Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“What Have I Done?”
“I hearkened and heard, but they did not speak rightly.
No man repented him of his wickedness,
saying, ‘What have I done?’ ”
What God found among His people in Jeremiah’s time, He found in the times of other prophets. God would send His prophets to the people, telling each one something like what He commanded Isaiah: “Cry aloud! Spare not! Lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1). Isaiah did this, but a thoroughly backslidden people cannot see what God sees, especially what He sees about them. As Jeremiah would say in the verse following the one above, “My people do not know the judgment of the Lord” (Jer. 8:7).
At least seven times, God sent Malachi to His people to point out specific sins they were committing, but every time Malachi spoke to them about their sin, they responded to by saying to Malachi, in effect, “Why are you saying such things to us?” Malachi told the people that they were despising the name of the Lord (1:6), that they had polluted God’s altar (1:7, 12), that they had corrupted the priestly covenant (2:8), that they had profaned the holiness of the Lord (2:11), that they had made the Lord “weary” with their false doctrines (2:17), that they needed to repent (3:7), that they had robbed God (3:8), and that their words had been “stout” against the Lord (3:13). Yet, in spite of this very plain talk from God, the response from the people and their priests was that they did not understand how Malachi could say such things about them.
It is amazing that people who were so wrong were not able to see that they were wrong at all. It is almost impossible to believe that people who had fallen so far away from the righteousness of the law could not understand that they had, indeed, fallen. But such is a real spiritual condition of some who wander out of the right way. David warned his son Solomon that such a blindness to oneself exists. He said to Solomon, “The way of the wicked is as darkness. They know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). But they “know not” because God refuses to let them know. Remember, all understanding is from God.
One of the reasons that it is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” is that if a man provokes God by stubbornly continuing in wickedness, God has the power to blind him to his sinfulness, so that he cannot repent. This “hardness of heart” is what the Bible calls “God’s curse” (Lam. 3:65). Paul referred to it as “the uttermost wrath” of God (1Thess. 2:16). It is the most dreadful of all spiritual conditions among living men.
If you can see your own fault, you are being loved and called by Jesus. You are being shown grace from God that will lead to forgiveness and salvation if you take advantage of that light given to you by turning from the error of your ways.