Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah is a book that is filled with what feels like doom and gloom. The prophet lived during the reign of evil kings and undoubtedly witnessed great atrocities during his lifetime. He spent forty years sharing the messages God had given him and calling the people of Israel to repent and return to the One True God. During this time, Judah made a show of repentance. It was not a heartfelt brokenness over her sin, only an outward removal of it. But inside, deep down, Judah still desired the idolatry that so angered the Holy One. She was a hypocrite.
So displeased was the Lord that, in verse 11, He declared faithless, unrepentant Israel to be more faithful than Judah in her outward display of false humility!
Today’s society lends itself to this all too well. In the church culture we are able to mask our sin in many ways: church attendance, Bible studies, wearing the “right” clothes or hanging out with the “right” people. We can also mask our own sin by throwing ourselves into service, especially that of a public nature.
But God is not fooled.
Our attempts at outward spiritual cleanliness do nothing to mask the dirt that is clouding our hearts and minds. Refusing to admit sin, weakness, or unbelief does not advance us in God’s kingdom, nor does it make those things “go away.” The sin takes root, grows and infiltrates. It steals, kills and destroys lives, marriages, relationships, and joy. We become hypocrites and, when the awful truth comes out, our witness is ruined and the Kingdom is wounded.
God is not looking for outward perfection. He does not want us to be sparkly, happy clappy Christians who appear untouchable. That is not real. It is not spiritually healthy. It is toxic. No, God want us to return to Him with our whole heart…even the sinful part. He asks us to admit to the ugly, confessing our weakness, begging for Him to restore the years the worm has eaten. He wants us humble and only then can He enable us to live holy lives. Contrived obedience, which is an effort to mask sin and avoid the confession of it, is like filthy rags…in the Old Testament the word translated “filthy rags” was actually referring to menstrual rags. Our works are disgusting when they are the attempt to mask a divided heart.
Isn’t it freeing, on this Easter weekend as we await Sunday morning’s promise, to be able to turn our faces to God and offer up our whole heart in the warmth of His loving gaze? Friends, He knows what you have done. He has seen it all. Yet he beckons you to run to him, throwing yourself into his arms and receiving His beautiful Daddy Love that is yours for the taking. Return to Him. Take off the mask and shed the chains of works-based religion. Your Abba awaits. He loves you so.