four says it broke their hearts…so much so that they cried. However, it was not enough to keep them from disobeying again, as we see from the following chapters. Tears are not enough; there must also be resolve.
Repentance will always be part of our Spiritual lives as long as we are in these sinful bodies. But as we mature in the Lord, it should go from having a major role to being a minor player. If we’re not careful, we can find it’s more expedient to ask for forgiveness afterward than to ask for permission beforehand.
“I need to repent of my repentance; I need my tears to be washed.”
~ The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions