“Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.”
The people who helped Nehemiah knew that it was the LORD’s mercy that allowed them to rebuild the wall. When the rebuilding of the wall was done, they set a feast to commemorate this completion and to ask for God’s continued mercy. What you see in their actions at this feast are the results of true repentance. The actions of these people were not ones of trying to impress someone that they repented, but they were actions of true repentance.
One of the hardest things to discern when a person says that they want to get right is whether they are saying this to get back in favor with man, or if they are truly repentant of their actions to get back in favor with God. Repentance is never an act to be in favor with man, but true repentance is an act to get back in favor with God. Several obvious actions are exhibited when a person is truly repentant.
First, true repentance brings a shame of sin. The people in this chapter put on sackcloth which was a sign of shame. The individual who is truly repentant is not concerned with what man thinks about them, but they are ashamed that they have sinned against God. The truly repentant believer is not upset that they got caught, but they are ashamed that they did wrong.
Second, true repentance causes total separation from the wrong. The people in this chapter separated themselves from the wrong crowd. A repentant believer won’t have to be told to get away from the wrong crowd or their sin, but it will become a natural response to separate from these. The shame of their sin causes them to detest any association with what caused their sin.
Third, true repentance brings a great desire to read God’s Word. In verse 3, these people stood to read the Word of God. You will find that the truly repentant believer acquires a great appetite for God’s Word. The repentant believer wants to read God’s Word to find out what they should and should not do.
Fourth, true repentance causes total confession of wrong. In verses 2 and 4, these people openly confessed their sin. The truly repentant believer will come totally clean about their sin. They won’t hide sin in deceit, but they will come clean with their sin. There won’t be a leaking out of sin little by little, but they will confess what they have done to get their sin in the past.
Fifth, true repentance brings a sole focus on the LORD. In verse 3, these people worshipped the LORD alone. The truly repentant believer only wants to please the LORD. Their reliance and focus on man diminish, and they will become consumed with pleasing the LORD. You will find that the repentant believer will have a great desire to do whatever the LORD asks them to do.
Sixth, true repentance causes a praising spirit. In verse 5, these people stood to bless and praise the LORD. You will never mistake the spirit of the repentant because of the openness and joy it exhibits. My friend, you will never regret repenting of sin. You will only enjoy the Christian life through true repentance of sin, for repentance brings joy back into your walk with the LORD.