Jeremiah 3

1 “They say, ‘If a man puts away his wife, and she goes from him, and becomes another man’s, should he return to her again?’ Wouldn’t that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the prostitute with many lovers; yet return again to me,” says the LORD. 2 “Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! Where have you not been lain with? You have sat waiting for them by the road, as an Arabian in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your prostitution and with your wickedness. 3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain; yet you have a prostitute’s forehead. You refused to be ashamed. 4 Will you not from this time cry to me, ‘My Father, you are the guide of my youth?’ 5 “‘Will he retain his anger forever? Will he keep it to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken and have done evil things, and have had your way.” 6 Moreover, the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen that which backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and has played the prostitute there. 7 I said after she had done all these things, ‘She will return to me;’ but she didn’t return; and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 I saw when, for this very cause, that backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorce, yet treacherous Judah, her sister, had no fear; but she also went and played the prostitute. 9 Because she took her prostitution lightly, the land was polluted, and she committed adultery with stones and with wood. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister, Judah, has not returned to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense,” says the LORD. 11 The LORD said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, ‘Return, you backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not look in anger on you; for I am merciful,’ says the LORD. ‘I will not keep anger forever. 13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God, and have scattered your ways to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed my voice,’ says the LORD.” 14 “Return, backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am a husband to you. I will take one of you from a city, and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 It will come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days,” says the LORD, “they will no longer say, ‘the ark of the LORD’s covenant!’ It will not come to mind. They won’t remember it. They won’t miss it, nor will another be made. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘the LORD’s Throne;’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to the LORD’s name, to Jerusalem. They will no longer walk after the stubbornness of their evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together out of the land of the north to the land that I gave for an inheritance to your fathers. 19 “But I said, ‘How I desire to put you amongst the children, and give you a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the armies of the nations!’ and I said, ‘You shall call me “My Father”, and shall not turn away from following me.’ 20 “Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so you have dealt treacherously with me, house of Israel,” says the LORD. 21 A voice is heard on the bare heights, the weeping and the petitions of the children of Israel; because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the LORD their God. 22 Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding. “Behold, we have come to you; for you are the LORD our God. 23 Truly in vain is help from the hills, the tumult on the mountains. Truly the salvation of Israel is in the LORD our God. 24 But the shameful thing has devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our confusion cover us; for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day. We have not obeyed the LORD our God’s voice.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1-5

In repentance, it is good to think upon the sins of which we have been guilty, and the places and companies where they have been committed. How gently the Lord had corrected them! In receiving penitents, he is God, and not man. Whatever thou hast said or done hitherto, wilt thou not from this time apply to me? Will not this grace of God overcome thee? Now pardon is proclaimed, wilt thou not take the benefit? They will hope to find in him the tender compassions of a Father towards a returning prodigal. They will come to him as the Guide of their youth: youth needs a guide. Repenting sinners may encourage themselves that God will not keep his anger to the end. All God’s mercies, in every age, suggest encouragement; and what can be so desirable for the young, as to have the Lord for their Father, and the Guide of their youth? Let parents daily direct their children earnestly to seek this blessing.

Verses 6-11

If we mark the crimes of those who break off from a religious profession, and the consequences, we see abundant reason to shun evil ways. It is dreadful to be proved more criminal than those who have actually perished in their sins; yet it will be small comfort in everlasting punishment, for them to know that others were viler than they.

Verses 12-20

See God’s readiness to pardon sin, and the blessings reserved for gospel times. These words were proclaimed toward the north; to Israel, the ten tribes, captive in Assyria. They are directed how to return. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive them. These promises are fully to come to pass in the bringing back the Jews in after-ages. God will graciously receive those that return to him; and by his grace, he takes them out from among the rest. The ark of the covenant was not found after the captivity. The whole of that dispensation was to be done away, which took place after the multitude of believers had been greatly increased by the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the Israelites scattered among them. A happy state of the church is foretold. He can teach all to call him Father; but without thorough change of heart and life, no man can be a child of God, and we have no security for not departing from Him.

Verses 21-25

Sin is turning aside to crooked ways. And forgetting the Lord our God is at the bottom of all sin. By sin we bring ourselves into trouble. The promise to those that return is, God will heal their backslidings, by his pardoning mercy, his quieting peace, and his renewing grace. They come devoting themselves to God. They come disclaiming all expectations of relief and succour from any but the Lord. Therefore they come depending upon him only. He is the Lord, and he only can save. It points out the great salvation from sin Jesus Christ wrought out for us. They come justifying God in their troubles, and judging themselves for their sins. True penitents learn to call sin shame, even the sin they have been most pleased with. True penitents learn to call sin death and ruin, and to charge upon it all they suffer. While men harden themselves in sin, contempt and misery are their portion: for he that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh them, shall find mercy.

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