Heth–True Repentance

The verses I want to pick out from the “Heth” section of Ps 119 (verses 57-64), highlight the nature of true repentance, which is another theme that crops up in a few places throughout this Psalm.

“I have considered my ways” (v59)

The psalmist has a very God-centred approach to Scripture. He primarily reads to learn about God’s ways and character. But this does not mean that he doesn’t evaluate his own life in the light of Scripture. As he reads the word of God he is not just seeking information, but transformation – he expects the light of God’s word to reveal areas in his life that still need to be conformed to the will of God.

James 1:22-25 compares God’s word to a mirror. It not only shows us what God is like, it shows us what we are like. And the reason we need to know is because we need to change.

In Ps 119:26, the psalmist says “I recounted my ways and you answered me”. I think he is saying that he makes a practice of talking openly and honestly with God about his life, his hopes and fears, his ambitions. He knows nothing is hidden from God, so he prays without any pretence, admitting to what he is really like and asking for God’s help.

“I have turned my steps towards your statutes” (v59)

However, he doesn’t stop at simply confessing his faults and failings. As he reads God’s word he makes a deliberate choice to turn. This is the essence of repentance – a change of mind that results in a change of behaviour. Being ‘convicted’ by God’s word is pointless if it doesn’t result in change. In fact, if we don’t, we end up becoming hard-hearted and less capable of hearing the voice of the Spirit in the future.

“I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (v60)

Often the moment at which we respond to God’s word is not the same as the moment that we need to put it into action. We may be reading our Bible alone and realise we need to put things right with another person. Or we hear God’s word preached in church, and realise we need to change our behaviour in the workplace. It means that it is all too easy for us to be convicted as we hear the word of God and make a ‘commitment’ to respond in some concrete way, but never get round to putting it into practice.

The psalmist’s practice is to put obedience to God’s word as his highest priority, with no excuses and no procrastination. If it is the right thing to do, then now is the right time to do it. We need to be proactive about doing what God has told us to. Jesus emphasised this regularly in his teaching (e.g. Matt 5:23-25). God’s word is not simply good advice that you might want to consider following when you have a bit of spare time, or when you feel like it. The only appropriate response is immediate obedience. If God tells you to do something, get on with it!

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