As we continue in our journey through the Amidah (the Eighteen Benedictions in the daily Jewish prayer ritual), we see another important aspect of our relationship with God in this section: Repentance.
Bring us back, O our father, to your Instruction;
draw us near, O our King, to your service;
and cause us to return to you in perfect repentance.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who delights in repentance.
What is this idea of “repentance”? What does it mean? Very simply, it means to change one’s mind. The cultural context, however, implies much more – not to just change one’s mind, but to take immediate and definitive action in response to that change of mind.
King Solomon reminded the Israelites of their need for repentance when he gave the dedication prayer for God’s temple (2 Chronicles 6:12-42, especially vv. 36-38). John the Baptist’s entire message as he announced Jesus was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 3:1-3).
Think of repentance this way: If you’re driving your car, and the directions say to turn left, but you turn right instead (for whatever reason), it’s not enough to admit you made a mistake and a wrong choice. You still have to turn the car around and get it pointed back in the right direction to reach your destination. And so it is with our repentance. We must turn back to the Lord and allow Him to show us the right path.
What was yesterday’s section? Intelligence! Notice the progression here – God’s Word teaches us and instructs us in God’s way; even so, we don’t always pay attention and lose our focus and get lost. When we come to our senses (present the Lord with a teachable spirit again), God uses His Word to bring us back to Himself. When we walk by faith, we learn to take each step with our gaze clearly focused on Jesus. David acknowledged God’s direction and faith-walk when he wrote “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105). In the same chapter, David wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11). In both of these passages, God’s Word is our guidance, instruction, and protection, with all the “road signs” point back to Christ.
Personally, it’s easy to talk about repentance, and hard to get into gear and take action. But God’s blessings are very real when I do.