Not So Sorry Apology

Whitney Capps

Day: 6 | Plan: 1-2 Samuel

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 6

1 Samuel 6:3 (NIV) “They answered, ‘If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.’”

“You’re just sorry you got caught.”

Have you ever offered an apology or received an apology that wasn’t completely sincere? Kids and teenagers do this often. (Well, I guess adults are guilty too, right?) In today’s passage, the Philistines offer an insincere apology. Heartfelt sorrow involves not just regret, but also repentance.

Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, have captured the ark of God and taken it into their pagan nation. As a result, God’s judgment falls on the Philistines. In a desperate attempt to rid their country of the plagues on their people, the Philistine leaders ask their priests how to return the ark “back to its place” (1 Samuel 6:2b). Indeed, they are sorry they got caught, but even more so, they want to end God’s judgment on them.

Their priests advise that the Philistines send a guilt offering along with the ark as they return it to Israel. This seems hopeful, right? But do they see their guilt? Do they acknowledge their offense before the One True God who is holy and righteous, seated above every other lesser god? No. They are simply acknowledging that this is the protocol required by God to ease their suffering. They don’t follow God’s law for guilt offerings. (Leviticus 5:14-17) They try to appease Him on their terms.

Finally, and most persuasively, the Philistines do not try to make peace with God’s people. They do not reject their own gods and submit to God’s judgment, authority and ways. In fact, they continue to fight against God and His people. (1 Samuel 7:7) Righteous sorrow is indicated by a desire to change the unrighteous behavior and turn from wrongdoing.

The Philistines acknowledge God’s power, but this shouldn’t impress us. They were a people accustomed to granting power to their deities. They did not turn from their other gods; they did not acknowledge God’s sovereign power over all other gods. They see Yahweh, Israel’s God, as just one of many gods. But Yahweh is the only and One True God.

What a lesson on repentance. Their guilt was not removed. God stopped their suffering temporarily, but they were not made right with Him. They did not make peace with Yahweh. The Philistines confessed their guilt. They showed remorse but not repentance.

God’s people must be committed to turning from the wrongdoing that offends our holy God. Remorse or brokenness isn’t enough. Let us be people who are committed to being broken and better. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, this passage shows that it is possible to admit we are wrong, but not be committed to doing right. This is understandable for the Philistines. As Your child, help me to offer sincere and complete apologies. I don’t want to just be spared a punishment. I want my life to better reflect your character. In Jesus’ name, amen.

More Moments:

The desperate Philistines of 1 Samuel 6 have been brought low because of the mighty hand of God.... Read More

Download the First 5 app to get the full experience

Join the Community