Read: Jeremiah 1-3
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, spoke to the people of the southern kingdom (the northern kingdom has been exiles by the Assyrians already) during the reigns of their last five kings with prophesies about Babylonian exile. Jeremiah speaks to the ultimate restoration of Israel when Jesus returns as the Messiah. FYI: the NIV Study Bible dates Jeremiah Between 626 and 586 BC. It’s hard to imagine 6 centuries of time between Jeremiah and Jesus.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
The call is clear and Jeremiah uses marriage, of husband and wife, bride and groom, in an effort to appeal to the people. He calls Judah to remember the love that was once exciting as a young bride, to think back on the days filled with joy and laughter and fun. He’s trying to help them see how far they’ve fallen from the ways of God.
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, you heavens,
and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
Be appalled. Cold water thrown in your face. Wake up! See what you have become! Have we done this, Lord? Have we run so far away and declared our independence?
“Long ago you broke off your yoke
and tore off your bonds;
you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
and under every spreading tree
you lay down as a prostitute.
We are a nation where “I can do it myself” is our motto, we take pride in being “self-made.” Jeremiah paints an outrageous picture of a people committing adultery under every tree, prostitution rampant, unashamed and unrelenting.
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—
would you now return to me?”
declares the Lord.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
you refuse to blush with shame.
Boldly we declare, “I have made my choice!” and that choice does not include following the ways of the Creator, the Lord Almighty, who has saved his people time and time again. Unrepentant people full of empty words.
Have you not just called to me:
‘My Father, my friend from my youth,
will you always be angry?
Will your wrath continue forever?’
This is how you talk,
but you do all the evil you can.”
Unfaithful People Called Out
The words of Jeremiah are hard to hear by a people who have turned themselves against the Lord and made their own way. They watched the northern kingdom, Israel, get carried off into exile, but didn’t learn anything from the annihilation of their extended family. They continue to refuse God’s hand, though he reminded them often through the prophets.
Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 3:9-10
The metaphor of marriage, of husband and wife, is used to recall the wandering people:
“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Jeremiah 3:14
It’s a prophetic vision of a new world when Israel and Judah are once again united — one day.
Do these words of 2,600 years ago apply to us in our postmodern enlightened world? I think we think far too highly of ourselves when we ignore history. We are not so different from our ancestors, quickly justifying our actions and building ourselves up as strong and independent. As far as I can tell, Jesus didn’t call us to independence. He called us to be a loving family that loves God and our neighbors. We cannot come close to this calling acting like prostitutes, taking advantage of human weakness and fornication. Be appalled at that statement, please! Be shocked by the metaphor and spurned into action.
Lord, help me to hear these words and not start pointing fingers at others; rather, help me to recognize my own sin and have compassion on others who refuse to see that which inhibits their ability to get close to you.