Making Friends with Repentance
by Rosh Pinah
We have just passed the season of Repentance in the Biblical calendar which culminates in Yom Kippur.
The Biblical Feast of Yom Kippur is preceded by 40 days of repentance, and involves sounding the shofar, fasting, doing no work and offering various sacrifices. We find a summary in Leviticus 16.
This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins – Leviticus 16 :29, 30
For some people the idea of Repentance is old fashioned and irrelevant. The world view of some in our society is that we have a “right” to make our own decisions about ourselves, our lives and our bodies. After all is not personal autonomy the highest value?
The Biblical world view is that we are all accountable to God, that there is a Day when all of us will be held responsible not only for what we have done but also for what steps we took to repair our relationship with God and with others. It’s only in this context that repentance makes sense.
What is Repentance?
The Hebrew word for “repent, return, go back” is “lashuv” לשוב. (active form of the verb)
Repentance is not about being perfect but about changing our direction, from running away from God to running towards him. Running in your own direction actively increases the separation between you and God. Repentance actively decreases the distance and brings you back to the right starting point. Repentance is a U-turn of mind, but also about a U-turn of action lining them both up with God’s expectations of us.
Why is Repentance our friend?
The Hebrew word for ” restore” is “l’hashiv” להשיב. (causative form of the verb).
The Hebrew the root letters שוב are the same for both words- but the verb forms are different.
So our Return to God and his causing us to be Restored are both in a sense the same thing, one from our perspective and the other from God’s perspective.
From God’s view, Repentance is a gift which allows for healing growth, wholeness, shalom שלום God’s purpose is to restore us to the way we were created to be in relation to him, to ourselves and to others.
When we turn back, God is always waiting at the other end of the road to welcome us home.
Note: Thanks to Helen Wall for her input.