“Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6.
There is uncertainty about the origins of the name, “Job”. Some say it is from a word meaning, “hated”; certainly Satan hated Job and Job, for a while, wondered if God hated him. But I prefer the other possibility, for others say that Job’s name means “returning”. Repentance is certainly turning away from sin, but cannot be sustained unless one returns to the Lord. There is one nasty reality that makes repentance truly problematic. We can sum it up with another passage in Genesis 6:5. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Job could have been the most righteous man that ever lived, but, like the rest of us, contended with a sinful nature that continually pressured him to stray from his God.
The Bible says that we are like sheep that go astray (Is 53:6). How does a sheep go astray? One little patch of grass at a time, until we have left the vicinity of God’s care. Therefore, repentance is not a single act but a lifestyle. True repentance is a daily, moment by moment discipline of returning.
We are like a man at sea drifting on a raft, caught in a slow but steady current that threatens to move him further and further away from land. The man must use his clumsy oar to return to land or risk dying of thirst and starvation. Most people tire of the effort and simply desire to rest. How is it possible to resist such a relentless tide? Once again, the answer is planted in God’s Word.
“So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.” Hosea 12:6
We all desire to wait upon our God continually. King David asked the Lord to be his “strong refuge” to which he could “resort continually.” This constant dependence on God, in fact, is crucial for those who desire to resist the continual pull of our own craven nature. But not even this effort has to be so wearying and tiresome. “By the help of your God, return…” said Hosea. We must always keep in mind that it is God’s goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
From this perspective, even returning is resting, for we are returning to Jesus Christ, who promised to give rest to all who come to Him. “Come to me all you who labor and are heaven laden [with sin!], and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. True repentance is to continually face the land (turn away from our sin), insert the oar (the promise of God’s goodness and rest) and pull towards Christ (with the help of our God), who alone is able to give us rest from the wearisome tugging and pulling of the world, the flesh and the devil.