3 “If a man divorces his wife
and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—
would you now return to me?”
declares the Lord.
2 “Look up to the barren heights and see.
Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
with your prostitution and wickedness.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
you refuse to blush with shame.
4 Have you not just called to me:
‘My Father, my friend from my youth,
5 will you always be angry?
Will your wrath continue forever?’
This is how you talk,
but you do all the evil you can.”
(Jeremiah 3:1-5 NIV)
As we begin chapter 3, we find ourselves in the same courtroom setting where we ended chapter 2. The Bridegroom (God) has His bride (the Hebrew nation) on trial for her infidelity to Him. As before, the Bridegroom’s goal is not divorce, but reconciliation.
In verse 1, the Bridegroom asks a hypothetical question of His bride. The pronouns are singular and female, again indicating this was referring to Jerusalem in particular. If He (the Bridegroom) were to grant His bride the certificate of divorce she demands, and she marries another man, is it acceptable for her to then come back to her first husband? Again, the idea here is to get the bride to think through the consequences of her actions before actually carrying them out.
The answer to the hypothetical question is an emphatic “no!”, based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Not only is the practice forbidden, God said that if the remarriage happened, it would bring a curse on the land.
The Bridegroom makes the point that the bride has had many “husbands” (actually lovers) as a prostitute, and now she wants to come back to the Bridegroom. This is a very serious conundrum for the Bridegroom, as He wants to check her sincerity before taking her back. If we jump for a moment to verses 4 – 5, we see that the bride seeks reconciliation, but on her terms. There is no admission of sin or wrongdoing on her part; she uses words of friendship and fond memories of old times as her allure to the Bridegroom. When the Bridegroom compares the bride’s words to her actions, there is no correlation.
Jumping back to verse 2, the Bridegroom asks the bride if there is any place she has not willingly played the spiritual harlot to the Canaanite gods. The “heights” referred to the hilltops where the shrines to the false god Asherah were set up, and the “desert” refers to the Arab practice of ambushing and pillaging a passing caravan. The bride had no shame in giving herself away spiritually (and assumed physically, as the Canaanite religious practices involved many sexual rites, including widespread prostitution).
Going back to the Deuteronomy passage, verse 3 indicates that the peoples’ spiritual infidelity had brought the promised curse on the land. There was a drought, and both spring and fall rains had not come. In a semi-arid land, this was a serious problem. But yet, even with the lack of rain, there was no repentance, no guilt, not turning of heart toward the Bridegroom.
May we, in whatever country we live in, pray for revival in our land, to see our respective countries turn to the Lord, her Bridegroom with humility and sincerity.
May we faithfully pray for the leaders of our respective countries, that the Lord would work in and through them, to turn their hearts toward Him and lead well, that the land and its inhabitants would receive a blessing and not a curse from the Almighty’s hand. His heart and character is one of reconciliation, love, and blessing.