“Backsliding” at the House of God

{in work Chapter 33 of DEN OF THIEVES}

What has happened in the recent history of the Southern Baptist Convention, the
largest Protestant Denomination in the world, is indicative of the “backsliding”--
alias going backwards instead of forwards--of the church in America.  Or
perhaps you would like to call it Christianity in America, or Gods people of the
nation of the United States.  No matter what you call it, or them, the people of
the churches of America are “backslidden” like in Jeremiah, which by the way is
the book of “backsliding”.  This reality and concept is not always recognized by
the millions of church goers each Sunday or during the week, just like Gods
people of Judah would come constantly through the gates of the Temple in
Jerusalem, where Jeremiah was posted by God to tell them about their “lying
words” and lying concepts.

Such lying words and concepts as:  “The temple of the LORD, the temple of the
LORD, the temple of the Lord are these”. (Jeremiah 7:4) These were the lying
words and the lying concepts, a false set of religious values backslidden from
God, that the salvation of the people was in the buildings and organizations, in
the building and organizations of the temple, in the building and organizations of
the city and government, and in the buildings and organizations of the nation.
Such lying words and concepts as:  “We are delivered to do all these
abominations” (Jeremiah 7:10)  The lying words were that in spite of their high
record of attendance in the House of God, every week their the life-style of the
nation of Gods people, called in Jeremiah “ways and doings”, was abominations
in the sight of God--abominations that included habitual violation of the 10
commandments and too much religion that was diverted away from God; and
these same people of God had the nerve to come before God Himself each
sabbath to the House of God that was called by Gods name and dedicated by
God, to come without even a blush or any shame.  The false concept, or way of
think of this nation of Gods people like today, was that what prosperity and
security was theirs as a House of God, as a city, and as a nation, was in order
that they might keep practicing these “abominations”.  In fact these very
abominations were a sign that they were doing what was right.

Even as it is hard to comprehend today in America, that our churches and nation
are no longer blessed by God as they have been in past history, so it is almost
impossible for the average church member to comprehend today that Gods
original people, what Jeremiah calls the “firstfruits” of God, had gone rotten in
the sight of God.  Part of those lying words of the Temple Message of Jeremiah
in Jeremiah 7 was the false premise that because God had blessed them in the
past as a nation and a temple of Gods own people, that it would continue the
same way with the blessings of the past.  You might begin to comprehend that
as you look at the frequent use of the word “backsliding” in the book of
Jeremiah, especially as you comprehend that Jeremiah is the book that defines
“backsliding”.

33-1:  The Book of Jeremiah Defines “Backsliding”.

So frequently have southern baptists heard the word “backsliding” as referring to
those non-attenders at church, that you will be shocked to learn that except for
4 other places in the Bible, once in Proverbs and three times in Hosea,
“backsliding” is exclusively a word and concept from God in the book of
Jeremiah.  In fact, one might say that even as the book of Jeremiah dominates
on the subject of BACKSLIDING, so the concept and meaning in the sight of
God of “backsliding” dominates to a certain extent this large book of the Word
of God.  The word “backsliding” is found 13 times in the book of Jeremiah:  (1)
Jeremiah 2:19; (2) what might be called the “backsliding” chapter, chapter 3 of
Jeremiah with 7 references of both kinds of fine distinctions in the meaning--
Jeremiah 3:6, 3:8, 3:11, 3:12, 3:14, and 3:22, twice where both usages are
found, and should be a started place where we learn this concept from God; (3)
Jeremiah 5:6; (4) Jeremiah 8:5; (5) Jeremiah 14:7; (6) Jeremiah 31:22; and (7)
Jeremiah 49:4.  

NOTE:  At least right now, you see as the word “backsliding” goes from stem to
stern and from front to back throughout the book of Jeremiah, that it is far more
than an incidental word and concept of God’s Word in Jeremiah.

Could we misunderstand the word?  Definitely, even as the word has been
misunderstood among southern baptists and other evangelicals to apply to those
who have backslidden from church attendance, in spite of the reality that the
meaning is exactly the opposite in that it is the church attenders that are most
guilty of “backsliding”, even so we could again today generate more “lying
words” on lying concepts about “backsliding”.  In order to prevent this, and in the
nature of any good Bible exegesis which the meaning is read out of the Scripture
in stead of going to the Bible with a preconceived concept for justification of that
concept, we will as quickly as possible consider the meaning in the context.
By the way, before getting down to the nitty-gritty of these 17 times the word
“backsliding” is found in the Bible, we should briefly list the references in the
other two books of the Bible where the word is found:  (1) Proverbs 14:14,
where although only once is so important as the first usage in the Bible, from the
Prophet Solomon, and which when we will look at it shortly we will find that it
establishes in the sight of God what a “good man” is and what is the opposite of
a good man, “the backslider in heart” {by the way, this only time the word form
of “backslider” is mentioned in the Bible, all the others are “backsliding”}; (2)
Hosea 4:16; (3) Hosea 11:7; and (4) Hosea 14:4.

NOTE:  Even as emphasized in the SunGrist_Bible study on Jeremiah and
Prophecy {go to the page on this website entitled
"Bible Studies in Jeremiah"}
that Isaiah sweeps all of prophesy as in the other of the 16 major and minor
writing prophets, so Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah and both therefore
Isaiah and Hosea proceeded Jeremiah by about one hundred years.  And why is
this so important:  because even as the “Bible is a gradual revelation of God
coming to an eternal climax in the Lord Jesus Christ”, so is reality and truth
communicated by God to men both gradual and an evolution for simple to the
more complex.  Never forget, that even as the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are the ways and thoughts of God higher than man; and never, never,
would we have been straightened out on these matters had it not been for the
laborious efforts of God to select Prophets, Apostles, and Jesus over thousands
of years and then have them record line upon line, and precept upon precept,
the words, ways and doings, and concepts that God wanted men to know.

33-2:  Definition of “good people” as misunderstood as “Backsliding”.

According to the Bible in Proverbs 14:14, and as previously stated should be
given some respect as far as an establishment of the real meaning of
“backsliding” in the sight of God, and also of good men and good people, the
prime difference between a backslider and a good man is:  “The backslider in
heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from
above.”  

Does this accord with your own definition of good people, and the definition of
good people as used in your community?  According to the Word of God, the
only way you can call any man good, or a people as good, is if they find
happiness and satisfaction from above where God and Christ dwell.  Also the
backslider, we are surprised to find, is the very opposite of the good person;
backsliding is a matter of the heart more than attendance at church; and a
backslider is all wrapped up in himself, in the words of the Bible “filled with his
own ways”.

NOTE:  Has it been mentioned that this is the only single usage of the
word form “backslider” in the Bible; although as we will find for a short
and thorough look at BACKSLIDING in Jeremiah, the concept of “going
backwards instead of forwards”, the real meaning of “backsliding” is
found throughout the Bible including with Jesus when some of His
disciples went backwards and followed Him no more.  {John 6:60-71)

And what you will want to consider as the major premise of this chapter, you
might say stated now as a preview of coming attractions even before you get
the full impact of “backsliding” of God’s people in faithful Temple attendance, is
that backsliding is not away from church attendance, the opposite, but away
from God, Jesus, and the Bible. Even as Gambrell, an early President of the
SBC, stated, “Baptist are many but not much”, so were the people of God of the
nation of Judah many who came to the temple and faithful in attendance, so they
were not much, in fact nothing, in the sight of God because of their ways and
doings of “abominations”.  And even as Gains Dobbins, a revered professor of
church administration in BUILDING BETTER CHURCHES said, “You can fill a
church with empty people”, so like thousands of churches today in this nation are
filled with millions of people without the inward presence of God and Christ, so
in the time of Jeremiah those in attendance at the Temple of God were not filled
with what came from above.

Another NOTE:  You find this same concept of the Bible in the bad habits,
or follies, of church members in II Timothy 3:1-8, where church members
have “a form of godliness but deny the power thereof”, alias they have
the formalities of worship and attendance without any power of God in
their hearts and lives.
DID I HEAR A PROTEST which said, “we really can not be that bad off in
our churches and in our nations”.

And yes, that is what you thought about the American economy right up until last
year!

And if this is a protest, which lying words and concept is it based on:  (1) that all
these buildings provide salvation and security for us; or (2) we are prosper and
delivered to do all these abominations.  And since church members today in the
millions can not like the people of God of Jeremiah possibly comprehend that
their life-style of “ways and doings” are ABOMINATIONS, we must once again
re-establish the basis for God’s conclusions about abominations, of course
realizing that it will take the more thorough and complete study of this chapter
from Jeremiah on the exact nature of “backsliding” to fully comprehend it!

33-3:  Self-Denial: Religion to Many is labeled by God as “Abominations”.

What is so bad about this national self-denial is that it is a self-denial, in
Jeremiah and in America, by God’s own people.  Few other places in religion
and religious practices and beliefs has there been so much divergence between
what a people of God thought about themselves and what God thought about
them.  And if the word “religion” is objectionable, like in the excusing words of so
many southern baptist preachers where “religion” is a dirty word, we can instead
chose the words “worship and faith” to state:  WORSHIP AND FAITH OF MANY
OF GOD’S PEOPLE TODAY IS LABELED BY GOD AS “ABOMINATIONS”!
1. “Abominations” in the sight of God among His own people as defined by God
Himself.  Please do not forget, that God Himself gave Jeremiah the very words
to use in the Temple Message of Jeremiah 7 as well as in the book of Jeremiah;
and in looking at Jeremiah 7:8-11 we see God Himself on the abominations of
His own people.
(1).  These are “lying words” because they are not based on the truth as it is in
God and in the Bible:  they are words and concepts that can not profit in the
long range.

“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit.”  (Jeremiah 7:8)

The people of God of Jeremiah had a FAITH; but it was a misplaced faith, their
trust was not in God and the Bible which they already possessed, rather it was
in these lying words and concepts.
(2).  And here in Jeremiah 7:9 was the basis on their “ways and doings” which
God called abominations.

“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to
Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know.”  (Jeremiah 7:9)

Now that was bad enough, a violation of the ten commandments; religious
worship all week on every housetop in every city and village of Judah, in every
valley and grove of trees and on every hill top where incense was burned to
Baal and other gods which are not really gods; and like the foreigners they
married, they walked after other gods.  Well, we are innocent here, the average
church member might say.  No, today in churches, just like in Jeremiah, the ten
commandments had been so distorted with lying words and concepts as to have
no real spiritual meaning; today, while devotion is not paid to Baals by name, it
is paid to other materialistic gods which take the place of the God of heaven;
and today the many other gods to take the place of the God of Jesus and the
Bible, have diverse forms where loyalty is as equal in our ways and doings as
loyalty to Jesus and God.
(3).  Granted that all these abominations were then, and now, practiced by the
ungodly, unbelieving, and unrighteous; and what was so bad as to make their
ways and doings abominations in the sight of God, was that they had the nerve,
without blushing and without shame, to come into the very house of God as
Gods own people, and to make a statement of faith that we are prospered and
secured to do all these abominations.  This is the second half of the
abominations, and what really makes it abominations among the people of God.  
Their faithful church attendance was the problem mixed with the life-style of their
“ways and doings” all week!  “...and then come and stand before Me in this
house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these
abominations?’”  (Jeremiah 7:10)
a.  Which was worse as abominations in the sight of God, to come before God
for worship and prayer in His house, or to repeat the lying words “we are
delivered to do all these abominations?”  America should be grateful for this
economic crisis behind the intense series of calamities since 911, because it
shows that God through His chastisements still cares for this country, that there
is still some hope for this country if there is the repentance of righteousness and
really effective prayer.
b.  It was really the crowning act of hypocrisy and abomination in the sight of
God to repeat the chant of this praise song, “we are delivered to do all these
abominations”, right behind all week committing the abominations in then laden
down with these habitual sins to come into the very presence of God on the day
of worship.
2.  And continuing quickly with the Temple Message of Jeremiah 7:8-11, now
perhaps for the first time {although I hope not the first time after the previous 32
chapters}, you are coming to some realization of how:  (1) the people of God in
their own puny minds were making the House of God, meant to be a House of
Prayer, into a “DEN OF THIEVES”; and (2) how the temple, like churches today
and like in II Timothy 3:1-8 were making houses of God into a HIDEOUT FOR
BAD HABITS.

“Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in
your eyes?  Behold I, even I, have seen it’,says the LORD.”  (Jeremiah 7:
11)

Like in all Jeremiah, there is the contrast between what the people of God are
thinking, what they are rationalizing and saying, and what God Himself thinks
and says!  For example, I am sure that the people did not say exactly, “we are
delivered to do all these abominations”, as they would not do use the word
abominations to refer to their own current religious practices and faith; but it was
the opinion of God.  God said I have seen it for myself.  And you will appreciate
this more and more in the Bible studies of Jeremiah on “backsliding” as we see
why over and over God uses that word to apply to His own people who are very
faithful in House of God attendance and worship!  At least, in the formalities!

33-4:  “Turning Back or Away”, words of “Backsliding” and  from
Jeremiah 3.

You will recall from the introduction of this chapter on “Backsliding at the House
of God” that:  (1) one might call Jeremiah 3, the chapter of “backsliding” as the
word is found 7 times of the total 17 times the word is found in the Bible; (2) that
the word as used in Jeremiah and elsewhere in the Bible has two fine
distinctions in meaning--(a) “a turning back or away”, or (b) “one turning back”;
and (3) both distinctions of the word “backsliding” are used in Jeremiah 3:22,
which should be our starting point for these section.

“Return you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.”  
(Jeremiah 3:22

1.  It is a pleading and optimistic “return” message to the people of God, called
here with the endearment term of “children”.  {It reminds one of the words of I
John where the aged and loving Apostle of love, referred often to his dear
children.}  Even better, this is from God Himself as He supplied the words of
Jeremiah.
2.  You see the two fine points of distinction in the phrases “backsliding
children”, where the first is a modifying adjective, and  “your backslidings” where
it is a definition of what the children of God are doing in the sight of God.  Or as
YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE identifies the Hebrew words, the first
is “one turning back or way”, here children are turning back or away; and the act
of turning back or away as in “your backslidings”.
3.  However, it is the context of Jeremiah 3 which helps us understand the
meaning of “backsliding”, remembering always that this is a backsliding of Gods
own people that are faithful in attendance at the House of God.
(1).  Like in the previous books of Hosea and Isaiah, God compares the
relationship between a nation of His own people and Himself as like that
between a man and his wife (Jeremiah 3:1); and considers how any land, or
nation, would be polluted if a wife flitted from one husband to another, “But you
have played the harlot with many lovers, yet return to Me,’ says the LORD.  
(2).  With the mention of how God Himself has withheld the showers and the
latter rain of 3:3, there is a reminder of the series of calamities that have
already been sent on the nation, Jeremiah and recently on the United States, as
chastisements for repentance; yet the heartache of God is that “You have had a
harlot’s forehead, you refuse to be ashamed.”  (More of this refusal to blush in
worship attendance of have shame of the Temple and of the Temple message.}
(3).  Jeremiah records some of his dialogue with God as God convinces him of
the justice of righteousness of what He is about to do.

“The LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king:  ‘Have you see what
backsliding Israel {an obvious description of the whole nation of Israel, of
Gods own people, as backsliding away from God and Scripture} has
done?  She has gone up on every high mountains and under every green
tree, and there played the harlot.  And I said, ‘Return to Me.’  But she did
not return. and her treacherous sister Judah saw it {most of the northern
kingdom of Israel in a series of raids from Assyria had gone into captivity,
only the few tribes of the southern kingdom of Judah around Jerusalem
remained}.  Then I saw for all the causes {that is what we were after, what
were the causes of abominations in the sight of God and for the
desolation and chastisement that followed, for just like the abominations
there were many “causes” which God saw and despised} for which
backsliding Israel had committed adultery {there were many reasons God
called His own people “harlots” and referred to the adulteries as
abominations}, I had put her way and given her a certificate of divorce
{remember that Moses and Jesus referred to the certificate of divorce};
yet here treacherous ister Judah did not fear {Judah should have learned
something by what happened to Israel, but did not!} but went and played
the harlot also.”  (Jeremiah 3:6-8)

4.  Like today, the adultery of the nation, was centered around OBJECTS.  
Picturesquely, as in so many other places in Jeremiah, the adultery of the nation
of Gods people is defined as “adultery with stones and trees.”  (Jeremiah 3:9)  
On the rooftops of Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah, and in the streets,
the families practiced a family worship of the Queen of Heaven; and under every
green tree in the valleys and on the hilltops they erected out of wood and stone
other gods to worship.
5.  Like today, there was not shortage of the worship of God in the midst of all
this other worship and religion, but it was “in pretence” and not “with the whole
heart”.  (Jeremiah 3:10)
6.  “Backsliding Israel”, the northern kingdom, had shown itself to be “more
righteous than “treacherous Judah”.  (3:11)  It was treacherous the way Judah
was dealing with God, with the lying words and chanting praise songs in Temple
worship and the habitual ways and doings all week.  Attendance at the temple,
their house of God like our churches today, was being used as a gigantic
justification and rationalization of their behavior.
7.  The guarantee of eventual mercy, not “angry forever”  (3:12).
8.  Once that word “forever” is mentioned by God in 3;12, it is obvious that there
are two promises, one little and more immediate, and one big at the end of time
(3:14-19), the one here in 14-19 obviously being on the more eternal one of the
New Zion of the New Earth.
9.  You see the heartache of God caused by the abominations of these
backslidings as God describes the ways they “dealt treacherously” with Him.  (3:
20)
10.  What Happened to Israel in the opinion of God Himself?  (3:21-24)
(1).  They called God “My Father” and yet turned away from Him like a
treacherous wife turns away from her husband.  (3:20)
(2).  Israel “perverted their way”, their ways and doings contrary to the covenant
with God and the plan and call of God, had instead become abominations of
national adultery in worship and in the nation.  (3:21a)
(3).  They forgot who and what the LORD their God was.  1:3b).
11.  What God Wants to Hear from Israel as from any Repentant nation of His
people.  (3:25)

33-5:  Disciples of Jesus Go Backwards and Not Forwards. (John 6:60-71)

33-6:  FOREVER         (Jeremiah 3:14-18).

33-7:  National Adultery of Gods People with Trees and Stones. (Jer 3:9)

33-8:  “Israel is Stubborn, Like a Stubborn Calf”  (Hosea 4:16)

Backsliding is translated “stubborn” by the New King James Version  in Hosea 4:
16.  God has already decided to just let them alone like “a lamb in open country”
forages for food.  The tribe of Ephraim is gone, and God has decided to forget
them.

33-9:  Worship and Prayer Without Proper Respect (Hosea 11:7).

Backsliding in Hosea is Worship and Prayer without Proper Respect.  You
primarily see that in the words of Hosea 11:7, “None at all exalt Him.”

33-10:  Stumbling and loyalty to the “work of your own hands” (Hosea 14:
4)

Much of this “other gods” problem today between Christians and their God of
the Bible and Jesus is that:  (1) many have pride in the works of their own
hands; and (2) such objects of worship as stones and trees give Christians a
sense of control.  Everybody wants to run something; and the allusion of a god
of stone and trees, like houses and big buildings of business, provide that
allusion that all is well with your comfort and universe in that you have some say
and control over it.  You can always go shopping for more objects in control,
and you can control the shopping. {And by the way Olsteen starts his very book
on the good life with the happiness of shopping on the part of one of his church
members.}

33-11:  Judah, A Treacherous Wife and Sister (Jeremiah 3:20)

33-12:  Backsliding, “A Evil and Bitter Thing”  (Jeremiah 2:19)

33-13:  The “Backslidings” of Jerusalem Have Increased (Jeremiah 5:6).

33-14:  Jerusalem IN a “Perpetual Backsliding”  (Jeremiah 8:5)

33-15:  “Backslidings” Are Sins Against God (Jeremiah 14:7)

33-16:  Signposts and Landmarks Against Backsliding (Jeremiah 31:21,22)

God pleads even now for positive action on the tribe of Ephraim:  to set up
“signposts” and to “make landmarks.”  Now, in this thirty-first chapter the case
to Gods people has been made adequately, and that Ephraim, the northern
kingdom, is assumed to be a “backsliding daughter”.

33-17: Nations Vainly  Boast Against the Backsliding Daughter (Jeremiah
49:4).