Recovery Through Repentance

Bible Book: Jeremiah  2 : 13
Subject: Repentance

Backsliding on God, whether that of an individual, or that of a nation, does not take place all at once; but it is a gradual process. This spiritual malady usually begins with little departures from the truth of God’s Word—making little allowances here and there with truths upon which one once firmly stood.

Backsliding begins with a rationalization of one’s behavior (excuses for one’s actions or beliefs which are usually superficial), and a relativistic approach to determining right and wrong (resorting to situational ethics). Though Satan isn’t passed using blatant, in-your-face temptations to pull God’s people away from the Lord, his usual method is to use temptations that appear harmless, or almost imperceptible. However, as Song of Solomon 2:15a says, it is “…the little foxes, that spoil the vine…”

Such has been the case with our nation. Once our country proudly proclaimed itself a “Christian nation.” Nevertheless, as Dr. Tim LaHaye has said,

During the last 200 years, humanism (man’s wisdom) has captivated the thinking of the Western world. After conquering Europe’s colleges and universities, it spread to America, where it has developed a stranglehold on all public education.

Humanism seems so credible and logical to the man who does not understand God’s wisdom that it is adopted readily by the masses—much to their own peril. Today’s wave of crime and violence in our streets, promiscuity, divorce, shattered dreams, and broken hearts can be laid right at the door of secular humanism.

Simply defined, humanism is man’s attempt to solve his problems independently of God.[1]

The bottom line is that, due to humanism, our nation has developed an “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy of life. Since the religion of humanism is atheistic, morality is viewed as an irrelevant and outmoded idea in our society; and as a result, our nation is crumbling from within. For all practical purposes, the great, good, and moral nation we once knew is a dream of the past. Whether an individual or a nation has backslidden on God, only repentance and revival can turn the tide.
Just as the spiritual decline of Israel was gradual in the days of Jeremiah, we have seen much the same thing take place in America. Let’s learn from Israel’s mistakes, and pray that God will turn both the individual Christian and our nation back to Himself.

Theme: God, in urging His people to return from their backsliding, revealed…


A. Initially Israel was Determined to Follow God.

Jer. 2:1 “Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.”

NOTE: The word translated “kindness” includes “…the ideas of ‘love’ and ‘faithfulness.’ The RSV translates it devotion.”[2]

A poet once wrote, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”
This would be a good exercise for us as Christians in regard to our love for Christ. The way to begin this exercise is to record the ways that He loves us. Then we need to recall that Jesus said that those who loved Him would obey Him. To count the ways we love Him, we have to count the areas of our lives where we are in total obedience to our Lord.
Love is more than words—and, even more than deeds. It is possible to do things in His name and not love Him. It is possible to say we love Him and not do what we should.
But, it is impossible to truly love Him and not do what He says. Why not try this experiment today. Look at the things you do for the Lord and ask if they are truly done with a heart of love and devotion.[3]

B. Initially Israel was Devoted to God.

Jer. 2:3a “Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase…”

NOTE: [1] The words “holiness unto the Lord” refer to the fact that the nation of Israel was a nation separated unto God alone for His service. This no doubt refers to the fact that the nation of Israel was God’s chosen people.

[2] The word “firstfruits” adds to the idea that the nation of Israel was not only separated for God’s use alone, but it was also considered by God to be sacred by Him.

The harvest firstfruits were set apart as sacred (Ex 23:19; Lev 23:9-21); so Israel, God’s firstfruits-people among the nations, was sacred. The firstfruits were offered to God and could not be eaten by lay Israelites.[4]

[3] There was a time in America when quoting the Pledge of Allegiance wasn’t frowned upon. There was a time in this country when Americans proudly acknowledged that America was “…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Perhaps the individual Christian, as well as the leaders of our own nation should ask this very telling question:

Tom Boyd tells about a woman who was a member of a church he pastored in Tennessee. She was flamboyant and eccentric but Boyd was impressed with her “intense commitment to the faith. She did not have a pietistic bone in her body, but her devotion was nonetheless clear and articulate.”
One evening at a dinner party in her home, [she and Boyd] were animatedly discussing some theological idea. In the midst of the give and take her teenage daughter, probably frustrated with all of the high-blown discussion of religion, asked, “Mother, why do you talk about religion all the time? Why are you so religious?”
This query brought a loud hush to the dining table. Her mother paused dramatically, pushed her chair back from the table, stood and responded, “Every morning before you are awake, I rise and walk into the living room. I lift my arms and ask, ‘Who’s in charge here?’ The answer always comes back: ‘Not you!’ That’s why I am religious. Because I am not in charge!”
“Religious life begins with the realization that we are not in charge, and from there we can proceed to align ourselves to the One who is in charge.”[5]

C. Initially Israel was Defended by God.

Jer. 2:3b “…all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord.”

NOTE: God told Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).


A. Israel Departed from God in Spite of His Preservation of Them.

Jer. 2:5 “Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain (speaks of idolatry)?

6 Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?”

NOTE: [1] Dear folks, if the lost sinner ends up in eternal Hell, he will do so in spite of all the goodness, grace, and mercy of God shown to him by the death of His Son on Calvary, to pay his debt of sin.

[2] In like manner, dear saint of God; if you and I backslide against God, we do so in spite of all the goodness and kindness of God to preserve us and care for us. Just like Israel of old, we Christians so easily forget or ignore the goodness of God shown to us each day. Most of us do well to thank Him occasionally.

Often I have heard people say, “How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!” Yes, God is good when He sends good weather.

But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us.

“No, Corrie,” said Betsie, “He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: ‘For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.’”

Corrie concludes, “There is an ocean of God’s love available—there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love—whatever the circumstances.”[6]

B. Israel Departed from God in Spite of His Provision for Them.

Jer. 2:7 “And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.

8 The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.”

C. Israel Departed from God in Spite of His Profitableness to Them.

Jer. 2:11 “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.

12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord.

13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewd them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

NOTE: [1] The word “glory” is a surrogate term for Jehovah God. God indicated that He would have given Israel spiritual satisfaction when He said, “…they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters…” (v. 13a).

[2] God also indicated that Israel’s idolatry had only brought about their spiritual stagnation. He said, “…and hewd them out…broken cisterns that can hold no water” (v. 13b).


A. Sin Brought Calamity to Israel.

Jer. 2:14 “Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? Why is he spoiled?

15 The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant.

16 Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head.”

B. Sin Brought Chastisement to Israel.

Jer. 2:17 “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way?

18 And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor (“Black River”[7]—a reference to the Nile)? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river (“the Euphrates”[8])?

19 Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.”

NOTE: [1] When the child of God chooses to rebel against God’s will in their life, whether they realize it or not, they have chosen to shoot themselves in the foot. Notice that the saints bring judgment upon themselves, as brought out by the statements, “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself…” (Jer. 2:17a); “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee…” (Jer. 2:19a).

[2] Verse 18 above, points out that Israel had more confidence in their alliances with Egypt and Assyria than they did in Almighty God. Their reliance upon heathen nations for protection led to their ultimate defeat and decline.

[3] Why does God chastise His children? Chastisement isn’t always a matter of punishment for sin. Billy Graham comments on the subject:

The Bible says, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” If life were all easy, wouldn’t we become flabby? When a ship’s carpenter needed timber to make a mast for a sailing vessel, he did not cut it in the valley, but up on the mountainside where the trees had been buffeted by the winds. These trees, he knew were the strongest of all. Hardship is not our choice; but if we face it bravely, it can toughen the fiber of our souls.

God does not discipline us to subdue us, but to condition us for a life of usefulness and blessedness. In His wisdom, He knows that an uncontrolled life is an unhappy life, so He puts reins on our wayward souls that they may be directed into the paths of righteousness.[9]


A. Israel was Degenerate, but Denied It.

1. They gave the outward appearance of righteousness, but their hearts were corrupt.

Jer. 2:20 “For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.

21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?

22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God.”

NOTE: [1] God, via the prophet Jeremiah, laments the true nature of God’s chosen people, as demonstrated by their deeds of unfaithfulness to God in the past. He said, “I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress…” (v. 20a). However, though Israel promised to mend their ways and wickedness, they continued to worship false gods. Albert Barnes translates the thought of verse 20 as follows:

If the “yoke” and “bands” refer to the slavery in Egypt from which Yahweh freed Israel, the sense is - “For of old time I Yahweh broke thy yoke, I burst thy bands,” not that thou mightest be free to do thy own will, but that thou mightest serve me: “and thou saidst, I will not serve.”[10]

[2] In verse 21, God seeks to point out to Israel just how far they had fallen away from God. The Lord had provided them with everything necessary for his people to know Him and serve Him, yet they rebelliously corrupted themselves. Clarke renders the thought of verse 21 as follows:

I gave thee the fullest instruction, the purest ordinances, the highest privileges; and reason would that I should expect thee to live suitably to such advantages; but instead of this thou art become degenerate; the tree is deteriorated, and the fruit is bad. Instead of being true worshippers, and of a holy life and conversation, ye are become idolaters of the most corrupt and profligate kind.[11]

[3] Notice how futile is the sinner’s attempt to cover their transgressions before God. Jehovah said, “Even if you used the strongest of detergents, your sins would be as obvious to me as a filthy stain.” The term “nitre” refers to:

…a mineral alkali, deposited on the shores and on the bed of certain lakes in Egypt…In ancient times, this natron was collected to make lye from for washing purposes (comp. <202520>Proverbs 25:20). Sope; rather, potash; the corresponding vegetable alkali (comp. <230125>Isaiah 1:25).[12]

[4] Denying our sinfulness before God is futile. It changes nothing. However, as Dr. J. Mike Minnix has noted:

When someone sees the dirt in his or her heart, a choice must be made. Do I turn away from the “sun” of God’s light and deny it’s there, or do I fall on my knees and repent? Many people are living in denial. We should say with David, “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow!”[13]

2. Israel’s appetite for false gods was tantamount to an “in heat” donkey or camel.

Jer. 2:23 “How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways;

24 A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.

25 Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.”

NOTE: The thrust of these three verses can be understood by the following explanation:

How could they claim innocence when they were carrying on their vile worship of Baal in the Valley of Hinnom with their child sacrifices? Shamelessly, like a young she-camel that has not foaled runs around to find satisfaction, impelled by uncontrolled instinct, so Judah went to extremes of idolatry, chasing after ever-new objects of worship. Modesty and self-control have gone. As a wild donkey in heat sniffs at the wind to find a male (v.24), so the people sought out idols; the idols did not need to woo them. Jeremiah pleads with them not to run their feet bare nor their throats dry in their lust for strange gods (v.25). But they reply that they are determined to do so in spite of God’s warnings.[14]

3. Israel was not sorry for her idolatry; she was only sorry that she had been caught.

Jer. 2:26 “As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets,

27a,b Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face…”

4. Israel’s only use for Jehovah was to help them escape their calamities.

Jer. 2:27c “…but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.

28 But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.”

B. Israel had Departed from God, but Denied It.

Jer. 2:30 “In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.

31 O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?

32 Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

33 Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? Therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.

34 Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these.

35 Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.”


A. Deliverance Would Come by Facing Reality.

Jer. 3:20 “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.

21 A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God.”

B. Deliverance Would Come by Full Repentance.

Jer. 3:22 “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.

23 Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.

24 For shame hath devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.

25 We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”

Theme: God, in urging His people to return from their backsliding, revealed…






Check out the author’s recently released book, entitled, Meditations of the Heart: Thoughts on the Christian Life, at:

Copyright © June 1990 by Rev. Donnie L. Martin. All rights reserved.

[1] Tim LaHaye, The Battle for the Mind: A Subtle War, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), pp. 25-26.

[2] The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, (Chicago, IL; Moody Press, 22nd printing 1987), p. 660.

[3] J. Mike Minnix, former editor of

[4] Ibid, p. 660.

[5] Lectionary Homiletics, Jun 1993, p. 33.

[6] Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983).

[7] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. VI, eds. Frank E. Gaebelein and Richard P. Polcyn, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.) p. 392.

[8] Ibid, p. 392.

[9] Taken from

[10] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible, as found in e-Sword software, version 9.9.1. Copyright © 2000-2011, by Rick Meyers. All rights reserved worldwide.

[11] Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, as found in e-Sword software, version 9.9.1. Copyright © 2000-2011, by Rick Meyers. All rights reserved worldwide.

[12] The Pulpit Commentary, The Ages Digital Library, Ages Software Rio, WI USA, Version 1.0 © 2001.

[13] J. Mike Minnix, former editor of

[14] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. VI, eds. Frank E. Gaebelein and Richard P. Polcyn, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.) pp. 393-394.