In Jeremiah 6:15 it says, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush”. Jeremiah says these words during a period in Judah far removed from the glory days of David and Solomon. While they had once been the envy of the world, now they were like a garden shed in a desolate field on the verge of blowing over (Isaiah 1:8). Oh how the mighty have fallen!
In the context of Jeremiah 6, he lists some reasons for this. In a word it is sin. But it is not just sin. All nations have sin. All people sin (Rom 3:23). David sinned, but God still established the Kingdom of Israel through his leadership. God will forgive sins. It is not that people sinned that brought them to the point. Rather it was the sin combined with their reaction (or lack of reaction) to it. They were no longer ashamed and no longer blushed.
When someone does something embarrassing and blushes, they are triggering the sympathetic nervous system. It is the same part of the nervous system that triggers your fight or flight response. It is an involuntary reaction. We can not decide to blush and we cannot decide not to blush. It is simply a reaction. Blushing is caused by a reaction from adrenaline that is pumping in the cheeks of the embarrassed individual.
It is actually a unique phenomenon that scientists are quite curious about. The reason being is when adrenaline is pumped through veins in other parts of the body, it doesn’t cause the same reaction that it does on the cheeks.
With the ability to blush, God has designed the human body with a way to certify how we feel. In seeking forgiveness from someone this is very important. People can see evidence on your face that you are truly sorry for the evil that you may have done. They may be more inclined to forgive.
Blushing is something that brings sympathy. I don’t know of many people who enjoy watching someone endure punishing embarrassment. I recently saw a girl trying out a standup routine with a dummy. It was obvious that she had not perfected her act and it was embarrassingly bad. As she went on, my reaction went from wanting to throw tomatoes, to wanting to give her a word of encouragement. The change in myself was having pity on her embarrassment. We can sympathize if someone blushes.
Not everyone blushes at the same things. And not all blushing comes from doing something sinful. Someone may be comfortable singing in front of others and then there might be someone else who is red as a strawberry at just the thought. Blushing can be because of personal embarrassment but not necessarily because of sin.
We can’t will ourselves into not blushing anymore, but we can become more comfortable with the things that might cause us to blush. Thereby, we no longer blush at that specific thing. A young man who has a crush on a girl will blush the first time he talks to her but over time will not have that physical reaction. Because he has gotten comfortable with it.
Now, going back to Jeremiah 6:15, we can appreciate what the prophet is saying. The people have become comfortable in sin. The things that one time they were ashamed of have become such a part of everyday life that they don’t cause a physical reaction. Isn’t that true today?
The latest example in our world is legalized sports betting. It is almost as if it came in overnight without any pushback from a moral voice. Gambling was a thing that people blushed at for centuries. It wasn’t blushed at because the people back then were stupid and not as modern as us today. It was blushed at because it is sinful and it is something to be embarrassed of.
But that is just one sin among many that people no longer are embarrassed at. The sin of fornication is no longer blushed at. People living together outside of married is no longer blushed at. The sin of homosexuality is no longer blushed at. The sin of murdering innocent babies is not blushed at. And the reasons today are the same as they were in Jeremiahs day.
Instead of sin being a reproach, the word of God has become a reproach to people (Jer 6:10). In the minds of many, the Bible holds us back from true progress. People know that the things that they do and believe are embarrassing according to the Bible so they close it. When the opposite is true. “Righteousness exalteth a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34).
When hearts are filled with materialism and the acquiring of stuff, it becomes much easier to keep ones self from blushing (6:13). It is not surprising to see the relationship that people have with sin as we live in homes, societies, and even churches that focus on material things. No wonder no one blushes at sin anymore.
And at the same time, they had preachers that promised them peace (6:13-14). People have been hearing a gospel centered in self esteem for a few generations. Is it any wonder that more people are more self absorbed. Pathetic excuses for preachers have compromised the truth not wanting people to blush. It happens still today (2 Tim 4:2ff). Christ didn’t preach a gospel of self esteem. He preached a gospel of self denial. Emptying ones self and completely submitting oneself to the will of God.
The remedy stays the same as it was then. Jeremiah said to seek the old paths and find the good way (6:16). Don’t look for the new thing, don’t look for what makes you happy. Seek the way of God.