Last week I went back to the foundational doctrines series with more discussion about repentance (see part 1). There, I talked about how repentance is more than being sorry or wishing something hadn’t happened. It is first admitting that sin has occurred and then taking action about it. One of the earliest uses of the word translated “repent” occurs in King Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple (1 Kings 8:46-51):
46 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; 47 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy; 51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
The context of the prayer includes multiple requests for God to hear the prayers of his people, generally asking for forgiveness in certain situations. There are a few key factors to pick up from repentance.
- Everyone sins. We know this. We know it from the bible and we know it from experience. People are flawed and we don’t pretend otherwise. Because everyone sins, everyone needs to repent.
- The lack of acknowledgment of sin, the lack of repentance, leads to punishment and isolation.
- Repentance requires a “change of heart.” This is not just a change in desire, as we in the 21st century West tend to think of it, but is instead a determined and concerted effort to realign the things most important in your life. A “change of heart” involves a determination to radically change your life and the things you pursue.
- Repentance involves a pleading. There is no obligation on God’s part to forgive you. That’s why we need to repent in the first place. It is manifestly unjust to seek forgiveness and thus it is entirely at the will of the one who forgives.
- God does respond to forgiveness. And we’ll talk about this next week.
At this point, I’d just like to finish by noting that repentance is mentioned in the context of exile, and next week I’ll also talk about why this is important.
Think about this. Have you ever completely changed your attitude to something or someone? Why? Was it a decision you made or the actions of someone else, or just happenstance? Share your story below.