Read: Jeremiah 3:6-25
Consider: Jeremiah uses the analogy of marriage to illustrate the relationship (or lack of it) between God and the nations of Israel and Judah. Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) were formed out of the people of Israel who have taken possession of the promised land.
Jeremiah uses two different words to characterise the relationship each nation had with God. In the case of Israel, they are described as ‘faithless’, while Judah is described as being ‘unfaithful’. The northern kingdom of Israel had turned away from worshipping the one true God and as a result became unbelieving. Judah on the other hand had chosen the LORD to be their God, but in reality had been unfaithful, wandering away from him time and again. In fact, their religion was seen to be a pretence, as it says in Jeremiah 3:10 – ‘In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence’, declares the LORD. In other words, their religion was just for show and didn’t result in a change of heart. This reminds me of something that Paul says: A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:28-29).
Why does God persist in offering forgiveness to those who turn away from him, or to those who don’t even consider him? In Jeremiah 3:12 it says: ‘Return faithless Israel … for I am faithful’, declares the LORD. It is God’s faithfulness that reveals his infinite patience in offering forgiveness to wayward individuals. Peter puts it this way: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
What can we learn from this passage in Jeremiah? We can learn that God shows infinite patience by extending the offer of forgiveness to all who will turn to him in repentance. We can also learn that God doesn’t restrict his offer of forgiveness, but freely extends it to the faithless (v12), the unfaithful (v10) and the backslidden (v22). Where do you, your church, or your denomination stand in relation to this? Are you faithless – ignoring God; unfaithful – having turned away from your first love; backslidden – allowing your faith to cool over time? Wherever you are, God is still faithful and returning to him is still an option.
Pray: Father, may our faith never be a pretence, because you can see through our religious zeal to see the condition of the heart. Help us to stand firm in our faith, trusting in your faithfulness. Amen