True repentance

This is a brief article on a subject which I have been pondering of late.

I trust that it will be a blessing and help to you all.

Our heart is deceitful, even as Jeremiah stated (Jeremiah 17:9) and we must ever guard against its deceptions.

How we need to be on guard against deception of every form!

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster


“‭H‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭ow then can I do‭‭ this great‭ wickedness‭, and sin‭‭ against God‭?‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬  Genesis 39:9.

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo

Oftentimes I fear that our repentance is more a case of being vexed at the grief that sin brings to us — our loss of a quiet conscience and our sense of God’s presence — but such feelings fall far short of true repentance. Sin injures us but that ought not to be our chief concern when we have sadly yielded to temptation.

The words of Joseph on this occasion serve to show us what our attitude to sin and our response when faced by it, ought to be.

1. Joseph considered ‭that ‬what faced him in this wicked temptation was chiefly to act against the Lord.

Had he responded to this woman’s demands, he would have sinned against her and he would have sinned against her husband. As he says: “‭But he refused‭‭, and said‭‭ unto his master’s‭ wife‭, Behold, my master‭ wotteth‭‭ not what ‭is‭ with me in the house‭, and he hath committed‭‭ all that he hath‭ to my hand‭;‭ ‭There is‭ none greater‭ in this house‭ than I; neither‭ hath he kept back‭‭ any thing‭ from me but thee, because‭ thou‭ ‭art‭ his wife‭: how then can I do‭‭ this great‭ wickedness‭‭‭‭?‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Yes, what she was demanding entailed injury to herself and her husband by Joseph should he have yielded to her.

He knew also that it would injure himself. He does not mention himself here because he is chiefly occupied by thoughts of others who would be hurt by his wrong-doing. But let us ever be aware that sin is a great self-inflicted wound, oftentimes, so great we never really get over it!

Be that as it may, it is clear that Joseph realised that his yielding to this temptation would be CHIEFLY a sin against God!

When we sin we strike against the heart of God. He loves His people with an immeasurable love. Sin requires us forgetting that love and treating God as if He doesn’t care about us. Please remember what we read in Genesis 6. “‭And GOD‭ saw‭‭ that the wickedness‭ of man‭ ‭was‭ great‭ in the earth‭, and ‭that‭ every imagination‭ of the thoughts‭ of his heart‭ ‭was‭ only‭ evil‭ continually‭.‭ ‭And it repented‭‭ the LORD‭ that he had made‭‭ man‭ on the earth‭, and it grieved‭‭ him at‭ his heart‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ verses 5-6.

The actions of the population of the earth back then was to forget that God was their Creator and they owed allegiance to Him alone. Failure to do so struck against the affection He had for His own creatures.

When we sin we strike against the knowledge of God. To act in defiance and disobedience is to act as if God cannot see us and does not know what we do! That is a great insult directed against Him.

Hagar was right when she “‭called‭‭ the name‭ of the LORD‭ that spake‭‭ unto her, Thou God‭ seest me‭: for she said‭‭, Have I also here‭ looked‭‭ after him‭ that seeth me‭?‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬Genesis 16:13. We sin against God’s omniscience when we act as if He did not see and know the evil that we do!

2. The records of true repentance, given us in the Bible for our instruction, emphasise this truth.

The Psalm 51 records David’s deep and true repentance for his awful sin regarding the taking of Bathsheba for his wife.

Consider what he said.

“‭Wash‭‭ me throughly‭‭‭‭‭ from mine iniquity‭, and cleanse‭‭ me from my sin‭.‭ ‭For I acknowledge‭‭ my transgressions‭: and my sin‭ ‭is‭ ever‭ before me.‭ ‭Against thee, thee only, have I sinned‭‭, and done‭‭ ‭this‭ evil‭ in thy sight‭: that thou mightest be justified‭‭ when thou speakest‭‭, ‭and‭ be clear‭‭ when thou judgest‭‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ verses 2-4.

He was very conscious that what he had done, though kept from the eyes of men, was done in God’s sight. Yes, God in His mercy had brought the matter before David when he had put the matter far from him. “‭‭‭‭My sin‭ ‭is‭ ever‭ before me,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ he says but it was not always so. Even after he had given instructions to his army commander, Joab, to place the husband of Bathsheba in a place of danger that he might be killed and thus make Bathsheba free to marry him, he forgot this wicked instruction. When Joab did his bidding and Uriah was killed, Joab realised that David was likely to react with anger at such carelessness in allowing such a thing to happen. Joab therefore instructed the messenger: “‭And if so be that the king’s‭ wrath‭ arise‭‭, and he say‭‭ unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh‭‭ unto the city‭ when ye did fight‭‭? knew‭‭ ye not that they would shoot‭‭ from the wall‭?‭ . . . Thy servant‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Uriah‭ the Hittite‭ is dead‭‭ also,” ‬‬‬‬‬2‭‭‭‭‭ ‬‬‬‬‬Samuel 11:20‭‭‭‭‭-21‬‬‬‬‬.

The news that Uriah was dead pacified David!

The whole episode illustrates what a man, even a good man, can do when he loses sight of God and His omniscience.

David had sinned against Bathsheba and against that loyal and godly man, her husband Uriah. He had sinned against Joab by involving him in his wicked deceit and he had sinned against himself. But in the spirit of true repentance he saw that chiefly he had sinned against the Lord.

3. Being aware of what was ever uppermost in Joseph’s heart and mind will keep us from sin.

Did it not keep him from yielding to sin? “‭How then can I do this great wickedness‬?” He was brought under restraint by the knowledge that the Lord would see his actions.

Nehemiah could not do what others in his position had freely done. “‭But the former‭ governors‭ that ‭had been‭ before‭ me were chargeable‭‭ unto the people‭, and had taken‭‭ of them bread‭ and wine‭, beside‭ forty‭ shekels‭ of silver‭; yea, even‭ their servants‭ bare rule‭‭ over the people‭‭‭‭‭‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Nehemiah 5:15. but he did not act in this fashion. Why? “But so did not I, because of the fear of God.” The same restraint that was upon Joseph was upon Nehemiah!

An awareness of the all-seeing eye of God will act as a restraint upon us. Forgetting God will open the gates to sin and rebellion!

In Jeremiah chapter 2, the Lord challenges His people. “‭Can a maid‭ forget‭‭ her ornaments‭, ‭or‭ a bride‭ her attire‭? yet my people‭ have forgotten‭‭ me days‭ without number‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ verse 32.

The result of that forgetfulness is catalogued by the Lord and He highlights the blindness to sin that forgetting God brings on. “‭Yet thou sayest‭‭, Because I am innocent‭‭, surely his anger‭ shall turn‭‭ from me. Behold, I will plead‭‭ with thee, because thou sayest‭‭, I have not sinned‭‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ verse 35.

It has been wisely said: “‭‭‭‭‭Fear‭‭ God‭, and keep‭‭ his commandments‭: for this ‭is‭ the whole ‭duty‭ of man‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Fearing God will ever go before a keeping of His commandments. Truly, “‭‭‭Blessed‭ ‭is‭ the man‭ ‭that‭ feareth‭‭ the LORD‭, ‭that‭ delighteth‭‭ greatly‭ in his commandments‭,‭”‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬Psalm 112:1.

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)

10th February 2023