Jeremiah 3

Repentance Is More Than Words

King Josiah's reformation proved to be only a temporary reprieve for Judah, and the people quickly returned to their idolatry. God confronts Judah about her sin, and he moves to talking about divorce. The law of Moses would not allow a husband to reclaim his wife after he divorced her regardless of the circumstances because it pollutes the land. God declares that Judah's behavior was worse than what the law described for she was not a divorced wife, she had played the whore with many lovers. The graphic language describes the way the Judah was insatiable in her pursuit of false worship. Judah was not a divorced wife; she was an adulterer whose promiscuity knew no limits and yet God was willing to take her back in spite of her unfaithfulness. What an amazing display of grace from God! The evidence of Judah's idolatry could be seen out in the open on the hills in the surrounding areas. The crude language continues with the picture of a nomad that waited along the roads to engage in trade and commerce between villages. This would include the scavenger, the thief, and illicit trading like prostitution. Judah threw herself at foreign deities without discretion, and the land was polluted because of her unfaithfulness. God explains that he was withholding rain because Judah was stubborn and unashamed of her conduct. Judah felt no shame when it came to her perversion and idolatry. The people had called God their Father and their friend, but they were betrayed by their evil actions which exposed their hypocrisy. God has always been interested in the heart and not external religious formalism. 


During the early days of Jeremiah's ministry, the Lord pointed out Israel's unfaithfulness and her widespread idolatry. God waited for Israel to return, but she did not return, and Judah was witness to her actions. God divorced Israel and sent her away into captivity. Judah was witness to this, and yet she was a treacherous sister and treated fidelity with God as no big deal. Judah duplicates her idolatry, polluted the land, and committed adultery with gods of wood and stone. Judah was hypocritical and was disingenuous in her worship. God declared that Israel was more righteous than Judah.  As a result, God told Jeremiah to call Israel to return. If they turned from their wicked ways, God would show them mercy and no longer look at them in anger. Israel would need to confess her guilt and renounce her ongoing disobedience. If the people would repent and recognize the Lord as their master, he would bring them to Zion. Those who responded to God’s call for repentance would be given new shepherds after his heart. Under their leadership, the people would grow in knowledge and understanding. God's people would flourish and multiply in the land. This prophecy would be ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. The temple would no longer be the place where man and God meet; the Messiah would be the pale where man and God meet. The ark of the covenant would be unnecessary because God would dwell with man. The new Jerusalem will be called the throne of God, and all nations would gather to the presence of the Lord. They would no longer walk in the stubbornness of their own evil heart. Unity would be restored among the people. The question is, how can a rebellious people be restored to sonship and inheritance? The people would need to acknowledge the privilege of having God as a father and not continue in unfaithfulness to him. Voices fill the air around the religious shrines in high places. Israel was pleading because they walked in disobedience and forgot God. God calls them to return and assures them that he will heal them. They must worship the Lord and serve him only. The people must recognize the impotence of false gods and understand that only God can save Israel. Israel had been unfaithful from the beginning even back to Sinai, and it had cost the nation dearly. The people must return to their Lord and leave their disobedience.

Things To Consider:

  • What can we learn about marriage from this passage?
  • Why do you think the graphic metaphor of a prostitute is used?
  • What are ways that you betray the Lord?
  • Why do we not learn from the sins of others?
  • How is repentance sometimes just pretense?  
  • Why would God love a rebellious people and receive an unfaithful "wife" back?
  • Why are good leaders needed for God's people?
  • Why do we sometimes fail to acknowledge that we have sinned against God?