Sometimes God immerses us in that which we wrongly desire in order to cleanse and purify our affections. In Jeremiah 13 God sends the prophet on a very unusual mission:
Thus says the LORD to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the LORD, and put it around my waist. And the word of the LORD came to me a second time, “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. 6 And after many days the LORD said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Thus says the LORD: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 13:1–9 ESV)
That’s tough parenting!
God “buried” Judah in Babylon for 70 years in order to heal them of their attraction to idolatry. Basically God did as our grandmothers once did when they caught their children smoking. They locked them in the outhouse with a pack of cigarettes and wouldn’t let them out until they had smoked the entire pack. And then after the vomiting and the headaches had subsided all parties quickly agreed that smoking was not a lifestyle to be pursued any further.
That’s tough parenting!
But it worked!
While the Jewish people had plenty of other problems after the exile (see the Pharisees as exhibit A) they do not appear to have struggled with idolatry.
They were effectively cured.
They had been immersed in the religious practices of Babylon and their desire for such things had been roughly rotted out of them – thanks be to God!
Given that God doesn’t change, and people don’t change, we ought not to be surprised when we observe the same principles and the same approach to spiritual parenting still in effect today. God in his wisdom may allow his children to be given over entirely, for a season, to something they have wrongly desired. He may stop tugging on the back of a man’s shirt, metaphorically speaking, as he leans recklessly into lust, debauchery and pornography.
He may let go and allow that man to spend a season entirely immersed in the filth and soul-crushing inhumanity of sexual perversion. He may leave him to rot as it were and he may allow him to be crushed and to feel his own utter powerlessness before once again – as he had done before in the initial act of conversion – lifting the man out of the muck and setting his feet firmly upon the Rock of our salvation.
God may act in such a way toward a man – or a woman – in order to heal, purge, cleanse and restore.
He is that committed to our growth and sanctification.
He will do the hard work – not gladly and not immediately.
He will first warn and cajole and correct and threaten.
But then, because he is God, and because he loves you, he will do what needs to be done.
He will rot the sin right out of you.
He’s done it before and he may do it again.
He is the LORD and he changes not – thanks be to God!
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast visit the TGC Canada website; you can also find it on iTunes.