June 14, 2021
"Return unfaithful Israel. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will not look on you with anger, for I am unfailing in My love. This is the Lord’s declaration."
“Return unfaithful Israel. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will not look on you with anger, for I am unfailing in My love. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled against the Lord your God. You have scattered your favors under every green tree and have not obeyed My voice. This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘Return, you faithless children’ – this is the Lord’s declaration – ‘for I am your master, and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. I will give you shepherds who are loyal to Me, and they will shepherd you with knowledge and skill.’” Jeremiah 3:12b-15
Unlike the discourse of denunciation of chapter 2, this second prophecy is one of repentance with a message of hope for all who would return to the Lord. First, though, it also contains a solemn warning in the form of an object lesson.
Judah knew the Lord had given Israel a “decree of divorce” (3:8) for her idolatry. Yet, she imitated Israel’s evil examples. Judah’s sin was worse because she had seen God’s punishment of Israel’s idolatry. Therefore, Judah could expect similar punishment.
An attempt at reform had been made under the leadership of good king Josiah, yet Judah had not returned to the Lord with her “whole heart,” only in pretense. Certain outward forms of religion had been established, but there had been no true repentance and obedience. (3:6-10)
While Judah was awaiting her fall and exile, the Lord turned to Israel with an offer of mercy to all who would return to Him. Israel had been deported for many long years, but to His “wife,” whom He had “put away,” there came a call to repentance and a promise of restoration. The Lord’s message is addressed to the wretched remnant of a fallen nation, but it directly conveys hope to Israel and an implied one for Judah. (and to us!) She, too, might be restored to divine favor if she should return to the Lord.
It is important to note that restoration would be granted to a purified remnant. A new people of Israel would be developed and brought to Zion from this remnant: one person from a city and two from a family. Not ALL Israel (or Judah) would repent, which is the crux of the apostle Paul’s statement: “Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” (Romans 9:6) The kings of this remnant would “shepherd” the nation “with knowledge and understanding.” Religion for them would not be a matter of forms and symbols but an experience of the heart. Even the sacred Ark, which stood in the Holy of Holies, “would neither be remembered nor replaced.” (Jeremiah 3:16) Jerusalem would be called the “throne of the Lord,” and all the nations would be gathered to it.
Interesting, there is no record that the ark ever returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exiles returned. Therefore, at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the curtain was torn in the Holy of Holies, it quite possibly revealed the ark’s absence, as well as ushering in a new era, where the Holy Spirit would reside in the hearts of men, teaching them the truth of God’s Word. Luke 23:45; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Mathew 23:8-10