Abimelech the son of Gideon made himself a local king over the town of Shechem, by murder. His father was wise enough to refuse the kingship when it was offered to him, but his son coveted the power and status that came with kingship. (In Canaan in those days, there was not a king of the whole nation, but each city was like its own city- state, with its own king.)
So a people who have a covenant with the LORD, who merely follow the outward rites of that covenant – celebrating Passover or circumcising their sons – without a heart turned toward the LORD God, are just as capable of living like the world as any other worldly people. We are in the same boat! Our church attendance does not protect our hearts from falling away from His heart! But if we would protect our hearts from falling away from His heart, we need to listen to, pay heed to, observe, and teach all the word of the LORD that He has given us!
When the people forsook the LORD and served other gods, and then were oppressed by the Ammonites and the Philistines, and they cried to the Lord to deliver them. He did not deliver them. He told them to go to the gods that they have chosen to deliver them. Then, even though the LORD had not delivered them, Israel put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD only. True repentance!
“And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” Jud 10:16
“The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psa 34:18
It is just not in Him to despise repentance. He never has, even when the nation deserved far worse than it received, and He never will. Just think how great and good God is! His soul, even though He does not like it, can endure, can be longsuffering with, the wickedness of man for a thousand generations – that is how great His mercy is. But His soul cannot endure the misery, the true repentance, the true contriteness, the broken heartedness of even the worst sinner! His compassion is greater than His wrath at our sin!
You know, some people don’t like the Old Testament because they say it shows how judgmental God is. I am just the opposite: I love the Old Testament because it shows how great, kindhearted, merciful God is!