By Lewis Willis
The history of the ancient nation of Israel was long and turbulent. Almost every Bible student is aware of the time they spent in slavery in Egypt. We remember the difficult years of the Exodus under Moses, the years of battle under Joshua as the people were settled in the Promised Land, and the disturbing days of the period of the Judges. Things did not improve a great deal under Saul, David and Solomon, Israel’s three great kings. After the death of Solomon, the nation divided, continuing in this condition until 721 B.C. when the northern tribes were taken into captivity by the Assyrians. What remained was known as the Kingdom of Judah. This small kingdom continued to exist until it fell captive to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
The period just prior to the Babylonian Captivity is the period on which this article focuses. Sin was rampant in the nation and there seemed to be no one with the interest or influence who could call the people away from their sin and back to God. Among those who tried was the great prophet Jeremiah. He was so saddened by the wickedness that prevailed in
Israel that he is known as “the weeping prophet.” I want to focus on just one statement that he made in trying to get Israel to come to its senses.
“Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jer. 2:32). Jehovah identified the problem – the people had forgotten him! No longer were they attempting to do his will. No longer was there a reverence and fear of Jehovah. No longer did the people know God’s law, nor were they teaching it to their children as God desired. No, they had turned aside to the abominations that existed in the world around them. Therefore, God informed Jeremiah that punishment was coming for their sin unless they repented. History records that they refused repentance and they were punished with a devastating 70 years in Babylonian captivity.
I suppose a lot could be written just here about the condition of the world around us, but I want to notice the Church. More and more we see the influences of worldliness, carelessness and indifference literally devastating the Church and its work. It seems virtually impossible to muster the people of God today for any purpose – we will not all gather on the Lord’s Day for a period of quiet worship and reflection. One has to wonder how long God will tolerate this.
The Church is so very much like Jeremiah’s Israel! He wrote, “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, . . . that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:11-13). Many in the Church – too many – have turned aside to that which does not profit in either time or eternity. Too many have turned away from the Lord – they have forgotten him it seems – and they have tried to build for themselves safety and security with the things of this world. As in the days of Jeremiah, we need to repent and return from these things and resume our service to God lest we perish.
David said, “I have remembered thy name, 0 Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law” (Psa. 119:55). He also wrote, “. . . I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches” (Psa. 63:6). I am persuaded there is a desperate need that every child of God stop to consider this matter. It is urgent that we remember the Lord, his name and his law, meditating upon him until we have the will again to return to his way and walk therein. If we do not do so speedily, driving the world out of our hearts and devoting ourselves again to the pursuit of godliness, ours will be but another generation of shame, likened unto the people in that generation before the Babylonian Captivity. Have you forgotten God?
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 7, p. 203
April 2, 1992