True Repentance

The Fellowship  |  October 2, 2019

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Let the wicked forsake his way
    and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon. — Isaiah 55:7

Jews around the world are observing a time of intense reflection, true repentance, and seeking forgiveness known as the Days of Awe, or Ten Days of True Repentance. Our devotions during this time relate to this most holy time on the Jewish calendar, which culminates on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. To learn more about the Jewish perspective on atonement and its connection to atonement in the Christian faith, download our complimentary Bible study.

As we have mentioned before, repentance is at the heart of the Jewish High Holy Days. But what does true repentance look like? According to Jewish tradition, there are four components of repentance: feeling regret for past sins; stopping sinful behavior; confessing before God; and resolving not to sin in the future. As Psalm 34 entreats, we must “turn from evil and do good.” A change of heart and acknowledgement of our sin must be accompanied by a change in our behavior.

We find a similar invitation to repent and “turn from evil” in the book of Isaiah. In Chapter 55, Isaiah extends God’s invitation to repentance and redemption. By looking at the verbs in verses 3–7, we get another glimpse into God’s heart. First, we are invited to come to God (v. 3) and to listen to Him so “that your soul may live.” Second, we are to seek God while He can be found and to call upon Him. There is a sense of urgency to our need to repent — this is not to say that God will move away from us, but rather our tendency is to move away from Him. Finally, we are urged to turn to the Lord, to forsake our evil ways, for then God will have mercy on us and “freely pardon” us, as mentioned in Isaiah 55:7.

What a beautiful—and encouraging—invitation. But it is up to us to accept that invitation and to act upon it. When we have truly repented, a burden is lifted from our hearts. Our soul is cleansed, and our inner turmoil caused by our sinfulness is replaced with spiritual tranquility and inner peace. We have tasted God’s goodness and we are rewarded by an even greater desire to pursue goodness and righteousness.

And we will know we have achieved true repentance when we choose not to sin in circumstances where we might previously have sinned.

What a divine miracle, a profound mystery, and a true demonstration of grace! Give thanks to God today that His invitation is open to us, and as the psalmist writes, “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

Explore how the Jewish concept of atonement is manifested during Yom Kippur and its connection to atonement in the Christian faith with our complimentary Bible study, Atonement: At One With God.