From This Time
“Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?” (Jer 3:3-4)
The Lord is reviewing current conditions and the past behavior of the people of Judah. He explains the pattern of their behavior in terms that are not only awful, but they also convey a set pattern. The “forehead” indicated the determined setting of the will, the way someone was making choices, choosing to interpret or receive whatever happened to them in a certain, fixed way. It can be used positively as well as negatively. “Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.” (Eze 3:8-9) A similar idea is brought out concerning Jesus: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk 9:51)
If therefore, they had “a whore’s forehead,” they were setting their course determinedly to be unfaithful to the Lord, and refusing to be ashamed of it. A whore, unless she refuses to be ashamed, finds it difficult to continue in her course. Here, the people of Judah as a whole were characterized by a wholesale rejection of God’s dealings with them, an insistence on interpreting everything in favor of their own ways, and embracing other gods than the living God. But then, we have this remarkable appeal: “Wilt not thou from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?” It is a call to remember soberly and truly the past, to change course now, to cry out as unto a merciful father. This is the wonderful call and promise of the true God, a God of mercy, a God who is able to forgive, rescue, and uphold.
God makes this gracious call to abandon the past, a call to a course “from this time.” To frail humanity, whose past so strongly shapes our thoughts of the possibilities before us, He offers to set us free to choose.
“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song 2:10-13)
The call goes out to the child of God as well, to choose anew to go forward with the Lord. Never mind whether you have followed Him closely or been negligent before—now is the call to “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” God is interested in a forward-going relationship, a drawing closer, a rising higher, an abiding yet closer. A little while ago, I was bemoaning in myself a lack of sufficient self-control in spending some time in some useless activities. I asked the Lord for help, and He let me know that He had activities He would show me that I could fill in those little “bits” of time between other tasks. He had a plan for going forward! “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
There is more in this thought of “from this time.” Consider this scripture: “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.” (Psa 115:17-18) The praising of the Lord that belongs to our time of probation is now. It does no good to keep putting off blessing the Lord by praising and living for Him until we are dead, either from discouragement about the past or due to lack of determination in the present—the time to “bless the Lord” is “from this time forth,” which will take us into “for evermore.”
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Rom 3:23-25)
God is in the business of forgiving and remitting “sins that are past”—He isn’t interested in us continuing in our former state, where we “all have sinned,” but to go forward with Him in righteousness.
The Lord expresses this purpose again in 1 Peter 4:1-3, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” Christ suffered for us, not only to purchase our redemption, but to gain for us a spiritual weapon, a frame of mind, in which the past is sufficient for wrong, and “the rest of the time in the flesh” is for doing “the will of God.” This is made possible by God’s grace to such a degree that it is meant to be spiritual armor!
In this present age, because of Jesus, all the possibilities have changed. “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” (1 Jn 2:8) From this time, the true light shines, and the darkness is past! “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” (2 Cor 6:1-2) God presents us with now. From this time, choose Him. From this time, repent and believe the gospel. From this time, receive the grace of God in substance, not just in form. God wants to change the course of people’s lives, so that something like this can be said of each of us: “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.” (Phm 1:10-11) No longer an unprofitable life to God and others. From this time to be profitable to Him and to others also.
After God has rescued us, His direction is an ongoing “from this time” and forward: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Php 3:11-16)
The Lord wants us to have an incorruptible attainment; that is, to reach eternity having “attained” the resurrection of the dead, to meet our judge in peace. In the meantime, we continue this pattern, of “forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” We never rest on our laurels (which are all to God’s credit, anyway) nor are to be discouraged by sin or any sort of poor performance in the past, but reach forward to and with the Lord. And in the perfection that is attainable in this life, it is our blessed privilege to walk with what we have attained until the Lord shows us whatever needs to be adjusted or corrected, and then move forward into that light with the Lord.
Praise the Lord, “from this time forth, and for evermore.”