Return with All Your Heart

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? (Joel 2:12–14, ESV)

Daniel’s Prayer

I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Daniel 9:4–19, ESV)

Repentance

‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 2, ‘Repentance’

Repentance and love for God go hand in hand. We can’t have one without the other. If we repent, we stop doing bad things and start doing good (1 Kings 8:47; 2 Chronicles 6:37; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 8:4-13; Ezekiel 14:6; Matthew 11:20, 21). The first recorded word out of the mouths of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus (Matthew 4:17) for their public ministries was ‘repent.’ If we are going the wrong way on a road, we would change directions once we realized our error.

‘Feeling sorry’ for what we have done or are doing, yet continuing to go the wrong way, is not repentance. It is certainly not love. A lot of times, ‘sorry’ feelings are very strong, to the point of weeping or other expressions of anguish. But the feelings are not true repentance if they don’t produce a change in behavior (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). True repentance is when we change what we are doing (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8). We go from ignoring His Law to following it.

Biblically, repentance also means restitution. According to the Word, when a thief repents, not only must he stop stealing, but repay what he stole plus a penalty amount (Exodus 22:2, 7). Zacchaeus (Luke 19) restored four-fold what he might have defrauded, and gave half his goods to the poor. We do not follow through with this in modern times. A lot of times “feeling sorry” is the limit of repentance. But feelings of sorrow, by themselves, are not enough by God’s standards. If we repent, we make things right as much as we can.

10For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB95)