Backsliding Its Cause And Cure

Deuteronomy 4:23-31

"My Lord, I covet not the breath
Of grand renown,
But rather that which lies beneath
A blood-bought crown.
Fain would I hold, if but small cup,
To thirsty lips,
Fain would I shine but to light up
Some soul's eclipse. "

Whatever occupies the chief place in our hearts and lives takes the place of God and becomes our god. We are constantly in danger, as Israel was, of allowing visible things to usurp the place of the Eternal One, whom we see not. When the Lord spake out of the midst of the fire in Horeb no manner of similitude was seen (Deuteronomy 4:15). One of the reasons given is, "For the Lord thy God is a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24). Jealous of our faith, and the adoration of our hearts. Backsliding is always manifested by preferring some earthly thing to the Lord.

I. The Cause. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. They are here warned beforehand of how they may retrograde from a God-pleasing life. Circumstances may change, but in principle the causes are still the same.

1. Forgetfulness. "Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 4:23). Forgetting God's Word and forsaking the secret place of prayer. It is so easy to forget our own spiritual need amidst the rush of everyday life. Take heed to yourselves. To forget His promise is to lean on a paralysed arm of flesh.

2. False Worship. "Take heed lest ye make you a likeness of anything which the Lord thy God hath forbidden" (Deuteronomy 4:23). Forbidden images are sure to appear in the minds and thoughts of those who forget God, and the horror of it lies in this, that they are self-made; the deliberate work of a Christ-doubting soul.

3. Self-Corruption. "Ye shall corrupt yourselves" (Deuteronomy 4:25). When we turn away from the light we turn into darkness. When we cease to live by faith on the Son of God we begin to corrupt like a member severed from the body.

II. The Effect. Backsliding in heart will soon show itself in the life. There will be-

1. Dispossession. "Ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land" (Deuteronomy 4:26). Their days in the land and their enjoyment of it would not be prolonged if they turned from following the Lord. It is altogether impossible for any soul to enjoy the inheritance in Christ and to prolong their fellowship with Him who has departed from the Lord in their heart. As a matter of experience they shall soon be utterly cut off.

2. Division. "The Lord shall scatter you, " etc. (Deuteronomy 4:27). They were to be scattered among the nations and left few in number. Individual backsliding is always accompanied with division and separation. When they are not of us they will go out from us. When the Lord is dethroned from His true place in the midst of His people schism takes place in the Body of Christ-His Church.

3. Weakness. "Ye shall be few among the heathen" (Deuteronomy 4:27). Few in the midst of the heathen means terrible weakness and helplessness. Robbed of their aggressive power and distinguishing glory as the people of God, instead of a conquering army they become the slaves of their own lust and pride. What a picture of a backsliding Church, crying out about its fewness in number in the midst of an overwhelming and ever growing heathenism. This melancholy situation is doubtless the result of unfaithfulness to God.

III. The Cure. Thank God, that although we may have turned away from Him He has still left the door of restoration open.

1. Confess. "For the Lord thy God is a merciful God, He will not forget the covenant which He sware" (Deuteronomy 4:31). This declaration of His mercifulness and faithfulness in not forgetting His covenant is a powerful plea for those who have forgotten His covenant to confess their sins that they might be forgiven. If we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse.

2. Seek. "If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him" (Deuteronomy 4:29). But note that it is Himself that must be sought. It is Himself that we need. After our Lord rose from the dead He showed them Himself. What else could satisfy their troubled souls and meet all their need. Seek Him, and seek Him from thence, from just where you are, in all your false worship, divisions, and helpless weakness, and bondage. O backsliding Church, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help. Return, O wanderer.

3. Obey. "Thou shalt turn unto the Lord thy God, and be obedient unto His voice" (Deuteronomy 4:30). This is our security, to hold fast the Word of God. Giving heed to other voices can only lead into shame and hopeless failure. The mighty power of Jesus Christ lay in His obedience to the Father's voice and will, and shall it be otherwise with His disciples? To obey is better than sacrifice. This is My beloved Son. Hear ye Him.

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