"From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush." (Jeremiah 6:13-15).
Only one writer in all of Scripture ever used the word "blush." His name was Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. The interesting thing is that Jeremiah is not referring to anyone blushing; rather he's confronting God's people for not blushing!
Why would Jeremiah chastise God's covenant people for not blushing? If blushing is a reaction to shame or embarrassment, then the fact that they weren't blushing about their sin is alarming. The reason is that they had become so used to accommodating offensive practices in their lives and community and worship that they exhausted their capacity for shame.
Their moral, spiritual, family and community lives were unraveling. God's people were decaying from sin. They had abandoned their first love and they were coming apart.
The prophet Jeremiah was saying, "Doesn't it bother you that you're living like you are? Well, it should." And he's saying to the spiritual leaders, "Why aren't you speaking out against sin? Why are you saying, 'Shalom,' 'God's peace dwells among us,' when there is no shalom? Don't you see the breakdown of moral law and families and the wholesale disregard for God's power and creation? Why have you stopped believing in the absolutes of God's law and accepted relativism in your lifestyle and worship? Why do you shrug at authority and have a jaundiced view of Scripture? Do you not see what's happening to yourselves? You've become smug!"
Lives that go unchecked don't weep over sin. Neither do they blush.
It's a terrible day in Judah. And the only cure is for God's people to return to Him on His terms and not on their own terms anymore. The Israelites were participating in actions and attitudes displeasing to the Lord. God called this "sin." Still does. Instead of blushing, they were winking at sin.
Jeremiah is saying here that if sin in your life or in your culture does not bother you, if you wink at sin, then you need to be restored to the place where it does bother you.
Francis Schaeffer describes restoration this way in his reflection on Jeremiah in his book, Death in the City. He argues that the church in our generation will be restored if it returns to reformation and revival. Reformation refers to a restoration to the authority of biblical doctrine. It's a return to the all-authoritative teaching of Scripture and impressing it upon your hearts. Revival refers to a restoration of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life. A life brought into proper relationship to the Holy Spirit.
I would argue that you cannot begin to blush again until you have returned to delighting in God's Word, savoring it and allowing it to make pliable the areas where your heart has become hardened—reformation. And that you cannot begin to blush again until your heart yields to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit within you—revival.
In the days of Judah God's people were saying, "We like the drive for success, personal gain and cheap self-gratification" (6:13). The religious leaders were saying, "Shalom. Peace. We support the lifestyle of our community. They're OK people and they provide our salary" (6:14). The society was saying, "There's nothing to be ashamed of what we're doing" (6:15).
Jeremiah cried out, "Yes there is!" And the test of their waywardness was that they didn't know how to blush. They lost their capacity for shame. That lost capacity for shame still plagues God's people.
The book of Jeremiah shows how God grieves when His people who know Him have turned away, maybe not in their minds and professions, but in their hearts.
For followers of Christ, it's a daily return to the cross where restoration finds its source in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of all of us so that those who come to him may be made new. It's then we will know what it means to blush, to have the capacity to be ashamed, to have a restored life in Christ.
Dr. Corey is the eighth president of Biola Unviersity, a Christian school in La Mirada. Dr. Corey, a Fulbright scholar, has extensive experience in the field of higher education.
Published, November 2009