July 24, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 31:6-7 (NRSV)
Turn back to him whom you have deeply betrayed, O people of Israel. For on that day all of you shall throw away your idols of silver and idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you.
Like the ancient Israelites, we can get off course and start heading in the wrong direction in life. When this happens, we need to turn back to the Lord, leaving behind all that is wrong so that we might walk in a right relationship with God.
Isaiah calls Israel to “Turn back to him whom you have deeply betrayed” (31:6). The fact that God’s people have betrayed the Lord does not preclude them from turning back to God.
The Hebrew verb translated here as “turn back” is shub (pronounced ‘shoov’). It means, literally, to go back to a place you’ve been before, or to turn from one direction to another. If you’re driving down a road and realize that you’re going in the wrong direction, you’ll make a U-turn to correct your course. Ancient Hebrew would use the verb shub to describe your action.
From a spiritual point of view, shub is the core of what we call repentance. If you’re heading in the wrong direction, you might feel bad about your mistake, and you might even intend to do better next time, but neither of these captures the sense of shub. Genuine repentance, from a biblical perspective, requires a choice-full change of direction in which we decide to leave the wrong way and head in the right one. It’s not just feeling sorry or even sorrow. It’s changing the direction of your life.
The central message of Jesus involved this sort of radical change in living. He brought good news: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). “Repent,” as we have seen, means more than “feel sorry.” It means, “Turn around! Leave your old way of life and start to live with God as your king.”
Have there been times in your life when you made a U-turn? Literally? Spiritually?
What led you to leave one way of living to follow the way of God’s kingdom?
How might you follow the Lord more faithfully and consistently today? At work? At home? In your relationships? In your leadership?
If you’re aware of one way in which you are heading in the wrong direction, do something today to “turn back” to the Lord.
Gracious God, thank you for giving even those who revolt against you the opportunity to turn around, leaving their sin so as to walk in your ways. Thank you for the grace and forgiveness implied in Isaiah’s invitation to return to you. And thank you for offering me this same opportunity.
Lord, though my first act of repentance came years ago, I find that I need to turn my life around again and again. How easily I get headed down the wrong road! How easily I wander away from you! Yet, by your Spirit, you call me back, inviting me to return to you yet again. Thank you!
Forgive me for my wanderings. Help me to turn to you ever more faithfully each and every day. May I live with you as my true King in every facet of my life. Amen.
Banner image by Jim Wilson on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Beginning of the Gospel (Mark 1:1-13).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.