Pastor Steve Ellison
Last time we considered the question found in Jeremiah 3:1-5: Have we called on God uselessly? The point being that our call would be useless not because God is unfaithful (He is not) but rather because we are unfaithful. The next question comes immediately, in fact in the very next verse. In spite of it being in the next verse, many believe that it is in a different prophecy given at a different time than that in verses 1-5. That may be significant but not for my devotional approach here.
YHWH gets right to the point and bluntly so. Judah is judged even more harshly than her older sister who was just wiped from the face of the earth by the Assyrians. In verse 6, Israel is described as faithless (or backsliding). In verse 7 we find out that Israel refused to repent, and Judah refused to learn from Israel’s experience. In verse 7, Judah is described as being treacherous instead of simply faithless. It seems that Judah was deceitfully hypocritical in their counterfeit worship of YHWH. Verse 8 is a virtual repeat of verses 6-7 and uses the same terminology to describe faithless Israel and treacherous Judah. Verse 10 repeats for a third time the charge of treachery but adds deception to the charge. Verse 11 repeats the charge of treachery against Judah a fourth time.
Things get really interesting in verse 12 as God offers the gift of repentance to the ten northern tribes (Israel) which had long ago been carried off into captivity by the Assyrians. Perhaps that offer to scattered Israel is to provoke Judah into repenting as well. Jeremiah 3:11 And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 “Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the Lord; ‘I will not be angry forever. 13 ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the Lord. 14 ‘Return, O faithless sons,’ declares the Lord; ‘For I am a master to you, And I will take you one from a city and two from a family, And I will bring you to Zion.’ (NASU)
Clearly the call to repent in verse 12 is to scattered Israel in that day, and the call in verse 14 is likely the same. However, it seems to me that there are principles here for all people in all times. Repentance is a gift in the form of a call from God. God is gracious; He allows us to return. Acknowledging guilt is an indispensable element of repent and return. Ceasing from worship of anything than the Living God is also a crucial component of repent and return. Obeying God’s voice is necessary. Certainly, the prophecy in verse 14 points to a literal fulfillment in various stages but it seems there is a principle here for all people in all times. God will respond to our repenting and returning with merciful, gracious blessing.
The question designed to probe our hearts was found in Jeremiah 3:6, Have you seen what faithless Israel did? (NASU) Please understand that much of the historical record in the Bible is for us in other ages to learn from. You and I should learn from this record that God is long-suffering in offering the blessing of repentance. We should also see the folly of Israel and the folly of Judah and avoid that. Take advantage of the gift of repentance while there is still time.