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OPINION | BRENETTE WILDER: Great Is a Leopard's Hope

by Brenette Wilder Special to The Commercial | January 7, 2022 at 2:25 a.m.

"Can a leopard change his spots?" This is a question in Jer. 13:23 used to describe one's inability to change. The expanded thought is that we get stuck in an unchangeable pattern. Coupled with feelings of unquenchable satisfaction or destructible behavior, the pattern can become an instinctive way of living.

For 28 years, I indirectly witnessed an unchangeable pattern between a father and son. The damage between them was exposed when the son saw his father's hypocrisy. They both shared a comfortable blanket forged together with two different sides of offenses.

The son snuggled on the side of unforgiveness, while the father warmed himself with stubbornness. For many reasons, it was cozier to live under a prickly blanket for 28 years, rather than having an honest dialogue toward restoration.

Words like, "I am sorry," were never spoken before the father passed away, but thank God the son forgave his father years after his death.

Similarly, for over 40 years, Jeremiah watched the Southern Kingdom of Judah struggle in an unbreakable pattern. In Jer. 13:23, the inability of a leopard to alter the color of its spot pigmentation is compared to Judah's failure to modify their ways. We read how God requested His people to not get stuck in their sins that will thrust them from His presence.

Instead, He invites them to stay close so that their thoughts and patterns will not become contaminated. But they didn't listen and strayed. They got so far away from His voice of reason that they couldn't hear it over their own self interests. God was enraged. The only way Judah could be restored was to be on the receiving end of punishment. Literally, punishment was the gateway to their salvation.

I found myself pausing as Chapter 13 came to a close. Chapter 13's ending captured a more climatic unable-to-alter moment. It broke my heart's emotional meter after reading verse 27b ― "Is there any hope for you!" (MSG.) Another bible version said, "How long before you will be pure?" (TLB.)

Both versions reflect the state of Judah's heart ― stiff and unmovable. Their character had diminished to useless, fruitless, and unclean living (Jer. 2:5). Judah thought that visiting the temple was enough to build a close relationship with God (Jer. 7:8-11). But they were wrong. Their worthless backward living broke covenant with God (Jer. 1:16). And, in Jer. 7:31, the people took a deeper dive in sin by sacrificing their own children.

They didn't believe that the consequences of their depraved actions would provoke God's wrath of anger. As a result of their misdeeds, the Babylonians conquered them. Thousands were apprehended and imprisoned. (Jer. 52.)

During imprisonment they were not forgotten by God. He never stopped loving them. Lamentations 3:22, written by Jeremiah after the conquest, reinforces this: "The Lord's loving-kindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail."

I believe there is application in this lesson for us today. If God's love never ceases, will we be able to by-pass the repercussions of our sinful actions? Don't bet on it. The book of Jeremiah describes how God dealt with Jerusalem's sin.

Now listen to this parental-like invitation. "Come, let's talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!" – Is. 1:18.

As our Father, He is offering us an opportunity for open dialog, common-sense decisions, and forgiveness of sin through repentance. Scripture additionally tells us God is our hope.

So, no matter what you have done, turn your heart back to God. Don't delay. Don't wait for death or punishment to move you toward a rich relationship. Start now, because nothing is too hard for God to forgive or change.

Brenette Wilder of Lee's Summit, Mo., (formerly of Altheimer, Ark.), is president of Kansas City Teen Summit, author of Netted Together (, and blogger at

Editor's note: Pastors, ministers or other writers interested in writing for this section may submit articles to Writers should have a connection to Southeast Arkansas. Please include your phone number and the name and location of your church or ministry.

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