I Have Sinned – Regret, Remorse, Repentance

Confession is the first step to repentance, but it doesn’t end there. In this article, we will quickly examine the difference between regret, remorse and repentance. 

Regret

In 1 Sam 15 YHWH, through Samuel, instructs Saul to attack the Amalekites and kill everyone and everything – man, woman, child, ox, sheep, camel and donkey. 

(The Amalekites are a type in Scripture; they represent the opposition. Yehoshua defeated Amaleq, but Israel is to fight against Amaleq from generation to generation. We are not supposed to tolerate sin in our midst; we are to fight against sin in our lives.)  

Instead of listening to the voice of YHWH, Saul feared the people and listened to their voice. He did not destroy everything. He kept some people and animals alive. 

When confronted, Saul offers his excuses. In fact, he never acknowledges his sin, instead, he blames others. Then Samuel said, “Because you have rejected the word of YHWH, He also rejects you as sovereign.” Then, and only then, Saul confesses, “I have sinned.” This statement is quickly followed by, “Please esteem (or promote) me before the people.”

This is not repentance – it is regret. Regret is wanting to avoid consequences.  Saul is sorry he got caught but he is not repentant. He wants to avoid the consequences of his sin.

Remorse

A remorseful person acknowledges and even takes responsibility for his actions but does not necessarily change his ways. 

In Joshua 7, Israel is defeated by the Amorites and Israel is plagued by YHWH. When Yehoshua calls out to YHWH asking Him why, YHWH tells him that someone has taken what was under the ban. One person’s sin affected the entire community. 

After a winnowing process, it is revealed that Akan has the contraband. He readily acknowledges his sin and takes responsibility for his actions. However, notice, he did not come forward. He did not bow down to YHWH. He did not ask for forgiveness. This is remorse, but not repentance. 

Repentance (Not Really)

Shimei is a Benjamite who shows up throughout the story of David. In 2 Sam 16, Shimei curses David and throws rocks at him. In chapter 19 it is implied that Shimei sides with Absalom in his attempt to overthrow David. 

The coup fails and David remains in power. Shimei hurries to greet David. In 2 Sam 19:20 he bows before David and says, “I have sinned.” Although his behavior is punishable by death according to Torah, David forgives Shimei. 

Finally! A picture of repentance! But not so fast. As David lies dying in 1 Kings 2, he instructs Solomon, “Do not leave Shimei unpunished for what he has done to me.” Again, it is implied that Shimei did not end his harassment of David. Instead, he fostered his bitterness for 20 years. This is not repentance. 

Repentance is a turning: turning from our old thoughts, turning from our old ways. We are supposed to turn 180 degrees from self, toward Elohim. Shimei did not turn; he kept old ways.

In these days of repentance, it is not enough to confess. We must repent. This includes:

Confession – Acknowledge your sin, name it.

Show remorse – Take responsibility for sin in your life and recognize your sin often affects others.

Repent – Turn away from sin – burn it, utterly destroy it. Turn to YHWH. He will give you the strength to overcome sin.

Jas 4:7-10 Submit yourselves therefore to Elohim. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to Elohim, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before YHWH, and He will exalt you. 

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