THE WAY OF THE BACKSLIDER LEADS AWAY FROM THE LORD
Are you a wayward child of God who has wandered away from the sheepfold? Do you find yourself on a slippery slope leading further and further from Him? Does the world hold such an enticement for you as to ensnare you?
Perhaps you have not forgotten your Lord. You are still walking in His commands. Yet is there a facet of your life where you are ignoring His leadings? Where you have drifted from God and His ways?
Israel was God’s wayward nation. Through the years, He sent prophet after prophet to open their eyes to their backsliding. The writings of the prophets in Scripture are brimming with God’s words of warning to His faithless children. For they wandered from the One who had chosen them as His own from all the nations of the world.
Jeremiah was a prophet called by God to the heartrending task of speaking His words to the straying sheep of Israel…
“Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me.” – Jeremiah 2:19
Israel’s apostasy was its downfall. The people had departed from their God… no longer worshiping Him with awe and reverence. The nation had succumbed to selfishness… the essence of all sin. Their allegiance had shifted to foreign gods who satisfied their selfish desires.
All sin is a departure from God – acting independently from Him… wandering from His truth… turning away from His ways. Through Jeremiah, God warned His chosen ones of the dangerous path they were following. For they would reap the consequences of their sins. They would face their due punishment.
“Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.” – Jeremiah 8:5-6
Israel had forgotten their Lord. They had been faithless to Him in their headstrong pursuit of evil. They had abandoned Him despite His love and shepherding. God likened their rush to sin to a war horse dashing into battle, paying no heed to the dangers that lay ahead.
“Go, proclaim this message toward the north: ‘Return, O faithless Israel… I will no longer look on you with anger, for I am merciful… I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your God. You have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every green tree and have not obeyed My voice.’” – Jeremiah 3:12-13
God longed for His errant Israel to return to Him. He graciously reminded them that they needed only to acknowledge their sins of rebellion and repent of their willful ways. They had journeyed far from the Lord in their wanderings. Yet His mercy is neverending for any with repentant hearts.
“Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” – Jeremiah 3:22
God calls His chosen ones back to Himself with the gentle, loving heart of a father. His arms are ready to welcome His straying sheep back into the sheepfold. For He does not want to lose any one of His own.
The Lord well knows the perils His wayward sheep will face out in the world. Living outside of His protection may appear exciting and adventurous. Yet they are placing themselves in danger, vulnerable to the evil that lurks in the shadows…the wild animals that lie in wait.
“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness.”– St. Augustine of Hippo
How precious to know that we have a God who cares so deeply for us. Jesus shares the story of a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to pursue the one who is lost (Matthew 18:12). He is the Shepherd who pursues us relentlessly when we stray.
Jesus reminds us of the importance of abiding in Him… of remaining attached to the Vine (John 15:4). For only He can satisfy our deepest needs… gratify the longings of our hearts… and fill the recesses of our souls with His consoling peace. Any search for someone or something to take His place will only come up empty.
Let us not allow ourselves to wander from our Lord. Let us sever any attachments to worldly beliefs and pursuits. Let us abide in the only One who offers eternal protection. Jesus is calling His wayward sheep back home. He will satisfy our straying hearts. He will heal our backsliding. He will return us to the heavenly sheepfold where we will abide with Him forever.