The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’ (Jeremiah 7:1-4)
In Jeremiah chapter seven, the Lord told Jeremiah to stand outside the gates of the temple. He then told him to proclaim His words to the people that were going into the temple. God was very angry with these worshippers. They had become so degenerate they were chasing after false gods. They were also stealing, murdering, committing adultery and even burning their children as sacrifices to false gods. Yet, on the Sabbath, they showed up to the temple to worship God, BELIEVING that all was forgiven because THEY WERE GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE. And God told them (and I'm paraphrasing here): "You think that is going to save you from my wrath? You think by walking through these doors on the Sabbath, you are automatically forgiven of all your sins, cleansed, and made new just because you're here? I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh!" (Jeremiah 7:9-15)
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)
The above verse is probably the most familiar verse in the Bible. On Sunday mornings in many churches it is the final benediction or blessing before people leave the service. On the Sabbath (Saturday) in synagogues around the world, this particular blessing is also used as a way to end the service. However, it doesn't stop there, but is also carried on into the home. For example, on Friday night when the Sabbath starts, parents say this blessing over their children. Today, Jews who are in attendance for morning prayers will have this blessing said over them by the rabbis.
Do you remember when Spock would say, "Live long and prosper" when addressing someone in the Star Trek universe? Leonard Nimoy (the actor who played Spock) was Jewish, and it was from the rabbis in his synagogue that he first saw the sign of the spread fingers. In fact, he told a story where, as a young boy, he was admonished never to look at the rabbis while they were saying this prayer. Why? According to Jewish tradition, the Divine presence would shine through the fingers of the priests as they blessed the people, and no one was allowed to look out of respect for God. Interestingly, the symbol of the spread fingers is the letter Shin in the Hebrew alphabet, which is the first letter in Shaddai (El Shaddai means the All Sufficient God) and it is the prayer above where the priests/rabbis would spread their fingers.
But what is so special about this blessing in particular? This blessing is said in Jewish traditions a number of times. For example, besides being used as a benediction, it is used during Jewish weddings when the couple stand under a chuppah (a canopy), where they would be blessed by their parents or the rabbi in attendance. It is also used during the circumcision ceremony (brit milah) when a baby boy is eight days old. So there are many ways the blessings is used, but it began with a command from God to Aaron (Moses brother) that it was to be a blessing from God said over the people of Israel. Originally, it was said only by the priests (the kohanim) of God, but nowadays it is accepted that people will use it as a blessing on their loved ones.
So let us look at this verse closely, because I want you to be able to grasp the important significance of such a blessing. One thing I want to stress is that the priests were not giving their own blessing. This was a blessing from God Himself. The priests/rabbis were merely the means in which to transmit this blessing. This is confirmed by the verse immediately following the blessing. "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them" (Numbers 6:27).
There are three parts to this blessing:
The Lord Bless You and Keep You
What does it mean "to bless"? The word bless in Hebrew conveys the idea that our weaknesses are strengthened by God's strength. In fact, the root word for bless is barukh and means to kneel, or humble ourselves as an act of adoration. So in our weakness we kneel before God and He blesses us, or strengthens us through His mighty power. The blessing above when said as a benediction at the end of a service is meant to convey the idea of sending us out into the coming week with the strength of God resting on us. To accomplish what we cannot do on our own, because we are weak.
Most Hebrew prayers begin with Barukh atah Adonai, "Blessed are You Lord," which reminds us of God's power and strength, at the same time humbling ourselves before Him. So, Numbers 6:24-26 does not mean that God is humbling Himself, it means He is imparting His strength to us by passing on His blessing of strength. And the first verse goes further. Not only is God blessing us with His strength but He is "keeping" us within His care. 'Keep' in Hebrew is shamar and means to "keep, watch over, guard or protect." So these first words of blessing from God mean, quite simply, that God is blessing us with His strength and watching over us. This does not mean we will never experience tragedy. It simply means God's eye is upon us, watching over everything we do and blessing us as we carry out His work here on earth.
The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You, and be Gracious To You
The Lord said in Exodus 33:20 that no one could look at Him at live (survive). So what does it mean when He wants to "make His face shine upon us"? This is an incredible statement from the God of creation to His children. 'Face' in Hebrew is paniym and it has a variety of meanings, like "favour, countenance, presence or person". So in this blessing from God, He is making His presence or favour shine upon us. God's Holy Spirit, is an ever present light within our hearts that searches out and knows us intimately. Nothing can be hidden from Him. 'Gracious' in Hebrew is chanan and means "to show favour or mercy." So, the second half of this blessing is God bestowing His light or presence upon us and showing us His mercy or favour.
The Lord Lift up His Countenance Upon You, and Give you peace
The same word for face is also the same word for countenance. So what is the difference here? Picture a father lifting his child up into his arms and gazing lovingly upon him. That is what God our Father is doing here. He is lifting his face, his countenance upon us with that same kind of love. And what does a father who loves his children want for them above all else? Peace, contentment, joy, good health. This blessing from God is an amazing example of how He views His children. How can anyone who believes in God therefore, not reciprocate with complete adoration and praise to the One who blesses us so freely? The next time you hear this benediction in church let the importance of who this blessing is from wash over you. It is not just something the minister or priest says as the end of the service. This is a blessing from God above, meant for His children. Receive it with joy and thanksgiving and take it with you throughout the week, remembering that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are His child and He loves you very much.
The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 3:6-10, NKJV).
In the verses above we see the sin Israel committed. We also see God calling Israel to return to Him. When she didn't, her sister Judah followed her into sin. So, God cut Israel off from His presence. This is something the USA and Canada should heed. Both countries have banned God from schools, the marketplace and from the halls of government. And now apparently the U.K. has also decided that God doesn't matter and a U.K. judge is calling for Britain to be systematically de-Christianized. When you stop honouring God and remove all traces of Him from life, the end result will not be good and Israel is the perfect example of how devastating that can be.
Jeremiah 3:8 states that God had given Israel a “writ of divorce”. The word for divorce in Hebrew is kĕriythuwth and it comes from the root word karath which means to cut off. It also means to “cut a covenant”. So God is saying he is cutting his covenant with Israel. This is serious! He had sent Israel away and cut her off from Him. The nation He had called to be holy, to be an example to the world, was now so far away from God, He wanted nothing to do with them. He not only removed His hand of blessing (Jeremiah 3:3) but He removed them from His presence. This is Canada! This is the USA! Yet Judah, seeing Israel cut off from God's presence, did not fear losing their relationship with God and followed Israel into sin. This is now the U.K. and every other Christian country that has said no to God. It is every person who has said no to God. If you don't want Him in your life, He will not suffer your presence and He will remove Himself from you. But what happens when you realize your mistake? Judah pretended to repent of her disobedience and return to God. But God saw through Judah's pretense of repentance and knew it wasn't real. If confession is not followed by true repentance,God is not fooled.
In Jeremiah 3 we not only see how serious God is about sin, but how merciful and willing He is to take back those who have sinned when they repent. In fact, I would have to say that Jeremiah 3 sets a tone for all people who have failed God, fallen into sin and want to return to Him. It is clear throughout the chapter that God's desire is for His people to return to Him. However, a simple, "I'm sorry Lord I messed up, please forgive me," will not do. With confession there must be true repentance. However, sometimes our actions of disobedience come with consequences that we have to suffer through. And though Israel eventually did repent, she still needed to be entirely cleansed of her sin. Israel's flagrant sin toward God, would lead to their exile from the land. They would lose their temple and their city (Jerusalem), while they spent seventy years in Babylonian captivity. Even when we confess and repent, sin still has its consequences. So be willing to accept them.
So what do we do? How can we make ourselves right with God if we have fallen away from Him? Some Christians believe that since they accepted Jesus as their Saviour they no longer need to confess their sins or repent of them. Unfortunately, they use Jesus' saving grace like a "get out of jail free card". Believing that they are no longer accountable to God because Jesus death cleansed them of all sins - past, present and future. And while we are forgiven for all our sins, we should not expect sin to go unnoticed by God. There will always be consequences for disobedience. Loving parents do not let their children defy them or continue to do wrong. Our Heavenly Father is the same way. He loves us too much to let us live in direct defiance of Him and His Word. Those Christians who claim that they are saved by grace and therefore don't need to worry about sin are only fooling themselves. Yes, we have been saved by God's wonderful grace. But are we to take advantage of that grace? What did God ask of Israel in order for Him to accept her back into fellowship with Him?
"Only acknowledge your iniquity. That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice," says the Lord (Jeremiah 3:13, NKJV)
1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR INIQUITY
Iniquity means “premeditated choice, continuing without repentance.” In other words, God wants us to acknowledge that we decided to sin and continued to do so without being sorry for it. Iniquity leads us to have no fear of God because we wilfully continue to sin in His presence. God wants us to acknowledge that we wilfully sin against Him.
2. Acknowledge your transgressions
Transgression is presumptuous sin. It means “to choose to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.” I realize that sounds a lot like iniquity, so let me give you an example between the two. When David slept with Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered - that is iniquity. Premeditated choice. Transgression is slightly different. For example, when we lie or knowingly run a stop sign. It could be a one-time thing. Like when Samson broke his Nazarite vows by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1-5; Judges 14:8-9). So God wants us to acknowledge those sins we continue to partake in (iniquity) and those sins that we commit without thought (transgression).
3. acknowledge You have not obeyed God
After naming your sin for what it is (don't sugar coat it, or come to God with excuses about why you sinned) acknowledge that you have disobeyed God. You tuned His Holy Spirit out. You disregarded His commandments. You forsook His Word. You sinned. Admit it. As long as your sin goes unconfessed and you have an unrepentant heart, you are mocking God. You have (like Judah) just paid lip service to God. You have broken your fellowship with God. Yes, you are still saved through the grace of Jesus' sacrifice, but you are living in direct disobedience toward your Creator. When you harbour sin in your life, you are clinging to it more than you are to God. You are placing your love of sin over your love of God. If you continue to sin and say it doesn’t matter because you are saved by grace, you are fooling yourself and mocking God’s saving grace.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Romans 6:1-2)?
Did you happen to notice the main element to confession and repentance? It is acknowledging your sin. When we acknowledge our sin before God and confess how we have erred against Him it should bring us to our knees in repentance. Repentance means turning away from your sin and never doing it again. One of the greatest gifts God gave us was sacrificing His Son so that we might be saved from eternal damnation. Jesus' death resulted in our sins being forgiven - past, present and future. But our sin nature has not been taken away. We are still capable of sin. If you think you are righteous just because you have believed in Jesus as your Saviour, you are fooling yourself. Your belief in Jesus does not make you righteous. His forgiveness of your sins makes you righteous.
If you claim the title of Christian and you realize that you have not been living a God-honouring life, there is only one thing for you to do. Acknowledge your sin before God (confess it) and repent. To those of you who believe in "free grace" and feel there is no need to repeatedly confess your sins and ask for forgiveness - I will remind you that you still have a sin nature. Yes, you are forgiven, but you are still capable of sin. If you are not sinning then you shouldn't have a problem. But if you are sinning and follow it up with a flippant, "I'm forgiven, so it's okay," than my friend you are simply mocking God's grace. Like Judah, God sees right through you. Return to Him, keep the lines of communication open and do not grieve His Holy Spirit any longer. Your are forgiven for your sins - now live like you are.