“Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he said to them. ‘The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.’ Moses replied, ‘When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.’ When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.” (Exodus 9:27-30;34&35 NIV84)
Read Pharaoh’s words to Moses one more time. He uses words like “sin” and “wrong” and phrases like “I will let you go!” and “Pray to the Lord.” But in the end he meant none of them. I don’t doubt that at the moment he felt fear and sorrow, but it was all momentary. As soon as his external situation changed and the plague stopped, he hardened his heart and returned to disobedience. All the “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong!” ended up being meaningless. His reaction was diametrically opposed to what true repentance is.
But before I throw too many stones at Pharaoh, I reluctantly have to admit that I have done the very same thing. It sickens me to think of the times that I, even as a Christian, have sought relief from God with false words of repentance. I have called upon Him when His hand was heavy upon me. I told Him I was sorry. I told Him I was wrong. I promised Him that I would change my ways, and be obedient to His Word. And once the pressure subsided and some time was put between me and that confession, I found myself thinking and acting in the very way I promised to change.
Am I the only one? Can anyone relate? If so, then you can understand why our salvation is based upon God’s grace and not our works. Our salvation is not even based upon the purity of our repentance. Our salvation is based upon the all-sufficient work of redemption Jesus performed through His life, death, and resurrection. In short, our salvation is based on God’s work, not our own.
Given that our salvation is rooted in God’s grace, it is all the more reason that we, in response, offer God true repentance and faith. As Paul says in Romans, we can’t just go on sinning so that grace might abound. We need to offer our Lord true repentance. We need to give Him more than lip-service. We need to offer Him changed hearts and changed lives.