Bible Descriptions of Backsliding
EXCHANGING FOUNTAINS FOR BROKEN CISTERNS:
… they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
When I was a medical student, I was sent on a working visit to Danfa, a Ghanaian village, for two weeks. Once, during a field trip, we came across another remote village that had no running water. Since the village had no running water, they had dug a large hole in the ground where water gathered. Often, this water was dirty and brownish.
They drank the dirty brown water!
The people in the village bathed, defecated and urinated in it. At the same time they drank from it and used it to cook. This water obviously gave them various diseases and sicknesses.
In the Bible, backsliding people are likened to people who have access to clear running water, but exchange it for dirty, smelly water-just like what I saw in that village.
I am sure you would wonder why someone would leave sweet, fresh, infection-free water, for sickness-infested and dirty water. These are believers who had access to a life of holiness and godliness. However, they have rejected that to live a sinful and demon-controlled life.
God has given you an alternative to the dirty brown water. God is telling you that when you backslide you are going back to something terrible which will eventually kill you. He is telling you not to do something as absurd as drinking that muddy water again.
Becoming a degenerate wild vine
… art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine…? Jeremiah 2:22
The next Bible description of backsliding is that of a good plant which has degenerated into a thorny and strange vine. Here, God shows us how a farmer’s plantation from which he was expecting a good yield turned into a field of thorns and useless weeds. You, the believer, are that beautiful plant of the Lord. Why on earth would you want to allow yourself to degenerate into a thorny and worthless shrub? This is how God sees you when you backslide.
God’s problem with Israel was that He had invested so much love, care, tenderness and time into their lives. Yet they had turned into disobedient, hardhearted and wicked people. Will you allow yourself to become a worthless creature before God? The answer is a definite ”No!“
Becoming a wild camel
…thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways. Jeremiah 2:23
A backsliding Christian is also described as a swift dromedary her ways. A dromedary is another name for a camel. It is a wild and swift creature, which strays anywhere.
The heart of a backsliding person is as restrained as a wild camel. It is not under the control of anything. It is loose and wild. I remember some years ago I went to visit a backsliding Christian in London.
My Friend Had Gone Wild:
The best way I could describe this person was loose and wild. I was trying to bring him back it the Lord. It took me a long time to locate his house. I eventually got to his flat after midnight. He was surprised to see me, and welcomed me into his home. As we got to talking, he realized why I had come. Being a one-time mature Christian who had backslidden, he knew ask the scriptures I intended to quote.
So at point he interrupted me and said, ”Listen, I know what you are going to say, and I know all the Bible verses you are armed with tonight. But I want you to know that I don’t really care.“
So he took out his cigarette and started smoking right in front of me. He said, ”I want you to see me smoking because I am not under any restrictions.“
Then he took out an album and showed me some pictures he had taken with his girlfriend. Some of these pictures were quite suggestive and lewd.
He said, ”I want you to see me as I really am. This is how I am now. This is what I do and there is nothing anyone can do about it!“
Once again he was making the point that he could do anything he wanted to, and that no one could control him. You see, backsliders are like wild camels which have no restrictions and boundaries anymore. Your Christian life is supposed to be governed by God’s Word. When a person backslides he begins to do what he wants to do, and not what God wants him to do. He’s like a wild animal with no checks and controls. God’s Word gives us guidelines that are for our own good but a backslider chooses to live outside God’s law. What a pity!
A wild ass
A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? Jeremiah 2:24
I prefer the Berkeley translation of this verse, which says: Like a wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness, in the hear of her passion snuffing up the wind: in the time of her mating who can turn her lust away?...Jeremiah 2:24 (New Berkeley Version)
Many backsliders are like wild animals heated up with passion looking for a mate. The Amplified Bible puts it this way: No males seeking her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her seeking them .
She Told Me, ” I Have No Time For You!“
I remember one time going on a visit to search out a backsliding sister. I went with a good friend of mine, with whom I was doing some pastoral work. When we got to this backsliding sister’s house, I told her that we had come to find out how she was doing in the Lord. Her house was in a part of the city I didn’t know very well, and it had taken us about three hours to find the house.
When we got there she looked at me with a straight face and said, ”I cannot talk to you now because I am cooking.“
Then I said, ”We have come long way to see you, and won’t you even offer us a seat?“
She insisted that she had no time for us. So after mumbling a hurried exhortation to stay with the Lord, we scurried off. However, this young girl, who had no time for us, would not find time for the Christian brothers who wanted to help her in her spiritual life. But the unbeliever boyfriend had no problem gaining access to her.
The Moffatt of the Bible elaborates further: ”No male need trouble to search for her; all can find her at mating time.“
When you become a backsliding Christian, the Bible says, you become prey to unbelievers. Unbelievers can easily lead you away to sin.
Show me a backsliding Christian, and I’ll show you an easy prey for the devil and his cohorts. Satan capitalizes on the fleshly passions of backsliders, and has little problem finishing them off.
A lady who forgets her ornaments
Can a maid FORGET her ORNAMENTS…? Yet my people have forgotten Me…Jeremiah 2:32
According to Jeremiah, the backslidden person is like a woman who forgets to put on her ornaments.
Many women are attached to their earrings, necklaces and make-up. Some women will never appear in public without adorning themselves with these accessories. (Unfortunately, many ladies substitute outer beauty for inner beauty).
No Time to Pray
They have no time to pray, or read Bibles, but they spend hours putting on all sorts of ornaments everyday.
I must say I have rarely seen a lady who is not attached to her trinkets. God compares the backslidden person to a young lady who has forgotten to beautify herself with her numerous dresses, shoes, necklaces, earrings, mascara and the rest. How unusual!
Jeremiah realized that these things were part and parcel of every normal woman, and that women were very attacked to the trappings.
He likened this bond between a woman and her ornamental accessories to the relationship that exists between a believer and God.
God describes the act of backsliding as a woman forgetting her ornaments.
In other words, backsliding and going away from God are very unusual things. It may not look unusual in the natural, but in the sight of God and the angels it is very strange phenomenon indeed.
Some people remind me of this very thing. Once upon a time they used to sing, praise, worship and even lead other Christians.
Today, They Are Just Nominal Christians:
One thing I am sure of, is that some Christians do not even know that they are backslidden.
If a vibrant charismatic Christian leader becomes just a nominal principled in society, he must understand that he has backslidden. Although people may consider him a good person, in the sight of God he has fallen from the high state that he used to be in-leading people to the Lord, exhorting them, sharing the Word, laying hands on people and so on.
One person comes to mind every time I think of this scripture. She was a vibrant, witnessing and fruitful Christian.
”Oh Pastor, We Still Go To Church“
Now and again, when I see her I ask, ”How is your Christian life?“ She smiles and says, ”Oh Pastor, we still go to church.“
All I can say for her is a good and moral person who does no harm to anything or anyone. However, there used to be more to her Christianity than that! Can a person who was so attached to the active, fruit-bearing Christian experience be separated from this state so easily? I wonder how the heavenly cloud of witnesses feel when they see this happen. Jeremiah could only describe it in one way-a woman separated from her ornaments.
A bride who forgets her wedding gown
Can a mind forget her ornaments, or a BRIDE her ATTIRE?... Jeremiah 2:32
Many brides are in love with their wedding gowns. Before the wedding day, they hang them in their wardrobes to ensure that they don’t get stained. Often, the gown is prepared in advance for the great day (and some gowns cost more than a year’s salary!)
The bride’s cost is worn for only a few hours, but the bride spares no expense when she is buying it. Many women are thrilled to be the bride-the star of the day, the most beautiful woman of the day, the princess of the moment. She walks down the aisle in splendor!
No Woman Forgets Her Wedding Gown!
God is saying that when you go away from Christ you are like a bride who forgot to wear her wedding gown on her wedding day. I think if this were ever to happen it would enter the ”Guinnes Book of Records.“ If anyone reading this has ever heard of a bride going for her wedding forgetting to put on her wedding gown, please write to me immediately!
This is why God is so horrified when they forget their God and backslide. It is simply implausible, inconceivable, and beyond belief. The Bible maintains that a bride cannot be divorced from her wedding dress. No! And that is why God was horrified when you first thought of backsliding.
A lover playing the harlot
…thou hast PLAYED THE HARLOT with many lovers… Jeremiah 3;1
God compares the backslider to a woman who is married to the man of her dreams, but then decides to go after other men. She jumps over the wall at night, leaves her dear, beloved, charming in bed and goes to hunt for ‘fresh blood.’
I know that many people find the profession of prostitution horrifying and repulsive. They cannot imagine how people can abuse their bodies for a living.
She Climbed Over the Wall at Night:
I remember a lovely woman who had a respectable husband. After some years of marriage, this lady began to have affairs with other men. She would climb over the wall and run away at night, when her noble husband was asleep. Can you imagine that?
But let me ask you something else. If your wife not only left you, but went out into the streets to become a prostitute, would it feel like to pass by the red light district and discover your wife busily trading her wares?
This is exactly how God feels when He sees the children He so love standing out there in the world and selling themselves to the works of Satan. How sad!
Eating your own vomit
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. Proverbs 26:11
When it comes to food I am very particular about what I eat. My mother always gave me piping hot food, so I am not used eating food that is not very hot. I have decided not to eat anything I don’t want to eat.
I remember once during a visit to the Far East, I was at a table with some dignitaries.
Did I have to eat the snake?
I must admit it was a very difficult experience for me to swallow a few morsels of what looked like eels, snakes, clams and so on.
God knows difficult it is for us to eat things we do not like.
For most of us there are things we just wouldn’t eat, even if we were starving. For example, your own vomit.
You see, I once saw a dog in my house vomiting some disgusting pudding –like substance.
The dog was eating the strange pudding:
It was so smelly that I just avoided that area of the house. About an hour later, I passed by and I was very shocked to find the dog eagerly lapping up this pudding of vomit. How utterly disgusting! I wondered why the dog was eating it. Was there no other food?
Some of you must have seen this phenomenon before. Well, that is exactly what you go back to your old ways, old boyfriends, old girlfriends and old habits you once vomited out. God is utterly surprised at you.
This reminds us of the prodigal son who ended up eating pig feed. The prodigal son is another description of the backslidden believer. He demanded his share of his father’s property and walked out of his father’s house. He journeyed to a far country and wasted all his substance on riotous living. In the end he had to feed with pigs.
And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat… Luke 15:16
And that is what it means to backslide. If you have the opportunity to eat at the table with your Christian family; why must you end up eating with pigs?
Dear Christian friend, I have tried to describe the horrors of backsliding as graphically as I possibly could. What else can I say? If this message is not clear to you, you may either be deaf, blind or simply dishonest. God is telling us clearly that once we have come to know Him, we will do well to stay with Him. There is no turning back and no falling away.
But we are not of them who drawback unto perdition… Hebrew 10:39
… No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God. Luke 9:62
*Used with permission