For weeks the theme verse for this series had been running over and over in my mind, and I began to see a repeated call in the scriptures, from beginning to end, for God’s people to return back to Him.

It’s easy to make our identity the code we follow or the particular history from which we come, but truthfully, our only identity is in Jesus Christ, and our security is not in rigidly holding to our system of beliefs, but in constantly returning to our true spiritual home, the bosom of God. This series is a call to that; with all humble earnestness it is offered for diligent study and prayerful contemplation.

—Angela Gellenbeck

JULY 4, 2021



Isaiah 1:16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:

20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Jeremiah 25:4 And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.

5 They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever:

6 And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.

Lamentations 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.

41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

42 We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.

Ezekiel 14:6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Ezekiel 18:30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Hosea 14:1 O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.

Joel 1:14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,

15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.

Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:

13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:

16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?


MEMORY VERSE: And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. —Deuteronomy 4:27 and 29


CENTRAL THOUGHT: When God formed the nation of Israel, He promised to hear their prayer of repentance when they sinned against Him. In later times when Israel turned away from the Lord, he sent prophets to call them to repentance and remind them of His promise to pardon them when they returned to Him.




Isaiah 1:17 “Judge”: decide controversy; defend; execute judgment. “Relieve the oppressed”: properly, correct or reprove the oppressor; restrain him within the bounds of justice. “Judge the fatherless”: do justice for the orphans; be their champion. “Plead for the widow”: plead her cause; be her advocate.

Isaiah 55:6 “While He may be found”: in this day of grace. “While He is near”: while He offers Himself by the preaching of His Word.

Hosea 14:2 “Calves of our lips”: the words, praises, and thanksgiving of our mouths offered like burnt offerings of bullocks and calves.




Our memory verse describes the promise God made to Israel when He warned them about turning away from Him and going into idolatry. They would be carried away by heathen kings—Assyrians, Chaldeans, Babylonians, and Egyptians—and scattered among the nations, He said, but if from those remote places of exile they would remember Him and turn to Him with whole -hearted repentance, serve Him and put away their idols and evil doings, He would hear their prayers and not destroy them utterly. Israel did repent time after time. The book of Judges tells of a sad time when every man did what was right in his own eyes, but it also tells of the many times God delivered His people when they cried out to Him.

Later, when the Israelites demanded a king like other nations, God warned them of the dangers. Israel’s kings after David and Solomon brought them into grievous national sins. The kingdom was divided, with ten tribes (Israel, whose capital city was Samaria) following King Jeroboam, and two tribes, Judah and Benjamin (Judah, whose capital city was Jerusalem), following Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. In the years that followed, occasionally Judah would have a “good” king who led a reformation, cleansing the land of the idol worship and re-instituting the Passover and other forgotten important parts of the worship of Jehovah. Sadly, Israel never had one “good” king to lead the people back to God.

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel and Hosea, “rising up early” and receiving words from God, warned and pleaded with the kings of Judah and Israel. Some would heed the warning and repent when they were chastised. Others were dealt with heavy consequences in their lives and in the nation because they refused and rebelled. Eventually, both Israel and Judah were carried away to foreign lands for seventy years of exile. The documented writings of those years are a lesson for us that true repentance—weeping and sorrow for sin, fasting, confession of sin, turning back to God in prayer, worship, and obedience, and turning away from sin and idol worship—brought God’s forgiveness and deliverance every time.

—Angela Gellenbeck



  1. Whom did God send to warn His people? Can you list some names?
  2. List the necessary steps of true repentance.
  3. What question did God ask His people in Ezekiel 18:31?
  4. Which prophet spoke of words as being like sacrifices?
  5. List the various people God told to join in repentance in Joel’s message.




The topic for this quarter makes up a great portion of Holy Scripture; in fact, the entire Old Testament is the story of God’s people turning away from Him and His dealings with them to return to Him.

Today’s scriptures from different prophets contain an often-repeated, common command: in order to “return” to God, the people were to put away their idols and quit their sinning. Reading deeper into the individual stories, one finds that people tried to return to God without doing that; they attempted to worship to Jehovah while continuing to also worship their idols. They tried to bring sacrifices and give worship to God without laying aside their sins, revealing their divided heart. This worship was unacceptable because God expects and accepts only that kind of worship given from hearts entirely devoted to Him.

The entire purpose of repentance was shared by these prophets over and over again: that God would grant mercy, pardon, and forgiveness. God not only wanted to spare His people ruin and death, but He desired to grant blessings, draw them close in fellowship, and cause them to be a blessing to the entire world.

The call to the nation of Israel is a call today to all people. To people professing Christianity. To our nation. God is calling for repentance and turning away from sin. If we will respond with all our hearts, we will find His blessings.

—Angela Gellenbeck




I believe the content of this lesson calls for a moment of reflection and introspection. After first reading through this lesson I found myself asking a series of questions. What is the state of God’s church? Are God’s people presenting the portrait of Him in our world today that He desires? Have we remained focused on our God-given responsibilities as His church, or have we allowed political tension, racial tension, worldly pursuits, luxurious lifestyles, and a greater tolerance for sin to seep our strength and hinder our closeness to God?

Most of us are familiar with the Biblical remedy for individual sin and repentance, but what about the sins of nations and generations, familial sin, and, yes, the sins of God’s people? So many so-called Christians in America today accept actions explicitly condemned as sin by God’s Word as okay, and while you or I may not agree with this, it still affects us. So many of us have relatives, friends, and acquaintances that are in this state, and knowing how to hold to God’s standards while rubbing shoulders so often with those who have abandoned their previous convictions is not easy to do. Can we look at the spiritual conditions around us and say dismissively, “Well that’s them—at least I’m okay?”

Daniel, a man the Bible says had an excellent spirit and was careful not to forsake the laws of God, even in a foreign land, prayed in his old age a prayer of repentance for God’s people. Ezra, when he learned that the people had disobeyed God’s explicit instructions on not marrying those in idolatry around them, wept and prayed a prayer of “corporate repentance,” which so convicted those around him that action was taken to return to God’s commandments. Not once did either of these men say “they sinned” but “we have sinned!”

I’d like to remind us all that Peter stated we are “a royal priesthood” and John testified that in Christ we have been made “kings and priests,” and I believe it is our duty to intercede and bring before God as a people our sins and plead for His forgiveness. “O God, we have sinned, our nation has sinned, our families are broken, the world in general has forsaken You! Father, you promised that if your people would humble themselves, and pray, and seek your face, and turn from our wicked ways, that you would hear from Heaven, and forgive our sins, and heal our land! Please, in Your great mercy, let it be so! Amen!”

—Fari Matthews