Following the word “turn” (שוב) through Jeremiah’s prophecy.
“God says, ‘If a husband divorces his wife and she goes from him and belongs to another man, will he still return [שוב] to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; yet you turn [שוב] to Me,’ declares the LORD. ‘Lift up your eyes to the bare heights and see; where have you not been violated? By the roads you have sat for them like an Arab in the desert, and you have polluted a land with your harlotry and with your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no spring rain. Yet you had a harlot's forehead; you refused to be ashamed’” (Jeremiah 3:1-3).
Jeremiah draws from the foundational Law about divorce and remarriage (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). The covenant people had turned away from God to pursue every other false god they could find. Their idolatry had taken them down a path that caused them to be “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).
Twice our prophet tells us that the people’s forgetting how to blush triggered their fall: “‘Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be cast down,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12). Now, falling, they seek to return to their divine covenant Spouse.
Yesterday I heard someone say, tongue-in-cheek, that they preferred the New Testament since the God of the Old Testament was “mean.” Well, has He changed? No.
The apostle Paul echoes the prophet Jeremiah’s heart-break over a people that claim – in name – to follow the Lord, but are better witnesses to their shameful lifestyles than for Christ: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18,19).
They “glory...in their shame.” I don’t know what you think of when you hear this phrase, but, as a pastor, I’ll tell you what connections I make. I think of teens and young adults (and, come to think about it, older adults) who, while making something of a claim to following Christ, brag about their libertine and lawless deeds, worldviews, and attitudes...some of them I’ve even baptized myself. I join Jeremiah and Paul in the heartbreak...but I know from the Spirit’s testimony through His Word to my own sin-struggle of a life that my heartbreak is nothing compared to the Father’s.
Lord, don’t let us forget how to blush.
Lord, let it be Your glory alone that is our singular and highest passion above all things, at any cost.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.