11 The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:
“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
‘I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 3:11-13 NIV)
As we begin today’s passage, we see the Lord switching from righteous anger about His bride Israel rejecting Him, to a loving call for repentance and reconciliation.
We concluded with verse 11 yesterday, where we saw the Lord compare the two “sisters” of Israel and Judah (the northern and southern kingdoms of the Hebrew nation). Israel was portrayed as the “older sister”, and Judah as the younger. This distinction was mainly due to Israel being led away from the Lord by their evil kings, and the Lord’s subsequent capture and discipline via the Assyrians. Israel fell before Judah. We pick up verse 11 as our “hinge point” to launch today’s study.
As we learned yesterday, the younger sister (Judah) was to learn from the mistakes and disobedience of the older sister (Israel). Consequently, the older sister was the first to be reconciled, as she did not have the advantage of a role model to learn from like her younger sibling Judah did from her.
In verse 12, the Lord tells Jeremiah to proclaim the following message to the north. Remember that the “north” represented the land where Israel’s captors lived, and where the remnant of Israel that had been led off as captives lived as slaves to their captors.
The phrase translated ‘Return, faithless Israel’ is a Hebrew play on words, using two forms of the root word “turn”. The Lord is saying, “Turn back to me, Israel, you who have turned away from Me.” John Bright translates it this way: “Come back, backslidden Israel.”
Verse 13 outlines the Lord’s terms of reconciliation. He does not make the Israelites guess about their wrongdoing before the Lord – He tells them outright. The Lord calls the Israelites to own (“acknowledge”) their sin in three points:
- they have rebelled against the Lord
- they have served other gods
- they have disobeyed the Lord
In the Lord’s direction to His children, to hear the Lord’s command was to obey it (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 15). The focus for reconciliation is on confession and repentance first, followed by restoration. Israel’s sin was enormous, and God’s grace and mercy were (and are) bigger still.
May we learn from our older siblings Israel and Judah and not make their same mistakes again. Some may experience physical captivity because of their disobedience (such as jail or prison time). Others experience more subtle forms, such as the imprisonment of their mind (through fears or false beliefs). Many experience captivity of the heart (loving something more than God, such as pleasure, food, alcohol, drugs, money, success, or other forms).
May no one and nothing come between the Lord and us.
Where we have fallen short, may we have the humility and courage to turn around to the Lord in confession and repentance. May we experience His grace and mercy in far larger measure than our sins. God longs for our restoration as His bride and welcomes us into His loving arms with unconditional love.