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Eurasia Blog Wednesday Devotion: Perpetual Backsliders

Rev. Hugo Gevers reads the Gospel lesson during the Divine Service at St. Lukaskirche, Leipzig, where SELK congregation St. Trinitatisgemeinde worships. (LCMS Eurasia/Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman).

The Altar of St. Lukaskirche, Leipzig where perpetual sinners come to be perpetually forgiven. (LCMS Eurasia/Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman).

This week’s Eurasia Blog Wednesday devotion is based on the Old Testament reading for this past Sunday, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, from the one-year lectionary. 

“You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? 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. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD.

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them? Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD (Jeremiah 8:4-12 ESV).

Watching the news, and looking at the world around us, examples of unrepentant sinners running headlong into their sins abound. It is easy to point to those who are unbelievers and highlight their sins, calling for their repentance, wondering despairingly if they take heed at all of the dangers and destruction their stubborn hearts breed. Maybe we even hope for them to be punished and overthrown. But in this passage in Jeremiah, Yahweh is speaking not to the unrepentant and unbelieving nations all around them, He is speaking to His very own chosen people. “My people” says Yahweh “know not the rules of Yahweh.”

Why are Yahweh’s people so far from knowledge of Him? Their scribes have lied to them, they have rejected the word of the Lord, they are greedy for “unjust gain,” they all deal falsely, the whole lot of them. And they weren’t ashamed of it. Not one bit.

It’s easy to point fingers here again. This is addressing those faithless Israelites. Maybe also those folks in those OTHER denominations who have toed the progressive social line. They’ve acquiesced to just about every abomination in the book and they certainly don’t blush over it.

But this is about all of God’s people. We are all perpetually backsliding. Sin has us in its grips. We nod our heads in assent to sin after sin. Or we stand silently by and allow atrocities to take place without comment or care. We pick and choose the laws we like the best from Scripture. We have our own sinful struggles, the ones we hate, and the ones we love, and we perpetually slide backward into them. Some we’re ashamed of, others we cherish and defend. Either way, we are all in need of repentance, of rising up and returning again. So the Lord punishes and overthrows. He knocks us down and overthrows our selfish passions, our favorite sins, our thoughts and actions. He brings us to death.

And there, in that desperate moment, in that place of utterly despairing in our own sinfulness, in that place where we finally look on all of the abominations we have allowed and enacted and created, we repent. And there, in that place, God has sent another. He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the fullness of His wrath upon Himself, spare us, bring us to repentance, and lead us into life and hope and forgiveness and salvation. In Jesus we find the One Who perpetually forgives, Who perpetually raises up, Who perpetually turns us, Who perpetually loves us even as we perpetually backslide. In Him, we are returned and restored, and in Him we have the hope of the resurrection, and eternal life lived in a state of perpetual forgiveness.

Let us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, send us true servants who will speak to us Your truth and Your ways so that we may perpetually be brought to repentance and perpetually be forgiven and thereby brought into eternal life and resurrection for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

  • Read last year’s devotion on the accompanying Gospel reading for this past Sunday.

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