The northern nation of Israel had entirely forsaken their Heavenly King. They foolishly discarded God, and he allowed them to experience only a small portion of the curse they justly deserved. Yes, their land was attacked, taxed, pillaged, devastated, and desecrated. Yes, their fathers were killed and their mothers abused. Yes, the best of their sons and daughters were taken away and placed in the service of others. It was awful. It was horrible, but it really was only a small portion of the curse they justly deserved. And mercifully, those who lived were reminded of their holy God and their need for his mercy and grace.
Sadly, the southern kingdom of Judah was following suit. Despite the lesson they learned from their northern brothers, they were advancing in paganism. Therefore, God declared through numerous prophets and priests that their payday was coming. It was just over the horizon when they would receive their small portion of the just wages they deserved for their flagrant transgressions.
What had they done? What were they doing? How was Judah in the process of forsaking their good God and his good ways?
Jeremiah was called of God to deliver his sermon series on this subject, and it was quite PG-13 in tone. Many would have said his language and manner of delivery was not becoming of a minister. However, he had no choice. His message came forth from the throne room of God. It was God’s Spirit who gave him the sermon to deliver, and it became very clear — God was not lightly offended, and he was not messing around. With sacred and coarse language, God directed Jeremiah to outline the whorish insanity of Judah:
Jeremiah 1:16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands.
Jeremiah 2:2-5 … I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride … What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
Jeremiah 2:6 They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt …?”
Jeremiah 2:7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.
Jeremiah 2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.
Jeremiah 2:11-13 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit … My people have … forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:20-22 For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but … on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore … How then have you turned degenerate … the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.
Jeremiah 2:23 How can you say, “I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals?” …
Jeremiah 2:23-25 Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done— a restless young camel running here and there, a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? … But you said, “It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners, and after them I will go.”
Jeremiah 2:26-28 Their … kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets … say to a tree, “You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.” For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’ But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah.
Jeremiah 2:30 … Your own sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.
Jeremiah 2:32 … My people have forgotten me days without number.
Jeremiah 2:34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor ….
Jeremiah 2:34-35 … Yet in spite of all these things, you say, “I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.”
Jeremiah 3:1-11 … You have played the whore with many lovers … Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! Where have you not been ravished? By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers like an Arab in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your vile whoredom … Yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed … You have done all the evil that you could … The Lord said to me … “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one … how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? … She took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.” … And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.
Did you see the laundry list of sins put forth by God through Jeremiah? Did you see the final assessment? That’s right, as wicked as Israel was, it was nothing in comparison to Judah. What a sad indictment; the visible church of God was whorish, and a down payment on their just wages was right around the corner.
However, notice the next words of the prophet. Though no man would naturally take back such a divorced whorish bride, God determined to do so. Regardless of their sins, he was always willing to shower mercy and grace upon the penitent. Jeremiah preached:
Jeremiah 3:12-22 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “ ‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord. Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion … And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding … Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage … Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me … Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.”
Friends, I do not know all who read this blog. Perhaps there is someone reading who has never entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. If this is you, and if you find yourself caring about your relationship with God and believing in the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ, then I have one great word for you — Repent! Run as fast as you can to the Lord who loves you and be completely made holy by his labors. He is waiting to cover you with his arms and robe of righteousness. Repent and enjoy the greatest Lover that can be imagined.
Perhaps you are one like me — you have been perfectly united to Jesus Christ and yet you continue to act like a whore. Like me, you forget the one who loved you, saved you, instructed you, and made you prosperous. Like me, you continually find yourself fascinated with the idols of the nations. Like me, you find yourself to be a chief sinner who is slow to repent. Well friend, I have one great word for you — Repent! Like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, he has allowed us to be hurt so that we might come to our senses. Let’s run back to Abba Father. He has been waiting all along; it is time for us to repent and enjoy afresh the greatest Lover that can be imagined.
Finally, perhaps you are like the religious fools in Judah. They imagined they were lawful enough. They imagined they were better than their northern neighbors in Israel. They were the good ones. They were the holy ones. They dwelt in the city of God, worshiped in the house of God, and still enjoyed the financial and national favor of God. Oh foolish and pompous friends, there is none who keep God’s laws, not a one of you. So what would I say to you? Quit comparing yourself to others and compare yourselves to God’s holy standard. Quit thinking your sin doesn’t stink as badly as others. Quit thinking you are being treated as you deserve in regard to your righteousness. And quit thinking God is not going to get your attention — one way or another. The same word applies to you as well – Repent! Your God hates your sin, but he loves you. Why would you encourage him to use more stringent means of discipleship to get your attention? He is calling for you to be wise and humble right now. He is calling you to repent. Why not do so and enjoy afresh the greatest Lover that can be imagined?
For one day, all who repent, and repent, and repent, and repent, they will repent no more. One day, we will all be gathered with others who have persistently repented in the New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and Earth. An incredible multitude of worshipers will be found giving glory to their merciful and gracious God, but no one will be found there who is self-righteous and refuses to repent.
Always Reforming (Semper-Reformanda) was the declaration of the reformers. It is still the declaration of all the redeemed.