By Louis Rushmore
illustrates the rebellious disposition of
the northern kingdom of Israel by referring to that nation as a
heifer.” The Hebrew word for “backsliding” here appears in other
“stubborn,” “rebellious,” “revolters” and “withdrew.” This malignant
to a benevolent God led God to remove his benevolent protection from
resulting in the Assyrian captivity for the survivors of the ferocious
horde that descended upon the nation. The image of a “backsliding
that of the animal backing away or withdrawing from a yoke; Israel
have the yoke of God on it. There is still a yoke that God intends for
people to bear (Matt. 11:29-30).
My own image of
a “backsliding heifer” in my mind is of
a young cow stuck in a mud hole. Imagine trying to manhandle (or
muddy, filthy heifer from some bog into which it has gotten itself.
push as one might, the heifer falters and even works violently against
effort to rescue it.
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Frankly, nothing has changed. God’s people are still
like that “backsliding heifer” of which the prophet Hosea wrote. It is
keep the saved, saved! Push, pull, coax and coddle, but still wayward
often remained bogged down in their apostasy. It seems that for some
Christians, if they make it to heaven, it will only be if someone has a
around their necks, tugging and dragging them, they resisting all the
way—kicking and screaming.
Two other Hebrew words appear in the Old Testament as
“backsliding,” also having to do with apostasy. God said to the prophet
Jeremiah, “Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done?”
Three more times God indicts “backsliding Israel” for her crimes (Jer.
11-12). God refers to his apostate people as “backsliding children”
22) and twice calls his people a “backsliding daughter” (Jer. 31:22;
cites his people for “perpetual backsliding” (Jer. 8:5). Indeed,
persists to this day.
As anciently, so now, often God’s people are “bent to
backsliding from me [God]” (Hos. 11:7). Happily, though, God will take
backsliding people back to himself upon repentance. “I will heal their
backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away
(Hos. 14:4). What congregation wouldn’t be teeming with live bodies
the backsliding heifers rounded up? Oh, that congregational concerns
providing enough seating for those present rather than trying to rope