Recently I have just been realizing the sin of unwillingness in my heart. The attitude of the heart is revealed in both words and actions. It is in the heart that sin develops and grows. This morning as I journaled about my thoughts on this matter, I opened my Bible randomly (this is a quirk of mine – when I write, I flip my Bible open to use as a surface on my lap). I don’t usually look at where my Bible is open, but this morning after journaling I looked down and began reading in Jeremiah 3. God used this passage both to convict me and encourage me:
The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to Me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the LORD.” (vs. 6-10)
In this passage, we see two “people”: Israel and Judah. They were both living in sin, committing adultery – seeking satisfaction, fulfillment, love, wholeness in things other than the LORD who will graciously provide us with all things. The way the story starts out makes you think that Judah is less guilty. At least Judah tried to keep serving the LORD; Israel was just blatantly sinful. But with this mindset, verse 11 comes as a shock: “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.”
The point is that sin is sin. In fact, throughout the Bible the LORD speaks very strongly of appearing to be righteous (returning to the LORD in pretense) when we do have sin in our lives. He expects wholeheartedness. Sin is not to be taken lightly, and it is impossible to continue loving and serving Him with sin hidden in our hearts.
I have also been learning more about what it means to fear the LORD. Here in this passage we see that Judah did not fear the LORD. Why? Because they took their sin lightly. Instead of repenting of the sin in their lives and turning to the LORD in wholehearted worship and service, they tried to hide their sin and continue a “righteous” life. This does not work. A healthy fear of the LORD is understanding that He is a just God and has the power to eternally destroy us (and divorce us as He did with Israel – separating us from Him forever) because of our sin. But when we run to Him and find mercy and grace through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are saved from the punishment we deserve. As sinners who have been saved by a gracious God, we must return to Him and respond to Him knowing who He is.
“Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.”
“Behold, we come to You, for You are the LORD our God.” (vs. 22)
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