“A voice was heard on the desolate heights, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel. For they have perverted their way; they have forgotten the Lord their God. ‘Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.’ ‘Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God’” (Jeremiah 3:21-22).
Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet”. He prophesies to the people of Judah during the last days of Judah as it is about to go into Babylonian captivity because of her sins and rebellion against God. He is a heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message. Despised and persecuted by his countrymen, Jeremiah bathes his harsh prophecies in tears of compassion.
As Jeremiah begins prophesying to the southern kingdom of Judah, the northern kingdom of Israel had already gone into Assyrian captivity because of her sins. Unfortunately, Judah refused to learn from seeing the northern kingdom of Israel go into Assyrian captivity that awful judgment awaits for those who persist in rebelling against the Lord. Yet, as the opening verses above show, through Jeremiah, God calls out to the northern kingdom with an offer to “heal your backslidings”.
What were their “backslidings”? They had forsaken God and began to follow the other nations and engaged in trusting in idols. Through Jeremiah, God said, “‘For pass beyond the coasts of Cyprus and see, send to Kedar and consider diligently, and see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,’ says the Lord. ‘For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water’” (Jeremiah 2:10-13).
Forsaking God’s fountain of endless living waters and hewing out cisterns which are broken and do not hold water is something many of us, who call ourselves God’s people, still struggle with doing today. Satan tempts us to forsake trusting in God as our source of life and encourages us to begin trusting in wealth, physical beauty and strength, education and our own abilities, or even other people. These are the idols the devil tempts us to trust in today. However, they are broken cisterns that hold no water. Wealth runs out. Beauty fades away. Strength grows weak. Others let us down.
Yet, in spite of His people’s failures and backslidings, God reaches out to them, “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings”. To the northern kingdom’s credit, Israel is pictured as responding, “Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 3:22).
As I contemplate God’s message to the northern kingdom of Israel and his offer to heal their backslidings, I am reminded of God’s incredible faithfulness to His people and His offer to heal our backslidings today. It is a great challenge to remain faithful to God when Satan is constantly seeking to devour us. It is difficult to continue to resist him by remaining steadfast in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). Because of this backsliding is far too common among God’s people today. However, God’s plea to “heal your backslidings” is still made to us today as it was to Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Today, I acknowledge my struggle with sin and realize how easy it is for me to backslide, but I rejoice that God still loves me and is the One who can heal me when I fall!
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).