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Ed Jordan: Facing God, or Turning Our Backs?

Posted: 12/7/18 at 2:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan. 

Most of us are fascinated by watching an analysis of a person’s body language. It seems that while a person is giving one message verbally, their body language is conveying their true feelings or attitude about the subject.

The example of this I have noticed the most is when a person is affirmatively speaking about a subject, but their head is going back and forth in a “no, not true” communication. The consensus view is that a person’s body language much more accurately conveys a person’s attitudes toward a subject than what that person is actually saying.

The old cliché, “Actions speak louder than words,” makes this point clearly.

In my preparation for Advent services I have been reading some areas of the Old Testament which contain prophecies related to the birth of Jesus. In reading Jeremiah, I discovered an interesting statement by God.

God was explaining to Judah that Babylon was going to conquer Jerusalem and burn much of it down. Apparently Judah had shown disdain to God too many times. Jeremiah got thrown into prison for telling Judah that judgment was coming. God spoke to them over and over, but the people of Judah didn’t want to hear what God had to say.

God was basically saying, “Let’s talk face to face,” but instead, they turned their back and walked out.

Jeremiah is in dialogue with God about this subject, and in Jeremiah 32:33 (NASB95) God tells him why Jerusalem would fall: “They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. They have turned their back to me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.”

Body language. God had kept Israel and Judah before his face. He watched over them, cared for them, and loved them. They had a wonderful life—thanks to God’s love, provisions, protection, and care.

Then they started forgetting God, worshiping other things, and ultimately ignoring God. After years of this God finally said, “Enough. I have been pleading with you, asking you, encouraging you to turn towards me, to look me in the eyes.” God was basically saying, “Let’s talk face to face,” but instead, they turned their back and walked out.

So God had decided to give them a wake-up call and gave them a dose of their own medicine as he turned his back towards them. The result would be that their enemies would come in and plunder them. God said they would be in captivity in exile for 70 years; then they would return to the land and begin to rebuild.

Spurning God eventually leads to paying a high price. God wanted them to turn their face to God and have a serious conversation about life, the universe, and everything.

He tried to teach them what was the way forward to a better life, but they pretended to listen while not learning a thing. They verbally said that they loved God, listened to God, and honored God. But their actions and body language told a different story; they had turned their back on God and were walking away from God, not towards him.

They were showing God their back, not their face.

What are the implications of this verse for us today? It is basically the same for us as it was for the original recipients. Christmas is one of the two most powerful expressions of God’s love for you and for me. The crucifixion and resurrection at Easter is the second.

At Christmas, God became flesh in the person of Jesus. God communicated to us in word and deed—verbally and through body action—how valuable we are to him and how deeply he loves us. In Jesus God became vulnerable, entrusting us with his very life, by coming as a little, helpless baby.

Christmas is a time when God turns his face towards us and opens his arms wide to receive us. He opens his heart to us as well. Do we turn to face God, or do we turn our back to him?   Do we walk toward God and beam our love for him across our face? Or do we lose ourselves in lots of activities and ignore him, which is pragmatically turning our back to him?

What is your body language conveying today about your relationship with God? What would “turning our face towards God” look like in demonstrative body language?

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.