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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 13:23

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

23 Can the Ethiopian change the color of his skin?
      Can the leopard change its spots?
So are you able to do good,
  you who are disciples of evil?

No one can change the color of their skin: white, black, red, brown, yellow or albino. Even a tan will fade with time, and an animal can’t change the color of its hide, either. So the Lord says, you disciples of evil can’t do anything but evil, either. Your sinfulness is a quality of your flesh, and you can’t change it.

The word I’ve translated “disciples” is translated the same way in the NIV in Isaiah 8:16. It’s the word limudey (לִמֻּדֵי), “those who are taught,” and we find it in Psalm 119:7 also: “learn.” So who are the disciples of evil? All of us are sinful, and all of us fall under God’s judgment of sinful mankind, “that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart [are] only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). But here God is talking about something apart from the burden of original sin. He is describing people who willfully reject him, who ignore the promises of Christ, and who spit on the gospel. What hope is there for them? They are the ones who will not change any more than flesh or hide can change color.

This approaches a teaching of Jesus which he described as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10). This unpardonable sin is the rejection of forgiveness itself. That’s why it can’t be forgiven: it rejects forgiveness. We can’t know if someone truly is in this state. We can only guess based on what they say, and to a certain extent by what they do. We can pray for such a person, and we should also continue to proclaim the truth of the gospel. We can’t force anyone to trust in Jesus, but we can, with God’s help, break down their arguments and remind them of God’s forgiveness in Jesus. The Holy Spirit will do all of the heavy lifting. We’re like little boys and girls helping a bricklayer working on a wall. We carry the bricks to the job site in our wheelbarrows of faith, and we dump them out where they need to be used. But the Holy Spirit is the one who places each one of those bricks—our moments of sharing our faith, showing our faith, quoting God’s holy word—exactly where they need to be. So, boys and girls, keep on hauling your faith around with you. The Spirit will use those moments and professions and confessions of faith, even if you don’t know how or where. On the other hand, even the boys and girls who help their father build a wall know where the gate is, and where the wall needs more work. So get to work, and take your bricks where they’ll do some good.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.