Two important people in my life struggle with anger. Both love God passionately and care about their families. Both have offered apologies and expressed regret repeatedly for outbursts they wish they could take back. I believe this has contributed to my lack of enthusiasm about apologies. I reached the point when I didn’t want another apology; I simply wanted the outbursts to stop. I wanted to feel peaceful instead of anxious, anticipating when their anger might erupt again. Both of these people have come a long way in their battle with anger, but I cannot say the scar of empty words hasn’t stayed with me.
Words are important. According to Proverbs 18:21, they have the power of life and death. However, words of intent without follow through are just wishful thinking. They are the New Year’s resolutions we make without a plan to see them through. They are the apologies we offer even when it’s obvious we don’t mean it. They are the promises we make to God but don’t keep (such as saying that we love God but refusing to get along with His children). They are empty words with no actions to back them up.
The people of Judah had a lot of experience in offering empty words. They cried out to God on several occasions, declaring their intent to change their ways, but there were no actions to back up their words. They didn’t demonstrate true repentance.
Have you ever been driving the wrong way and your smart phone or GPS said, “Recalculating”? Then it rerouted you so that you were turned back toward your destination rather than away from it. A similar concept happens in life when we get off course spiritually. Once we acknowledge we are moving in the wrong direction, we must turn around—repent—and go God’s new way, which gets us to the destination of intimacy with Him.
In Jeremiah 14 we see that the people of Judah were crying out for rescue, but God knew their hearts. Their motives weren’t right. Listen to their cry for help and the Lord’s response:
O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble, why are you like a stranger to us? Why are you like a traveler passing through the land, stopping only for the night? Are you also confused? Is our champion helpless to save us? You are right here among us, Lord. We are known as your people. Please don’t abandon us now!” So this is what the Lord says to his people: “You love to wander far from me and do not restrain yourselves. Therefore, I will no longer accept you as my people. Now I will remember all your wickedness and will punish you for your sins.” (vv. 8-10)
They wanted God’s hand of help without any relationship or repentance. It’s like the rebellious teenager who consistently makes bad choices but then wants to be bailed out of the penalties every. Softening the pain of consequences won’t help the teen to change. Like a good parent, God chose to allow Judah to experience the difficulty brought upon them by their bad decisions.
There is always a penalty for sin. God is holy, and sin separates us from Him. This helps us understand why the cross is so significant. God continually offers us hope, and this hope centers on Jeremiah’s prediction of a future Messiah. Although Jeremiah did not know Jesus’s name, His faith in the future Savior assured his salvation as much as my faith in Jesus does. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was the necessary payment for our sin so that we can be restored to a right relationship with God. This is the good news of the gospel. However, the gospel message also includes repentance. Repentance is not just admitting our sin; it is turning from it.
God wants more than words. Real faith reveals itself through actions. It turns away from sin and toward a holy God. Let us learn from the people of Judah that God wants us to fully yield our words and our lives to Him. When our mouths say one thing but our actions reveal something else, we are only lying to ourselves. Awareness and action are two different things. We can desire to stop a harmful habit and even cry out to God for help, but without actions to back up our words, they are empty.
- Where is God’s Holy Spirit like a GPS in your life calling out “recalculating?”
- Is there a new direction He is calling you to take in repentance?
- As you cry out to God for rescue – consider where He might be calling you to walk in repentance down a path that leads to Him – He is waiting with open arms for all of us prodigal children headed home!