Summary: A description of certain backsliders in the Bible
’Backsliders of the Bible’
Jeremiah in the third chapter of his prophecy uses the word ’backsliding’ to describe the condition/conduct of the people of Israel. The wicked sin of spiritual adultery was openly committed by the ten tribes of Israel which eventually caused them to be brought into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Judah followed in their idolatrous footsteps and Jeremiah appealed to Judah: ’Turn thou unto me. But she returned not.’ (Jeremiah 3:7)
On five other occasions he calls for the return/repentance of backsliding Judah but they would not! The deliberately wicked and wretched sin of spiritual adultery, they literally ’played the harlot’ by going after strange gods called here in this extended passage ’stones and stocks’ (Jeremiah 3:9) referring to idols and trees where the worship of Baal was commonly practiced.
Going mightily after other gods, committing spiritual adultery, and playing the harlot might not be the way the sins of today’s Christian are described, however, the principle of having other gods replace the God of the Bible in our lives is also just as commonplace as the Baal worship of Israel and therefore just as much the driving cause for backsliding in our lives today.
When the child of God ’plays the harlot’ by cramming his mind with the devil’s doctrine and displays found in any number of electronic gadgets in the average Christian home, and adopts ungodly rebellious attitudes, becoming just another mass consumer of whatever the world has to offer, things move in and take over the place or priority of our heart, spiritual adultery is committed just as sure as the nation of Israel and Judah committed the sin of idolatry with strange gods in their day!!
Backsliding is an Old Testament word with a modern day application, yes, backsliding is the word used to describe a child of God who is deeply settled into an ungodly habit of deliberately sinning against God! Comfortable in practicing idolatry was the sin for which Jeremiah condemned the Israelites!
They refused to turn to God in repentance and therefore had to suffer judgment at the hand of a loving God, the one who had ’married’ (Jeremiah 3:14) them, and continued to call for them to ’return’ (Jeremiah 3:22) but they would not! However, backsliding can also be used to describe the ways of a child of God who has allowed their ungodly desires to become the controlling factor in their life, rather than the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible gives many illustrations of backsliders, one of the most notable being King Saul. Here is a man who was given great opportunity by God to succeed. He was anointed king of God’s chosen people Israel by the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 10:1). ’The Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied’ (I Samuel 1:10), he was humble in the beginning hiding ’himself among the stuff’ (I Samuel 10:22).
However, he omitted the necessary daily reading of God’s Law as prescribed by Moses for kings (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) and his ensuing self-will restricted his influence for God (I Samuel 13:12). He then became proud (I Samuel 15:17) and directly disobedient to God becoming guilty of rash vows (I Samuel 15:11-23). Jealous of David, he tried to kill him even though David was loyal to him to the end (I Samuel 18, 19).
Irrational superstition led him to the forbidden adversary of God, the witch of Endor, an emissary of the devil himself! (I Samuel 28). Wounded in battle with the Philistines he chose to commit suicide, tragically ending his own life (I Samuel 31). The downward slide of Saul came about gradually to be sure, but the steps to his fatal end are clear. His obvious daily negligence of the Word of God was where it all began.
Then, he did not keep the commandment of the Lord. Instead of waiting on the Samuel the Lord’s priest to offer sacrifice to God he ’forced’ (I Samuel 13:12) himself intruding into the priest’s office and offered a burnt offering! This total disregard for God’s will is a definite indicator of the condition of Saul’s heart.
His open disobedience before all clearly shows that he was not right with God, he was not in communion with the Lord, he definitely was not controlled by the Lord as in times past, but instead his self-will caused him to blatantly sin against God and those under his authority! Samuel’s verdict indicates Saul’s disobedience:
’Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee; for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.’ (I Samuel 13:13)
Secondly, his backsliding intensified as he continued to plunge into the depths of disobedience by literally rejecting the Word of the Lord! I Samuel 15:22, 23 Samuel rebukes Saul for disobeying God for not completely following God’s orders to ’utterly destroy’ (I Samuel 15:3) the Amelekites and all their belongings. He instead spared Agag the king ’and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them’.