A Great Example Of Repentance
Read Jeremiah Chapter 31
Jer 31:18 “I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning: ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the LORD my God. 19 After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
We have studied the subject of repentance many times, over and over. I hope that no one is growing weary of this issue. When I ran across this passage recently, it occurred to me that this is close to the ultimate example of repentance. I’m sure that there are some ‘repentances’ which are less dramatic than this one, yet has been deemed acceptable in His eyes. But this one is an outstanding standard for us to examine.
Most of the desired aspects of repentance are mentioned here. Often times we refuse to repent on our own volition, and God has to resort to disciplines, sometimes severe and sometimes mild. If we are wise, we will repent without having to suffer disciplines. As the writer described Ephraim’s situation, he says that after suffering discipline, he repented. That’s the normal and expected response from those who belong to Christ. We do not remain stubborn-hearted once our offenses are called to our attention.
The repentant one in this passage responded with complete humility and contrition. He beat his breast. He was ashamed and humiliated over the depth of his disobedience to a loving merciful Lord. What must we do in order to have this kind of response to our transgressions?
1. We must have the Holy Spirit living within us. Unless His Spirit has taken up residence in our hearts, we do not have the capability to be repentant. Even repentance is a gift to us from our Savior. The Spirit must be drawing us to repentance.
2. We need to be ashamed of our transgressions. I cannot say that I have been ashamed of mine every time. During those times when I was not, my heart was hanging on to a bit of stubbornness. Sometimes, I just haven’t been sure that my sin was all that bad. We have to comprehend the truth that all sin is unacceptable in God’s eyes.
3. We need to be humiliated. Oh, I’ve been there many times. But some of those times my humiliation was only because that someone else was aware of my sins. The true test of repentance is when we are humiliated before God; even when no one else on earth knows of what we have done. Such is the case in most instances of pornography. It is such a secret sin, rarely does anyone know of it other than ourselves. We should be humiliated before God, grieving because we have saddened the One who loves us more than any being who ever existed.
4. The writer “understood.” We need to fully understand why our actions were harmful. If we can grasp the truth that what we have done is detrimental to our spiritual health, we will be much more likely to possess repentance in its purest form.
Ac 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.
We know what we must do; there are no excuses for man’s failure to repent.
We can’t leave this passage without covering one other topic. In verse 18, the writer asks God to restore him. This could be a restoration of his right-standing with his Lord, or it could include a restoration to his standing within the community of believers. Both are needed when we have sinned. Oh, those times when I have been led to confess to my wife were difficult times. I needed restoration with God and I needed restoration with my wife, God’s precious gift to me. We need God’s help in regaining our prior lofty position with Him and with man.
Prayer: Father, will we ever be able to completely get this right? Help us to achieve the ultimate in repentance every time we have sinned. We thank You that You have accepted our repentance when it was not as genuine as it could be. You are so merciful and loving; You deserve our complete devotion.