“But this I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, followed the counsels and dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” (Jeremiah 7:23-24, N.K.J.V.)
I’d had my drivers license only a few weeks when I suffered my first wreck. And what was I doing when I wrecked? Going backward.
My dad, my brother, and I were in our family’s Buick Regal and late for a church-league softball game. We’d gotten about a half mile down the road when I realized that I’d forgotten my glove. So rather than turn the car around like a normal person would do, I just threw the thing into reverse and set about to back all the way home. To this day I have no earthly idea why I did that. My dad, who was in the passenger’s seat, just kept asking, “What are you doing, Russell? What are you doing, Russell?” My brother, who was in the back seat, pulled the old “duck and cover” move in the floorboard.
I hadn’t gotten very far into my adventure when the car started swerving. That should have been my cue that my plan of attack was a poor one, but I just kept going, even picking up momentum, like the guy who hears he’s going the wrong way and doubles his speed. And I continued to pick up speed, like a runaway locomotive, right up until the moment I lost control of the car and put it into the ditch off to my right. I still remember my dad having to crawl out by way of the driver’s door because his door was pinned shut. To say that he wasn’t happy with me would be a sizable understatement.
Our text passage caused me to recall that story because the verses speak of going backward rather than forward. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God tells the people of Judah, “Because your forefathers did not obey My commandments but instead followed their own ideas and desires, they went backward and not forward.” Isn’t that interesting? Here these people were, trying to progress and make themselves better by implementing their own logic and ideas, when in reality that logic and those ideas caused them to regress and become worse.
Even today many people think of God’s word as being old fashioned, archaic, outdated, and irrelevant to these modern times. These people say, “We’ve got to get away from the old standards of the Bible so that we can embrace bold, new ideas for this bold, new age. That’s the only way we can move society forward.” But the truth is that anyone who follows the counsels and dictates of their own heart rather than those of God’s word actually goes backward in life. It’s God who is the forward thinker, not us. And when we ignore His word and follow our own thinking, we barrel in reverse toward an inevitable wreck in an inevitable ditch.