Reading in Jeremiah. And something I know I’ve read multiple times hit me like a ton of bricks this morning.
I’ve often heard it said, and I’ve said it as well, that sin is sin. And while it’s true that whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, is guilty of all (James 2;10), from what I’m hovering over in Jeremiah, some sins seem to be more grievous in God’s eyes than others. Conversely, some transgression “more righteous” than others in comparison. Case in point: Faithlessness vs. Treacherousness.
And the LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.”
(Jeremiah 3:11 ESV)
History attests to the seriousness of the divided kingdom’s iniquity. Both Israel and Judah were judged severely by their God. Yet, they were different.
The northern kingdom, Israel, was judged severely for it’s faithlessness. She “played the whore” (3:6) as she went after her lover-idols. Unashamedly, she turned her back on the God who birthed her and raised her up in order to pursue the deities which preyed on her fears, her vanity, and her lust for pleasure. When the kingdom split, Israel split from her King–bowing before golden calves, declaring openly, “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (1Kings 10:28).
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. . . . they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator . . .
(Romans 1:22-23, 25 ESV)
Dumb! And for her adulteries, faithless Israel, was judged severely. Sent away with a certificate of divorce (3:8).
And her sister, the other half of the divided kingdom, Judah, watched but learned nothing.
Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 3:8b-10 ESV)
Judah saw the severity of faithlessness’s consequence, and faked fidelity. She went through the motions of returning to God, but it was pretense only.
Thinking she could deceive the ever-present, all-knowing, Creator of the universe, she made much of her displays of piety in the temple, and then, under the vain cover of night, she bowed before her idols–flirted with her wooden statues, made out with her metal suitors, cheated with the ways of the nations around them. Thus she would be disciplined severely as well–for her treacherousness. And, says the LORD through the prophet, compared to Judah’s treacherousness, faithless Israel had “shown herself more righteous.”
So, I’m thinking about how God looks upon pretense. How he reacts to fake piety and half-hearted (no-hearted ?) religion. The degree to which He is grieved by those who honor Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him.
And I can’t help but receive it as a warning. To be careful of becoming careless. To be on guard against falling into some deceived notion that I can pursue the world, allow inanimate objects to capture part of my heart, embrace the values of the kingdom of darkness, and to somehow think I am still being “faithful enough” and can keep God from seeing my divided heart. That’s more than unfaithfulness. That’s treacherousness. And that’s a “worse” sin.
But knowing my heart, and it’s tendency toward Judah-like behaviors, I can’t help but rejoice that, on the cross, Jesus also paid the price for my deceitful ways. His blood sufficient to cleanse from all sin, even the “less righteous” sin of hypocrisy and duplicity. That if I confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive my sin, and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1Jn. 1:9).
“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the LORD. “I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful,” declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 3:12 ESV)
Wholehearted, authentic faithfulness. That’s what our God desires. It’s what He deserves.
Made possible by His grace. To be pursued for His glory.