Tuesday, 26 August 2014


JEREMIAH 3v6 - 4v4
The message moves from v1 'Just Married' to 3v1 'Divorce', and Remarriage 3v4-5?
Jeremiah, a young man, has to preach this in Jerusalem. What a daunting prospect it must have been!
At the end of the previous message we saw that under the law a husband and wife who divorce they may not remarry - Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Is this the final word? The next message picks up the theme as the Lord speaks as a husband to his people.
Some 15 times in the next message Jeremiah uses the word 'turn/return'. He uses this word in a variety of ways. (Although the same word may be used in Hebrew or Greek it can have different meanings. You have to consider the context and how it is used by that writer.) Jeremiah uses it to mean turn towards someone, turn away from them, turn back (repentance) or return (physically to a place). He uses it in all these ways in this message.
1. Some comments by way of introduction:
[1] When you are reading the bible do not settle for not knowing something the writer wants you to know. Here Jeremiah tells us the time in which he delivered this message:
3v6 The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah:
Josiah reigned from 640 - 609 BC. He was the last faithful King in Judah's history. In his lifetime the world changed. Assyria, the world superpower had been challenged by Egypt, Babylon and other nations and prevailed until 612 BC when the Babylonians conquered Nineveh.
Around 628/627 BC the 12th year of his reign Josiah begun to reform the Temple. Appearances can be deceptive. Outwardly the people went along with the reforms. Jeremiah is called, as all prophets and preachers, to minister to the heart.
Jeremiah begun his ministry in 627 BC. This message comes form the earlier part of his ministry.
[2] Knowing the History is vital to understanding what you are reading.
931/930 BC Israel split into two: Israel in the North, Judah in the South.
Israel never has a faithful King! Idols fill the land. Centres of false worship were established. The prophets Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea ministered to Israel without seeing reform or revival.
722 BC Israel falls to the Assyrians. Survivors are scattered far and wide.
Judah had a mixture of good and bad kings.
The prophets Joel, Micah, Isaiah, Zephaniah and now Jeremiah ministered to Judah. Habakkuk is difficult to date but he may have ministered at the same time as Jeremiah.
Now we are in a position to make sense of what takes place next in Jeremiah.
[1] 3:6-11 Two Sisters - Faithless & Treacherous.
Team mates sometimes become rivals, even enemies. The same is true of siblings. Israel and Judah were family, sisters. They had endured a stormy relationship. Even so Judah would be intensely interested in anything that was said to her sister Israel.
Israel had played the whore - v6
She did not return to the Lord so he had divorced her - v7-8. The curses of the covenant fell on them - Deuteronomy 28:58, 64-68.
Although Judah had seen this she too played the whore! - v9.
Now she was pretending to return to the Lord. Josiah's reforms did not reach their hearts. They lied. They had not returned to the Lord- v10.
Judah had thought herself to be better than her sister Israel. Had not God divorced her. Had she not been defeated by Assyria and scattered among the nations? What a shock to hear (and what courage it took on Jeremiah's part to say) Faithless Israel was more righteous than treacherous Judah! v11
[2] 3:12-14 The Law May Say No Going Back, But Grace Says Return.
Jeremiah is now sent to preach to remnants of the Northern tribes an appeal to return to the Lord with an assurance that they will be forgiven - v12-14.
[a] God assures them he is merciful - v12.
Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
[b] The condition for their return is confession of their guilt and rebellion - v13.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
[c] Return - v14 an appeal made 3 times v12, 14, & 22. Literally 'turn you turning one'.
The Lord will bring them to Zion - v14d
[3] 3:15-18 A Vision Of What Might Be
If they return then this is what the Lord will do.
[a] He will give them Shepherds after his own heart - v15a.
[b] They will feed the people with knowledge and understanding - v15b
[c] He will multiply their numbers and they will live in the land - v16. This is as God promised Abraham. As Solomon prayed - 1 Kings 8:46-53.
[d] They will no longer look to the ark of the covenant of the LORD in the superstitious way that they had done.
[e] Blessings will not be limited to the Jews, but will overflow to all nations - v17.
[f] Judah and Israel shall be reunited, coming from the North to live once again in the land, their heritage - v18.
[4] 3:19-25 An Emotional Appeal
v19 God gave them everything a father could give his children: to be part of a family, a pleasant land, a heritage - as part of the most beautiful of nations. They should have regarded him as their father and remained faithful to him.
v20 Instead they were like a treacherous wife who left her husband.
v21 Is this a picture of faithless sons realising their folly?
22a is a very moving plea.
v22b-25 Jeremiah gives them words of repentance.
In general I am against the use of 'a sinners prayer'. If people have learned the gospel then it is best to leave them to their own words. However, in this age where many have little knowledge of Christianity setting out the sort of prayer someone might pray can, if used with care, be of help. Jeremiah does this here, and Hosea does in Hosea 14:1-3:
1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips.
3 Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.”
4v1-2. If they return then they must return to Him! They must get rid of their idols.
If they return then it must be in repentance. The law says you cannot come but grace says come in repentance.
If Israel returns then blessing will come to the nations.
Romans 11:12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
v3-4 Two metaphors;
(1) Break up the unploughed ground:
Jeremiah may be quoting Hosea 10:12
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
(2) Circumcise your hearts:
Jeremiah applies the words of Moses -Deut 10:12-16; 30:1-6.
John the Baptist later echoes these words: Matthew 3:7-12.
The gospel is a message of good news that includes a call to repentance. Jeremiah's message shows us the importance of preaching repentance.
Jesus preached repentance: Mt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus commanded repentance be preached: Luke 24:47 ...and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
The early church looked for repentance as a mark of a genuine work of God - Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Paul preached it Acts 20:21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Peter wrote about it 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.