With Yom Kippur upon us, our focus tends to be on the act of repentance. We put our energies into confessing our sins before ADONAI and taking ahold of His forgiveness. Traditionally, one of the passages studied during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is Hosea 14. This chapter outlines ADONAI’s response to the repentance of His people. In verses 5 through 8, God’s people are promised a multitude of blessings post-repentance. Healing, love, growth, prosperity, provision, beauty, standing, renewal, relationship, wellness and more are all gifts that ADONAI promises to pour out on Israel. What a beautiful passage!
But how does this apply to us? The easy answer is to say that if we ask for forgiveness, God will bless us with His salvation and all the things listed above. However, the Bible shows us that repentance isn’t just a “one and done” kind of thing. It’s more like an ongoing process that we continually cycle through – much like the Children of Israel have throughout the centuries.
By looking at the numerous accounts of Israel’s turning away and then turning back to ADONAI, we can start to infer that there’s a process to genuine repentance.. So, in taking this concept before ADONAI, I think He gave me a small bit of revelation about the stages of repentance. Here they are:
The Five Steps to Repentance
10 But when all that generation were gathered to their fathers, there arose another generation after them that did not experience ADONAI or the work that He had done for Israel. 11 Then Bnei-Yisrael did what was evil in ADONAI ’s eyes, and worshiped the Baalim. 12 They abandoned ADONAI, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples around them, and bowed down to them. So they provoked the anger of ADONAI. 13 So they forsook ADONAI and worshipped Baal and the Ashtaroth. – Judges 2:10-13 TLV
Similar to the stages of grief, the stages of repentance can take time to complete and fully work through. But you can’t start working through it until you get past the first stage of Denial. We can often find ourselves in a place of denying our need for repentance. We think, “Well, I’m a good person! I don’t do evil things. I’m not sinning!” But the truth is that even in those statements we can fall to the sin of pride and arrogance.
When we deny God’s role in our lives as our plumb-line, our Master and Lord, we distance ourselves from Him and continue down the path of denying our sin. A lot of us tend to stay in this first stage longer than we would like, or even would like to think that we do. Fortunately, God designed the next stage in order to pull us out of our denial and start walking on the road to recovery.
14 So the anger of ADONAI burned against Israel, and He gave them over to the hands of plunderers who plundered them, and He sold them over into the hand of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand up before their enemies. 15 Whenever they went out, the hand of ADONAI was against them for evil, as ADONAI had spoken and as ADONAI had sworn to them. So they were severely distressed. – Judges 2:14-15 TLV
Desperation is a very important part of the repentance process! If you’re not uncomfortable, then you won’t change. It’s easy to carry on with the status quo when it seems to be working out just fine. But when your situation becomes desperate – when you’re oppressed, stressed, or distressed – something has to change in order to make the situation better. Desperation is the driving force behind repentance. It’s our desperation that allows us to finally understand what it is that’s causing the situation in the first place: our sin.
But to do a complete 180-degree turn on a dime is hard for us humans. Which is why the next stage even exists: Deal-making.
10 So they cried out to ADONAI and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken ADONAI and have worshiped the Baalim and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us from the hand of our enemies and we will worship You.’ – 1 Samuel 12:10 TLV
All too often we reach out to God for help out of our difficult situations and promise to change our ways in return for His help. We pray, “Oh, God if you get me out of this situation, I’ll stop doing _______!” or “God, help me right now and I’ll start living for you by doing ______!” The people of Israel time and time again would ask for deliverance and promise to return to Him. But in all honesty, this stage is the real turning point along the road to repentance because it’s the moment that we actually turn towards God. The deal itself isn’t the key to repentance – it’s the act of acknowledging God’s divine power in your life.
Out of our deal-making, we move into a place of genuine correction: making a true declaration of repentance and dedication to ADONAI .
5 Then I said: “ADONAI, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps the covenant and lovingkindness with those who love Him and keep His mitzvot, 6 please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant that I am praying before You today both day and night on behalf of Your servants, the Bnei-Yisrael. I am confessing the sins of Bnei-Yisrael that we have sinned against You—yes, I and my ancestral house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You. We have not kept the mitzvot, the statutes, nor the rulings that You commanded Your servant Moses.
8 “Please recall the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you act unfaithfully, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to Me and obey My mitzvot, and do them, then even if your dispersed people are at the ends of the heavens, I will gather them from there, and bring them back to the place where I have chosen for My Name to dwell.’
10 “They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great strength and by Your mighty hand. 11 Please, my Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your Name. Give Your servant success today and grant compassion in the presence of this man.” Nehemiah 1:5-11 TLV
And then we come to the final stage:
29 “Now the rest of the people—the kohanim, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Temple servants, and all who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands for the sake of the Torah of God, along with their wives, their sons and their daughters who were able to understand— 30 all join their brothers the nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in the Torah of God given through Moses the servant of God, and to keep and do all the mitzvot of ADONAI our Lord, along with His ordinances and His statutes. – Nehemiah 10:29 TLV
Living a life devoted to ADONAI is hard. It means denying our own will and surrendering to His. And most of us stop once we’ve made our declarations and confessions. But it’s the walking out of our faith that gives us the ability to keep our time in the Denial stage shorter and shorter each time we go through the cycle once more.
So I encourage you today to take a moment and pray that God would gently guide you through the stages of repentance as you go through this next year. Blessings!