Thanks to Rico Cortes, I got a better understanding of what “backsliding” means and I’d like to share it with you.
Imagine that you’ve been transported back in time and you’re standing in front of the Jewish temple, only your back is facing the temple and the Holy of Holies. If the temple is behind you, then the sun is in front of you which is east. (remember that) This is a physical picture of your turning your back on Yahweh since He resides in the temple. “Backsliding” means to turn your back on Yahweh.
It is this same temple service language that is used to describe the spiritual picture of turning your back on the presence of Yahweh and going back to your sins. If you were to take a tour today of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and you were lead by a Rabbi, you would have to walk away backwards while facing the holy ground that the Holy of Holies once stood. The picture is to never turn your back on Yahweh and never turn back to your sins.
Let’s talk about sun worshippers…if you worship the sun which is in the east, then by default your back is facing the temple. Can you see the spiritual significance? What we do in the natural is an indication of our spiritual condition. If you turn your back on God, then by default you are an idolater.
So when you go eastward and are facing the sun, you are turning your back to the temple and the presence of Yahweh. Therefore, you are “backslidden.” This is a literal turning of your body and walking away from Him. Have you ever wondered why the bible talks about ‘so-and-so went eastward?’ Well now, hopefully, you’ll see that there’s much more going on behind the text than just traveling eastward. It alludes to their spiritual condition and how they turned their backs on Yahweh.
When Adam was expelled from the Garden, he went eastward. (Gen 3:24)
Lot, when he left Abraham, he went eastward. (Gen 13:11)
When Cain killed Abel, he went eastward. (Gen 4:16)
When Israel was taken by the Assyrians, they went northeast. (1 Chron 5:26)
When Judah was taken by Babylon, they went eastward. (2 Chron 36:6, 17, 18)
As you can see, there is a strong pattern of individuals and nations going east and backsliding.
“Repentance” is the opposite. If you turn your back on the sun which is in the east, and turn towards the presence of Yahweh, then this is a picture of repentance. In Hebraic thought, “repentance,”, or “teshuva” means to “return to the point of origin.”
The prodigal son story is nice and paints a good picture of backsliding and repentance. But I think that studying from Hebraic perspective and recognizing related themes gives a much richer understanding of the scriptures.