‘’Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?’’
For a number of years our church held a house party at Bawtry Hall near Doncaster. The speaker at the first one had a repeated theme, and I think it got into everyone’s psyche: ‘’Things can change’’. We took that home with us, and he helped us to really believe it. He kept hitting this nail of truth with his preacher’s hammer until it sunk in!
It is also true to say that people can change. In the Hands of God people can be different. He can make them what they are not. We have a part to play in co-operating with the Lord in our metamorphosis, but we can’t boast of self-improvement. God is in the people-transformation business, and to Him be all the glory!
Tom Hale makes this comment on verse 23:
‘’Here Jeremiah cites a proverb to indicate that Jerusalem’s people were no longer able to change their evil ways. They had become hardened in their sins; they had become slaves of sin (John 8:34). When people persist in sin beyond a certain point – a point known only to God – they cut themselves off from God’s grace; they can no longer turn back; they can no longer ‘’change their spots.’’ This is all true – from God’s perspective. But from man’s perspective, there is always hope; it is never too late to repent…Up until the day he dies, even the hardened sinner can repent; and if he does, God will ‘’change his spots’’ (see Luke 23:32, 39-43).’’ ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1096.
What is the answer of the New Testament to the question posed in verse 23? It surely is that what ‘’the Ethiopian’’ or ‘’the leopard’’ cannot do, Christ can (Romans 5:6; 1 Corinthians 5:17). By His death on the cross Jesus makes it possible for people to be made right with God; through His presence within them by the Holy Spirit He can enable them to live right, more and more, day after day, until they are finally perfected in His likeness. Change is possible.
I understand that a man who had been a drunkard said: ‘’I have no problem believing that Jesus turned water into wine, for he turned beer into furniture in my house!’’ This man got a different skin; changed spots; new colours. In Christ He was a new creation. What He could not do for himself, Jesus did for him.
Prayer: Knowing your power I should never despair of anyone Lord. You change people. And I am aware that as long as I live I will need to pray, ‘Lord change me!’