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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Jeremiah 3

 

 

Verses 1-23

In this chapter, the sin of God’s people is put in the strongest possible light. The figure used may be even said to be a coarse one, but man’s sin is itself a coarse thing. The thoughts suggested in this chapter are not what the delicate might desire; but then there is no delicacy in sin.

Jeremiah 3:1. They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted?

God himself seems here to be at a non plus. His people had gone away from him, they had acted unfaithfully to him, they had joined themselves unto other gods. The case was a very difficult one. If the Lord takes these people back again, will it not look like putting a premium upon sin? That is just the question that is constantly being raised. If God freely forgives great sinners, will it not look as if he treated sin too leniently? Will not free salvation, by faith in Jesus, lead to sin? The world says that it will; and even the Scripture seems to raise the question: “If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted?” Yet Judah had been worse than the woman here described.

Jeremiah 3:1. But thou has played the harlot with many lovers;

Here was an awful depth of sin, a terrible enormity of wickedness.

Jeremiah 3:1. Yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

What a splendor of divine love is here revealed! I do not wonder that the question should be put, “How can God act thus, and yet be just?” He can do it, and yet be just, as we have often showed you; but, still, it is a very great wonder of grace.

Jeremiah 3:2-3. Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refused to be ashamed.

This was very strong, rough language, but oh! how true it was! The people had gone astray from God into all manner of filthiness and pollution; and even when God had chastened them by withholding the showers till they were threatened with famine, they did not turn to him. They seemed to have a brow like adamant, they could not be made ashamed. There may be some persons of that kind in this assembly; if so, let them notice what God says: —

Jeremiah 3:4. Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?

Will not you come back again? You are invited to return unto the Lord, despite your wandering, your perverseness, your abominable iniquity. Will you not remember the better days when God was the Guide of your youth? You were not always what you are now. Will you not from this time cry unto the Lord, “My Father, thou art the Guide of my youth”?

Jeremiah 3:5. Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end?

No, that he will not; there is none so slow to anger as our God, and there is none so ready to be rid of it as he is. He is a God ready to pardon, waiting to forgive, delighting in mercy. Even though the sin should be so foul that, as I read it to you, I seem almost to blush in the reading, as you may in the hearing, yet, black as it is, God can put it all away in the greatness of his mercy.

Jeremiah 3:5. Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

Thou hast gone as far in sin as thou couldst go; only lack of power has prevented thee from being even worse than thou art. Yet this is the kind of people to whom God speaks in mercy, inviting them to return unto him.

Jeremiah 3:6. The LORD said also unto me in the days, of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

Building temples to false gods on every mountain and in every grove.

Jeremiah 3:7. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

That made Judah’s sin even worse than that of Israel; she saw this great iniquity in another, and yet went and committed it herself.

Jeremiah 3:8-9. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

Bowing down before idols made of wood or stone.

Jeremiah 3:10-12. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, —

What must these words be? Must they not be, “You have treated me so ill that I will never have anything to do with you again; even common decency requires that I should put you away from all hope for ever”? No; listen to these words, and be astounded: —

Jeremiah 3:12. And say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

Oh, the measureless mercy of these gracious sentences! Deep and black as the sin is, and fearful and terrible as is the description of it, how bright, how clear is the immeasurable love which promises to put that sin away, and forget and forgive it once for all!

Jeremiah 3:13. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.

Confess that sad fact, acknowledge that you have thus sinned. Into the ear of God pour out the full confession of your criminality. He cannot ask for anything less than this; surely you cannot demur to it. If you have thus treated him, come and confess it with your head in his bosom, for he is willing to receive you even if you be the very biggest sinner out of hell.

Jeremiah 3:14-15. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

When God once begins to pardon men, there is no end to it. He goes on to bless them with all that they need He makes them to be like the sheep of his pasture, who shall be richly and happily fed.

Jeremiah 3:16. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, 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.

You know that they had been accustomed to the old ceremonial religion, which was full of outward rites and forms. God says that, when he brings his erring people back to himself, they shall have done with all that mere externalism. They shall come to worship God in spirit and in truth, and to commune with him without the medium of the ark of the covenant or an earthly priest. They shall walk before him in the joy of their spirits; yet these, mark you, are some of the people who are described in this chapter as having defiled the house of God, and gone astray from him to their utter disgrace.

Jeremiah 3:17. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem:

Even to that very city that had become like a harlot, and was full of abominations.

Jeremiah 3:17-18. Neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel,

There is no more quarrelling when grace comes in. Israel and Judah in the old days fought against each other; but when they alike taste of pardoning grace they shall love each other.

Jeremiah 3:18-19. And they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. But I said, how shall I put thee among the children, —

When God had said all this, he appears to have come to a pause, and even in his own heart the question seems to arise, How can he deal with these greatly sinful ones as his children? “I said, How shall I put thee among the children,” —

Jeremiah 3:19. And give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the host of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.

God knew how to change the character and to change the heart, so that these filthy ones, who went farthest astray, should come back to him, and should become among the most holy, the most loyal, the most obedient of all his children. Oh, that his grace might work that miracle again in our midst! Remember what he did for Saul of Tarsus, that transcendent persecutor, how he made him to be the very bravest of his apostles; and he can at this moment take those who form the chosen body-guard of the devil and so change them that they shall become the soldiers of the cross, nearest to Christ, the great Commander. The Lord, by his servant the prophet, goes over this sad story again: —

Jeremiah 3:20. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.

But listen —

Jeremiah 3:21. A voice was heard upon the high places,

The places where they had built the altars to the false gods: “A voice was heard upon the high places,” —

Jeremiah 3:21. Weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.

How pleasant to the ears of God is the weeping of his backsliding people! The happy God does not wish men to be sorrowful, but he is glad that they should be sorrowful for sin. Now that they have begun to bemoan their wanderings and their wickedness, they will come back to their God, so he says to them: —

Jeremiah 3:22-23. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.

So they come back to him, and find the salvation which they need.


Verses 6-25

Let us read part of the 3rd chapter of Jeremiah where God brings a solemn accusation against the two nations of Israel and Judah because they forsook the living God, and went after idols — neglected his pure and holy worship, and followed after the abominable rites of the heathen.

Jeremiah 3:6-7. The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things. Turn thou unto me.

Depth of mercy that God should bid such a polluted one return to him. “Yet I said, after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me.”

Jeremiah 3:7-8. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

Some cannot be kept back from sin by the punishment of others, but they run into the fire in which others have been burnt, and so they aggravate their sin.

Jeremiah 3:9. And it came to pas through the lightness of her whoredom that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

That is to say, she gave her heart to false gods, and worshipped stones and stocks. And how it must anger the living God to see men turn away from him to worship blocks of wood and stone, instead of him and especially a people who have been instructed concerning the living God, and so commit the grossest act of disloyalty to him, and be rebellious to the lot degree.

Jeremiah 3:10-11. And for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

The one sinned openly and persevered in it. The other pretended to repent and did not, and that pretended repentance was more hateful in the sight of God than even the daring and open sin of Israel. What next?

Jeremiah 3:12. Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD. And I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

The offense was foul. It is such a one as stabs at the heart of man’s honour. It is an offense which a man will scarcely ever forgive, But God bids his wandering Israel come back, and proclaims mercy — free mercy — even to such gross transgressors.

Jeremiah 3:13. Only acknowledge thine iniquity,

It is all he asks thee to do. Confess that thou host done wrong. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity.”

Jeremiah 3:13. That thou halt transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD,

It was under the trees that they set up their altars to worship their false gods; so that they turned the graves, which should be full of beauty and sweet with song, into the places of idolatry, whereby God was provoked. But he says, “Only confess it. Come and lament it. Own that you have been guilty, and I will put away the sin.”

Jeremiah 3:14-16. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD: for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, 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.

Evangelical repentance, when it brings pardon with it, usually puts a slight upon mere legal ceremonies. We need not the symbol when we get the substance. We need no ark of the covenant nor holy place at Jerusalem when once the Lord appear in plenteous grace to put away our sin.

Jeremiah 3:17-18. At that time they shall call Jerusalem 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. In those days, the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel,

Nothing unites people like the grace of God. Two men that have been pardoned by the same Saviour ought to love one another, and they will.

Jeremiah 3:18-19. And they shall come together out of the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. But I said,

After all this mercy, he seems to come to a pause, “But I said” —

Jeremiah 3:19. How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations?

Is it possible? Can it be done? These harlot nations that have defiled and polluted themselves with unutterable filthiness — can they be put among the children — the children of God?

Jeremiah 3:19-22. And I said, Thou shalt call me, My father and shalt not turn away from me. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD. A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God. Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.

Do you hear it? Do you hear God’s promise? Do you hear his command? “Return, ye backsliding children. I will heal your backslidings.” Now for the answer. God grant that it may well up in your hearts.

Jeremiah 3:22-23. Behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains:

We leave all false confidences. We forsake our earthly joys.

Jeremiah 3:23-24. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.

They have not profited by worshipping idols. They have suffered through it.

Jeremiah 3:25. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.

There you see the repentance which the Lord commanded at his people’s hands, and wherever there is such a repentance as that there are sure to be acceptance and salvation. God grant us that repentance, and save us for his mercy’s sake.

This exposition consisted of readings from Jeremiah 3:6-25; Jeremiah 4:1-29.


Verses 12-25

Jeremiah 3:12-14. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy way to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD for I am married unto you:

There is a mixed figure here, but there is no mixed sense: children and yet married unto him. The bond was a double one, they were begotten and betrothed. God cares little about the rules of human oratory and formal eloquence. If his meaning can only be made perfectly plain, he freely breaks through all such rules and regulations as we properly make for our talk. “O backsliding children I am married unto you.”

Jeremiah 3:14. And I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

That is, “two of a tribe;” for the word “family” was used in a very large sense in those times, and comprehended perhaps the whole of one of the twelve tribes.

Jeremiah 3:15. And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

The backsliders when they come back shall not be left outside the fold, but they shall have shepherds to watch over them, and they shall not be left to a lean pasture, but they shall be fed with knowledge and understanding. This is fine fare for the hungry soul! Knowledge is good, but understanding is better. To know may be of little service unless we have the inner and deeper knowledge with it, and understand what we know. These pastors shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. They shall not only teach, but teach so that you cannot fail to learn.

Jeremiah 3:16. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, 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.

Ceremonial retreats into the dim background when the spiritual is in full vigor. They have come to God for themselves, and they need not now that saved ark of gopher wood lined within and without with gold. In the present day those that walk near to God think but little of the eternal. That which God commands they obey; but their confidence lies in himself. True religion is not a form, but a life, and the soul. Living near to God, is the main, the really essential thing.

Jeremiah 3:17. At that time they shall call Jerusalem 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.

This is, I believe, yet to be literally fulfilled in Jerusalem itself; and spiritually also, to be fulfilled in the Church, when she shall not be behind the nations but become their head, and take the lead in all of blessing for mankind.

Jeremiah 3:18-19. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your father. But I said, How shall I put thee among the children,

As if God himself were at a pass and brought to a nonplus. These people had sinned so much, and they had been driven consequently to the ends of the earth. “I said, How shall I put thee among the children?”

Jeremiah 3:19. And give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father;

When God gives us the spirit of children then it becomes easy for him to put us among the children. Where the nature of children is given by divine regeneration, the rights of children may well be given by adoption. “I said, Thou shalt call me, My Father.”

Jeremiah 3:19. And shalt not turn away from me.

I always look upon that second part of the blessing as being perhaps the richer of the two. The final perseverance of the saints forms the cluster of crown jewels that it found in the gasket of the covenant. “Thou shalt not depart from me. Thou shalt not turn away from me.” Oh —

“If ever it should come to pass

That sheep of Christ could fall away

My fickle, feeble soul, alas!

Would fall ten thousand times a day.”

But he that has begun the good work has promised to carry it on. There is our safety and our rest. “Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.”

Jeremiah 3:20-21. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD. A voice was heard upon the high place, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.

The worst of crimes — that a wife should be false to her marriage vows, and turn aside from her husband whom she is bound to love, and very seldom is it that a husband calls a treacherous wife back again, — but God in infinite mercy hateth putting away. He cannot bear divorce. He holds still to the object of his love, and therefore complains with a sweet fidelity of affection, of the treachery of Israel; and while he is doing it a voice is heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel, for they have perverted their way, and have forgotten Jehovah their God; and therefore what was there for them but sorrow. They were on their high places offering sacrifice and incense to their new gods, and instead of joy and holy psalms and hymns of delight, they were crying like the priests of Baal, and cutting themselves and torturing themselves. God heard it, weeping and supplications, not to him, for they had perverted their way. Their sorrow did not come from him, for they had forgotten the Lord their God. But that sorrow had something hopeful about it. They found no joy in their new gods, and derived no comfort from their backslidings.

Jeremiah 3:22. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.

Oh, the wonderful mercy of God! He treats sin as a disease. It was a grand thought, that, on God’s part, that he would not so much look upon sin as being a willful deed and crime, but would look upon it as a malady of the mind and soul. “I will heal your backslidings.” And see the sweet answer that Israel gives to this.

Jeremiah 3:22. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.

Oh, that that answer might come from every backsliding heart that is here tonight — that there might be a restoration of the wanderer to his God.

Jeremiah 3:23. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains:

See, they were trying to get it from their high places. They lifted up their voices to their gods, but they only learnt to mourn and weep. “In vain is salvation hoped for from the hills and from the multitude of mountains.”

Jeremiah 3:23-25. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.

May such repentance as that fall to the lot of any wanderers who listen now to my words.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/jeremiah-3.html. 2011.

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