In the traditional hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” there’s a verse that includes the following line: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love.”
I invite you to just sit with that line for a minute….
Have you observed this tendency in your own life? Are you prone to wander … to stray away from God? While you are thinking about that let us consider the Nation of Israel, God’s people. We’ve been looking all week at Jeremiah’s prophecies to the people of God some 600 years before the birth of Jesus. They were a nation that was “prone to wander” away from God. They kept wandering into idolatry. They wandered into sacrificing their children to the immoral gods of their evil age.
There’s a term Jeremiah uses in several places in his letter. The word is backslide. That word is kind of an old and outdated word, but I’d like to dust it off for a minute.
Jeremiah 3:22 “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” KJV
Jeremiah 14:7 “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you.” ESV
One definition of backsliding is: “To revert to sin or wrongdoing, especially in religious practice, someone who lapses into previous undesirable patterns of behavior.”
If you’ve ever had a bad habit that was harmful or sinful- smoking, eating junk food, abusing alcohol or drugs, viewing pornography, spending too much time looking at social media, etc…. if you had a bad habit, overcame that bad habit and replaced it with a good habit for an extended period of time, and then reverted back to the bad habit… that’s a kind of backsliding.
Israel had a pattern of religious backsliding. They would worship idols, God would warn them or punish them and they would stop worshipping idols for a while, then they would start worshipping idols again.
After many years of backsliding, God had to deal more decisively with their hard hearted and sinful ways. Their whole nation was about to be torn apart, the temple destroyed, the walls of Jerusalem come down, the king and his kingdom would fall from power, many would be killed and many would be brought into exile.
In the midst of all of this doom and gloom Jeremiah says in 30:10, “Do not be afraid.” How does one NOT be afraid when everything around you is about to come crashing down? Here in the midst of all the doom and gloom Jeremiah gives them some good news or gospel.
God’s message to Israel is this- “I am going to discipline you because of your great guilt and many sins” but the discipline is only for a limited time. “After your discipline, I will restore you, you will come back to your land, you will rebuild your temple, those who I used to punish you will themselves be punished, and after I have regathered you I will raise up one of your own to be your king.”
This part of Jeremiah was written 600 years before the birth of Jesus, but it gives a clear and vivid prophecy of Jesus. In Jeremiah 30:9 when he says that he will “raise up” “David their King” he wasn’t just talking about King David, who had died several hundred years earlier, he was looking ahead to Jesus. Jesus is “one of your own” a Jewish man, a descendant of the kingly tribe of Judah and descendant of David. God promised that he would raise up this king- and oh how he kept that promise when he “raised up” Jesus, who had been crucified and buried in the tomb three days. He raised up Jesus from the grave and 40 days later he raised up Jesus into heaven (Acts 1:9). One day Jesus will return to reign over all the earth in the Kingdom of God and he will be raised up and exalted over all the earth (see Philippians 2:9-11).
What happened to backsliding Israel? Jeremiah 31:19 “For after I had turned away I repented…” And how did God respond? Jeremiah 31:20: “Is Ephraim (another term for God’s children) my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore I am deeply moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him says the Lord.”
Other words for backslide are “apostasy” or “fall away”. Friends, I dearly hope that in your walk with Jesus you will not be one of those who are “prone to wander” or “prone to leave the God I love.” Recently Pastor John Guthrie posted old pictures from RYOT and FUEL. Some going back nearly 20 years. It was fun seeing myself, other staff and many of the FUEL attendees of past days who are now adults with children of their own. But it was also sad to see some of them who are no longer in the faith. Some have left the Church of God, but even more disheartening, some have left the faith completely. Some have backslidden, some have fallen into complete apostasy and are now living in a state of unbelief. It can happen to any of us. Don’t let it happen to you. But if it has and you are reading these words… it’s not too late to repent and turn back to God. For just as God remembered and delighted in backsliding Israel and had mercy on them, He will remember and delight and have mercy on you if you turn back to Him.
Pastor Jeff Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 30 & 31, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+30-31&version=NIV
Tomorrow we will read Jeremiah 32-34 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan