In Jeremiah 7:22-24, God tells Israel that when he brought them out of Egypt, he didn’t speak to them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices, but he did give them this command, “Obey my voice and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the ways that I commanded you, that it may be well with you.” God said that they didn’t listen, but instead walked in their own counsels and the “stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” In the next chapter, God asks, “Why had this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?” Backsliding is a very serious offense and is defined as turning away from God, turning back, or apostasy, but how often do find ourselves drifting off course or simply spinning our wheels in life? This passage makes it crystal clear that God wants us to make forward progress in life, and you can’t do that apart from him. If we aren’t making progress in life, it is our fault and not his.
If we are constantly sliding back, then we will never make any real progress in life. To be clear, there are highly successful people in this world who are spiritually bankrupt, but God’s way is for us to prosper and be in health, even as our soul prospers (3 Jn. 1:2). The ESV Study Bible notes on Jeremiah 7:22-23 explains that only those who believe will obey, and only those who walk in all of God’s ways because of their faith can be God’s people. To be one of “God’s people” should be everyone’s top priority! We should also note here that choosing our own counsel over God’s is not very smart. Why? God’s ways are higher than our ways and so are his thoughts (Is. 55:9). We could also add here that bad choices and stubbornness equals going backwards in life!
God tells us to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). This let’s us know that in addition to just outright sin, or going our own way instead of God’s, there are also weights in life. I can’t help but picture here the scene from The Biggest Loser where, after losing all those pounds, the trainees would have to complete one final exercise. They had to strap on the same amount of weight as they had lost during the entire program and run laps. Just think of running track with an extra hundred pounds. Even if you had been doing all the right things at the gym, you might not make it across the finish line with all that extra weight! The main point of the exercise of course was to serve as a vivid reminder not to go back into the old habits that got them in such critical condition in the first place. The other major point from this verse is that we definitely want to run the race that God has “set before us.” If you are like me, you don’t like back tracking. It is just down right frustrating to be driving and find out that for the last fifty miles, you weren’t even on the right path to start with. Or looking on the bright side, at least you found out, got turned around, and started heading in the right direction!
So my prayer for us this year, is that we make forward progress and not slide back into old habits that entrap and weigh us down. Each of us will have to pray and ask God to show us the things that are weighing us down and keeping us from doing his work. Pastor Martha and I pray often, that God would lead us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). The path of the righteous is level (Is. 26:7). There is protection, everlasting joy, and sorrow shall flew away on that path. The good news is that no matter where or how far you have gotten off track, this path will lead you back to God. But remember, it is not for everyone. The unclean can’t even enter, for it shall be called the Way of Holiness (Is. 35:8-10)!
As we come to the close of this fast, we are believing that God’s path for our life is shining brighter and brighter until full day, both individually and for our church as a whole (Prov. 4:18). As God reveals his plan and directions, we believe we will also have the faith and courage to step out into new and exiting opportunities that God is opening up for us this year. Also, it is not enough just to start down this path; we believe that we will continue and progress on God’s glorious path for us in 2021 like never before!
Thank you for joining us this year!