Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil.
This is a truly famous verse, and it speaks of the dangers of habit. The first half of the verse is the same in English and Japanese, and is the most famous part, but in the second half the Japanese says, “If they could change, then you who are accustomed to evil could do good.” To me, thinking of our omnipotent God who can do anything, that leaves open a door of hope. However, the probability is indeed vanishingly small. He might not be a good example in other ways, but Michael Jackson’s skin certainly became lighter as the years went by. We have the proverb, “Old habits die hard,” which is a lighter version of this same thought. However, God always leaves open the door of repentance, if we will take it. At the same time, this points out the folly of marrying someone because you think you can change them. As Jesus said about rich people getting saved, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) We are not to give up on anyone, even ourselves, but we are never to think we can change them on our own. However, nothing should stop you from praying. For example, it is certainly appropriate to pray for Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and various other evil people closer to home, but we aren’t to think we ourselves can change them.
This is something I occasionally need to be reminded of – even about myself. I have responsibility there, and my will is certainly involved, but I don’t have the power genuinely to change myself apart from God. That said, choosing to repent releases His power in my life, and I have experienced that multiple times. I’m never to excuse myself, thinking that’s just the way I am, but I am to submit every part of my life, the desirable as well as the undesirable, to God for Him to do with them as He sees fit. I am not immutable! When I run into former students they often exclaim, “You’re just the same!” Actually, I hope not! My exterior ages more slowly than some, but I pray that my interior would keep growing in my Lord. When people talk about my comparative youthfulness I say, “That’s because I never mature.” I certainly hope that’s no more than a joke! I want to keep changing, however my Lord knows I need to, for the blessing of those around me and for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me indeed keep praying for “unchangeable” situations, knowing that nothing is impossible for You, and at the same time leave everything in Your hands, trusting You completely. Thank You. Praise God!