by Bill Lambert
“Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”  (Lamentations 1:12)

    Many have referred to Jeremiah as the “weeping” prophet because of his plaintive pleading with the people of God to forsake their ungodliness and return to Jehovah.  God sent him to his people to deliver unto them God's warnings, God's impending judgments, and God's appeal to them to return to the ways of righteousness.  In the passage above, the words are used as if the people as a whole were speaking from their desolation.  These words do not indicate any intention to change, but simply a bewailing of their condition.  

    Their wounds were self-inflicted.  Their sorrow was a result of their own ungodliness.  The real problem at this point was that they really did not see their true condition, and much less did they acknowledge any misbehavior.  They were much like those so often depicted as drunks or addicts who do not think they have a problem.  As these often shrug off any warnings or pleas from those who care about them, so did Israel reject the attempts of the Lord, through the prophets, to call them away from their sin. Insensible to their condition, they regarded the true prophets as nuisances, mere pests, who just wanted to cause trouble. In their self-delusion, they perceived the work of the prophets as that of catering to their whims.  Feeding their self-deception, they steeped themselves in pretense.  Moreover, they required of the prophets that they not speak of God's displeasure, but speak smooth things, prophesy deceits, so they could drift along on their placid sea without guilt. (Isaiah 30:9-11)  If a prophet should refuse to cooperate, he met stiff resistance, and put his life in jeopardy.  Jesus accused the Jews of his day of having the same attitude that their ancestors had.  Their fathers killed the prophets and stoned those who brought the word of God to them. (Matthew 23:29-37)
    The Jews were indeed in a lamentable state, but they were bemoaning the results of their ungodliness, not the ungodliness itself.  Had they been able to see themselves as God saw them, they could have repented, changed their course, and God would have forgiven them.
    We have one of the same problems today that Israel had.  We fail to see that “small” departures from the way of righteousness are,  nevertheless, departures.  Every move in that direction is a move away from God.  We should just recognize that God knows all about us and he knows what is best for us.      
    Apostasy rarely occurs on a grand scale, so it is difficult to detect that it is even taking place.  As a case in point, I once read of a statement from some elders to the flock among them concerning the appointment of deacons.  They were about to appoint some deacons and they would be male and female.  They said that the change in the Sunday morning worship service would be initiated “gradually.”  This is how Satan works in such situations...gradually.  So slowly that it is almost imperceptible.  That is why we are warned to give constant attention to the truth that we have learned, for inattention will bring about “drifting.”  (Hebrews 2:1)  Minute adjustments in our course must be made as we monitor our relationship with God and his word.  Such can make all the difference in our destiny.

    Those who fancy themselves the “enlightened ones” among us would have us think that we have just had it all wrong.  We just thought that we understood the teaching of Jesus concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage.  Now, we are told, depending upon who is doing the talking, just about anybody who wants to divorce his mate may do so, for whatever reason, and then marry anybody he wants to, with God's approval.  That will score points with a lot of people, particularly those who are in a questionable marriage, or who have close ties with someone who is.  There seems to be a pattern among those who have felt the need to “re-think” these matters.  They have a “vested interest” in the outcome of their investigation.  We all like to think that those we love are doing what is right, and if we are not careful, we may try to stretch truth to “fit” the circumstances.  This does not change the truth, but feelings are soothed.  We must realize that eternity is at stake and no earthly relationship is worth missing heaven for.  (Matthew 16:26)
    Some would have preachers “soft-pedal” the truth and not be specific.  After all, we are told, no one is perfect.  One person, disturbed at the “kid gloves” approach, pointed out that some are trying to take the fire out of hell as the sectarians have sought to take the water out of baptism.  There is no excuse for deliberately brow-beating someone, but no apology is needed for the plain presentation of truth.  The Lord and the apostles spoke plain truth and directly to the situation at hand.  How dare we to presume upon improving upon the manner of their preaching.  The Bible teaching is straightforward.  Let us be straightforward in our dealing with it.

    It is time to awaken from our slumber and get back to the basics.  We should see the symptoms of departure in doctrine and practice.  As we said before, eternity is at stake...for us, for our children, and for those whom we seek to help.