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This did not mean, however, that He had done with them. Far from it. He might chastise and punish them, but He loved them still, and assures them of it; for although to a wife put away, who had become another man's, her first husband would not return, despite the lewdness of Judah, He cries after her, "Yet return again to Me!" (Jeremiah 3:1).
What patient, matchless grace is this! Have we, too, wandered from Him? Have we forgotten the word that says, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4)?
Oh, then, in contrition of heart and self-judgment, may we turn again to Himself, confessing the evil of our unhallowed love for that which is so opposed to His holiness, and prove the sweetness of His restoring mercy. Our GOD has withholden the rain (Jeremiah 3:3) that We might prove the barrenness of a life out of communion with Himself; but He longs for the moment when, realizing the depth of our backsliding, the heart turns back to Himself with this cry: "My Father, Thou art the guide of my youth!" (Jeremiah 3:4).
Observe here, that though He would have Israel cry "My Father," (Jeremiah 3:4) this is far different from crying "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15) by the Spirit of adoption, which we have, but they had not. Nationally Israel was GOD's son (Hosea 11:1; Exodus 4:22-23).
It is only since the Cross that believers know Him in the individual relationship of Father - not merely national adoption - and, having life from Him, as the One revealed by the Son in resurrection as "My Father and your Father." (John 20:17)
Our privileges are far greater than theirs. How much holier should be our lives!
~ end of chapter 2 ~
CHAPTER THREE FUTURE GLORY CONDITIONED ON REPENTANCE
The next prophecy is a more extensive one, going on to the end of the sixth chapter, and was uttered during the reign of the pious king Josiah (Jeremiah 3:6); but at what particular time we are not told.
The details of the departure from GOD of both the northern and southern kingdoms (the former one already in captivity) are here more fully gone into; but there are interspersed precious promises of restoration and blessing upon their repentance which the goodness of GOD will yet lead them to, though it be through deepest tribulation.
"Backsliding Israel" had openly revolted from the Lord from the day that Jeroboam's golden calves were set up. GOD's center was disowned and His Word (see especially Deuteronomy 12:0) despised. It is an oft-noted fact that of only one of their kings do we find it said that he sought the Lord, and then only when pressed by the Syrian invasion (2 Kings 13:4-5); on which occasion, as in the period of the Judges (to which they had practically returned, for "every man did that which was right in his own eyes") (Judges 17:6, Judges 21:25), "The Lord gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as beforetime." (2 Kings 13:5)
But though GOD was gracious, responding to the feeblest evidence of felt need, the people were unchanged: "They departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam. . . and there remained the grove also in Samaria." (2 Kings 13:6)
This was but one instance of the many in which He said, "Turn thou unto Me," but she returned not. Finally, as an adulterous wife, she was put away when the ten tribes were carried to Assyria (Jeremiah 3:6-7).
"Her treacherous sister Judah's" case (Jeremiah 3:7), however, was quite different.
She had, as a rule, professed obedience to the Lord. At least open idolatry had not always characterized her. Backsliding was not so much her continual sin as treachery. A strict attention to the outward ordinances of the temple worship, but the heart going after the filthiness of the nations, was generally her course; as it had been even in the days of Solomon - who built the house of the Lord, and erected altars to the gods of his heathen wives!
This is what markedly characterizes much of what is called Christendom to-day.
There is talk of devotedness to the Lord, a prating of loyalty to CHRIST; but alas, alas, how little is known of separation from that which dishonors Him!
In fact, the position of Jeremiah in this book must be very much that of the man today who would stand for CHRIST and walk in the truth. Judah had, after all, but copied Israel, though not always so openly. "Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 3:10).
The king, and many more associated with him in the revival that was then beginning, were doubtless real; but there were not wanting those, as Ananias and Sapphira in the early days of the Church, who sought a reputation for piety and devotedness while never truly separated from the abounding iniquity.
This is a great snare, and only too common in our own day.
It is, in fact, the very essence of Laodiceanism. Lukewarmness in divine things is treachery against CHRIST. Better to be cold than this. So he says here, "The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah" (Jeremiah 3:11).
She made no attempt to conceal her condition, at any rate. He gives her a gracious invitation to return (even though He had given her a bill of divorce), coupled with an assurance that He was married to her still! (Jeremiah 3:12-14). Precious it is to know that her sons will, in the "age to come," ask the way to Zion and return to Himself. But one thing His holiness demands: "Only acknowledge thine iniquity" (Jeremiah 3:13).
His mercy longed to go forth; His anger was already well-nigh overpast; but confession there must be. She must sit in judgment on her ways, and repent of her backslidings. The confession must be clear, and the evils specified.
No mere general acknowledgment of failure will suffice (Jeremiah 3:13):
(1) "Thou hast transgressed against Me,
(2) “and hast scattered thy ways to strangers;
(3) “ye have not obeyed My voice."
Nor can it be merely a national repentance.
Nations, as such, do not repent. It must be individual work; so He says, "Turn, O backsliding children" (or sons), though the figure of a wife is still maintained; but the nation will be saved in the remnant. "I will take you one of a city and two of a family and will bring you to Zion; and I will give you pastors according to Mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jeremiah 3:14-15).
Jeroboam, with many successors to follow his steps, had been an evil shepherd, had led them in false ways hitherto, the fruit of which they were now eating; but GOD had for them shepherds who would delight to direct their feet to green pastures where the soul would find nourishment in the things of GOD.
It may be well to state here that it is of a literal return of the scattered Israelites, to a literal Zion in the land from whence they were carried, that the prophet speaks throughout, as we shall see more particularly when we look at chapters 30 and 31. The words are too plain and explicit to require spiritualizing, as has falsely been done.
In Jeremiah 3:16 we have the last mention of the ark of the covenant; as in 2 Chronicles 35:3 we have its last historical notice.
There was no ark in the second temple. There will be none in that depicted by Ezekiel for the Millennium. A mere legend, for we cannot count it as anything more, tells us that at the destruction of the city and temple Jeremiah hid the ark in a cave, as also the altar of incense. This story is recorded in 2 Maccabees 2:48, an apocryphal record of very dubious authority. However that may be, we are assured that "in those days" (the days of the coming kingdom), "saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more;" (Jeremiah 3:16) or, according to a marginal reference, "neither shall they miss it, neither shall it be made any more."
Of old, under the first covenant, it was the throne of the Lord in the midst of Israel: but Jerusalem shall be called "the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart" (Jeremiah 3:17).
In that day the Lord JESUS, whom it typified, - the One in whom the wood and gold, humanity and divinity, are found in one Person, will Himself be in their midst; the ark, that but feebly foreshadowed Him, will no longer be needed.
In the end of the chapter, from Jeremiah 3:19-25, we have the repentance of the people already made good by faith. It is a prophecy of what will yet be when they will realize that it is vain to hope for salvation from any but the Lord, so long neglected. This will take place after the Lord has saved the tents of Judah first (Zechariah 12:0).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany