Old Testament Jews had an entire set of rituals, and festival developed around penance. Fasting, wearing sackcloth and ash became a ritualistic display of regret. This was a means to inflict discomfort as a mark of repentance. There was a special kind of music called “a lament” which would be sung during penance. As an action to show mourning and repentance we can read about people tearing their clothes.
Yet God searches the inward places of His people. A torn heart, not a garment, is what moves God’s heart to mercy.
“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping, and wailing.(Joe 2:12–13 LEB)
Rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to Yahweh your God, because he is gracious and compassionate, ⌊slow to anger⌋ and great in loyal love, and relenting from harm.”
Psalm 51 a biblical example of a lament
Psalm 51 is one of the best laments in the bible. This is a song, as the opening instructions read.
The psalm is one David wrote after his horrific sin with Bathsheba, which you can read about in 2 Samuel, chapter 11. Here, it is noteworthy that repentance did not reverse the effects of David’s sin. What repentance did was to restore the intimate fellowship David enjoyed with God. You can read a more in-depth bible study on this here.
The psalm pleads for God’s mercy. It’s a request to be cleansed from sin.
This is a mark of true repentance. We ask that God cleanses our heart, so that our relationship with Him may be re-established and thus also our joy.
True repentance is not only an intellectual recognizing of false conduct but also a deep feeling of remorse, regret and sorrow for false actions or behaviour. The result is an overall demeanour and attitude change.
In the New Testament, we find this change of behaviour may mean making restitution for the false actions (sin) as Zacchaeus did (Luke 19 verses 1 to 10). It may mean preaching the faith you once tried to destroy, as Paul did (Acts 9:1-28). Or it could result in one returning to face the consequences of one’s own actions (like Onesimus in Philemon 8 – 16)
Modern-day examples of repentance
Toby Mac recently released a lament, which you can listen to below.
There are many stories of people who have changed their life’s direction towards God. You are currently reading the blog of one of them. But since I’m not exactly well known, let me give some good examples – from some of the people I follow online.
Walk into the self-help section of any bookstore, and you are probably still likely to find a book by top New Age selling author Doreen Virtue. She is, however, no longer deceived by the New Age. You can watch her story below.
Steven Bancarz, another well-known Ex New Ager tells of why he left the New Age in this interview. Since his departure from the New Age, he started a website called Reasons for Jesus. He has also written a book titled: The Second Coming Of The New Age.
Both Doreen and Steven now preach the faith they once tried to destroy (Even if at the time they were not aware that they were doing something wrong).
Repentance means to make a 180-degree change towards God and to change the way you think radically. If you’re a Christian, it’s probably something you may have to do more than once, dare I even say, many times. It’s never comfortable. It’s always painful. It’s the road that leads to forgiveness. And it is part of walking with a God who, while he is unconditionally loving, is also holy and just.
Sources and references:
Apart from the bible, I also used the below mentioned book references.
- Repentance. The Lexham Bible Dictionary (2016) Lexham Press
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary
- What is Repentance? By R.C. Sproul (2014)
(Kindly note, these are affiliate/paid links – although some titles come free with the logos software)
Last, let me just leave another Toby Mac song below – just because we’ve all crossed that line.
What have been your experiences seeking forgiveness? Has your life made a turn towards God? (There’s a comment box below)