THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Repentance Begins in the Heart
SINFUL REBELLION PRODUCES INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND ONE IS DECEIVED
Verse 1: Based on the only passage in the Law regarding divorce—when a man divorced his wife and she became another man’s wife and the second man divorced her, she was prevented by law from ever being reunited with her first husband (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Judah had separated from her Husband, the Lord God. She lived as a harlot with many lovers. “Yet you turn to Me,” declares the Lord—in time of trouble (end of 2:27). You can’t have it both ways. Judah could not serve the idols and also turn to God. Verse 2: The people of Judah had no reasonable expectation that God would receive her back—even if she repented. There was hardly a place they could see where they had not been unfaithful to Him by worshipping idols. They had pursued this evil as avidly as roadside harlots sought lovers. Wickedness was done like an Arab in the desert, waiting to plunder caravans.
Verse 3: Consequently the Lord had withheld rain from the land, as He had threatened to do if His people departed from Him (Lev. 26:19; Deut. 28:23-24). In spite of this punishment they refused to be ashamed. They did not feel shame for their apostasy but instead behaved brazenly with a harlot’s forehead determined and brazen.
Verse 4-5: Instead of repenting, they enquired of God to help them, calling Him their "Father”, the friend who had guided them in their youth v 4. They also asked Him if He would always be angry with them v 5. They acknowledged that He had spoken warnings in the past and had followed up His words with acts of judgment. He had had His way with them, but now, they implied, it was time for Him to relent. They failed to appreciate that the end of His punishment required repentance from them, not a change of heart from Him. Judah wanted rain. She asked God to stop being angry. Her words were hollow cries designed merely to manipulate God.
Application: James called this being a “double-minded” person (James 1:7-8). Prolonged rebellion desensitizes one to his true condition before God. Instead of comprehending reality, admitting violations, pollution, and shame, there is a complete lack of understanding of the true nature of things as well as an inability to perceive the reason for judgment. Just love, tolerate, accept, agree all is well.
THIS DECEPTION WHEN PROLONGED MAGNIFIES ONES BETRAYAL OF GOD
Verse 6: The Lord asked the prophet if he had observed that the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been guilty of flagrant spiritual prostitution. She had failed to maintain her responsibilities as God’s "wife”.
Faithless Israel committed spiritual adulteries with idols on every high hill and under every green tree. Verse 7-8: The Lord had expected that Israel would return to Him eventually, but she had not v 7. As Israel was Apostasy personified, so Judah was Treachery personified (cf. vv. 10, 11, 20). God waited for her to repent, but she didn’t. So He sent her away and gave her a writ of divorce v 8. The northern 10 tribes of Israel went into exile to Assyria in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:5-20) and did not return to the land until 1948.
Verse 9: But observing the consequences of Israel's conduct did not discourage Judah from following in her sister's footsteps. She too became a spiritual harlot and betrayed the trust of her "husband”. Meanwhile, her treacherous sister Judah did not learn from Israel’s fall. She also polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.
Verse 10: But Judah added hypocrisy to her sins. Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception. She pretended to return to the Lord, so God said, Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Still, Judah did not return to the Lord with heartfelt repentance, but only superficially.
Verse 11: God instructed His prophet that though both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms had committed spiritual harlotry, Judah's sin was worse than Israel's. There are greater and lesser sins. Jesus said there is greater condemnation for hypocrites (Mt 23:14); Judas had greater sin of delivering Jesus to his death (Jn 19:11); Lk 10:11-13 more tolerable for Sodom and then Bethsaida;
Application: Jesus also spoke against the hypocrite’s (Matthew 23:3f). Notice ‘treacherous Judah’ teaches how betrayal of God is magnified: (1) Ignoring reality of the sin v 7 ‘saw it’; (2) No firewall to prevent from indulging in the sin v 8 ‘did not fear’: (3) Hypocritical change of heart about the sin v 10 ‘turned in deception’: (4) Compounded guilt amounting to betrayal of God v 11 ‘treacherous’.
EVENTUALLY THERE WILL BE A FUTURE RIGHTEOUS STATE OF BEING
Verse 12-14: Jeremiah paused in his condemnation of sin to offer a message of repentance and hope to the Northern Kingdom v 12. The Lord would not hold His anger against them "forever”, but would be gracious to them, if they would genuinely repent. Genuine repentance would have to include realizing and acknowledging that what they had done was iniquity, transgression of covenant commands, apostasy and spiritual adultery, and disobedience to God’s Word only acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the Lord your God v 13. If they would return to God, they would increase, and He will bring you to Zion (Jerusalem) v 14. The Israelites did not have to come en mass but will receive any individual who repents. Now God talks of 8 blessings of the Millennial Kingdom:
1. I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. Good leaders who had hearts for Himself
2. No more ark of the covenant. The ark would not even come into their minds, they would not even remember it, they would not miss it, nor would they attempt to rebuild it.
3. They shall call Jerusalem “The Throne of the Lord”. God’s throne will be there instead of the ark.
4. All the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord.
5. Nor shall they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart.
6. The house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together
7. To the land I gave your fathers as an inheritance.
8. God said, you shall call me, “My Father”, and not turn away from following me v 19.
Note the recurrence of "in those days" and "at that time" v 12-18. The ten tribes of Israel are not, and never were, "lost”, but scattered, awaiting their repentance and re-gathering in faith to the land.
Verse 20: The roadblock to restoration was Israel, not God. This entire blessing would come to Israel in spite of her past treacherous unfaithfulness to her spiritual lover, God. That treachery was deliberate; it was not a provoked departure.
Application: There is an earthly future for Israel! What will Israel look like then—not rebellious.
They will admit the idols are a deception, and they will lie down in shame and humiliation before God.
3:21 The Lord could hear, in the future, the Israelites weeping and praying in repentance on the hilltops, where they had formerly committed spiritual adultery v 2. They would finally realize that they had perverted their way and had forgotten God. God can be spurned.
They will come to God claiming Him as their own
3:22 This anticipation drew from God an invitation to His faithless people to return to Him immediately. He promised to heal their faithless addiction to wandering from Him. They will comply.
They will confess rebellion while simultaneously confessing the Lord as their salvation
3:23-24 The Israelites confessed that the hills and mountains on which they had worshipped idols had been sites of deception, the idols had not provided what they promised, and instead of finding rest by worshipping them, the Israelites had experienced turmoil. Idolatry had consumed the Israelites in all that they had done throughout their history—blight on their existence, a shame to them as a people.
They will admit we have sinned against the Lord our God, and since the beginning of their nation
3:25 They now (in that day) will not try to run from their shame. Rather, they willingly let it cover them and will confess their sin against God. All sin is against God since his character is the standard violated. The godly admit that they sin against God not people. Confession to God, repentance of sin, and admission of guilt are all vertical in nature. Once that job is complete one can begin reconstructing the hurtful and painful consequences to others due to sin against God.
NB: Can we imagine what this day will be for God? One He has longed for desiring as long as history.
1. It is necessary to live a repentant life. 2. Everyone is responsible and accountable to God. 3. Repentance is a measure of that accountability and mercy and grace and forgiveness. 4. Repentance is essential for finishing well with God.