Never and Always (Jeremiah 3:1–18)

“If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:1).

Following the opening prosecution of Judah for her marital infidelity (chapter 2) God leads the witness asking if there is any hope to restore relationship? While leading questions are forbidden in our courts of law, here the Prosecutor is the Judge. Lawyers may wickedly use leading questions to establish false evidence; God righteously uses them to expose the truth we deny. With this question God draws from His law.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 24:1–4).

a-crack-in-the-ground-1630956-1279x853.jpgSeveral questions arise in out mind, but in light of this, what is the obvious answer to God’s question? An undoubted and resolute “No!” And yet, everything established here will seemingly be flipped on its head by the end of this passage—seemingly.

Initially there seems no hope of return, but then vv. 11–18 give way to two pleas for Israel to return accompanied by a plethora of promises. Topsy-turvy? No, note two things. The pleas and the promises are made to Israel, not Judah, although there is a glimmer of hope as Judah is included as part of the promise made to Israel (v. 18). It appears subtly assumed in this is that Judah will have to first face the same judgment that has befallen Israel. 

Second, there’s returning and then there’s returning. The returning spoken against in v. 1 is a presumptuous returning. Following the question, God commands Judah to lift up her eyes and see her whoredom (v. 2). Judah may not return without seeing her sin. Judah’s pious words are empty, but her wicked acts are full (v. 5). Her return is not with her whole heart, but in pretense (v. 10).

So may the whore return? God’s covenant name is His vow. He explained His name and revealed His glory to Moses saying that YHWH is a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7). May the unfaithful bride return to her Husband? Never and always; it depends on what you mean by return.

When God Takes You to Court (Jeremiah 2:1–37)

“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 2:8 (ESV)

When God takes you to court, beware, for the Prosecutor is your Judge. Further, the apostate church should realize that the one prosecuting is the one she claims as her husband. The visible church’s infidelity is obvious, yet she claims innocence.

When God brings forth the charges, the only sensible plea is “Guilty, your Honor.” His questions pierce and expose. You have no shot at injustice by fooling the system. Make no countersuit. Hang you head in shame or He will bow it. Repent or perish.

In this court everyman has to give account for his own sin, but God lays primary responsibility where responsibility lies. As when man sinned in the garden, God first questioned Adam, so now, when His bride has been unfaithful, God explicitly brings forth the sins of the priests, shepherds, and prophets.

The church today is full of infidelity. Woe to the pastors, who as priests, have falsely comforted us that all is well. Woe to the overseers, who as kings, have led us into idolatry. Woe to elders, who as prophets, have called evil good and good evil. The church has been unfaithful, because of our Hophni and Phineases who dip into the pot to feed their own bellies. The church has been unfaithful, because our Solomons have many wives leading their hearts astray. The church has been unfaithful, because our Zedekiahs strike any Micaiahs speaking God’s judgment on the cheek, while proclaiming a false message of triumph.

“I Never Understood a Single Word He Said” (Jeremiah 1:1–19)

For the unaware or the novice to these parts, most of these posts, notably the ones with a Biblical text pinned on the title, are an overflow of my preaching ministry at my local church. That’ll explain some things as you proceed.

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“Why Jeremiah?” one might ask. The best reply might be, “Why not? Is not this too the Word of the Living God? Why would we think this, or any portion of God’s Word odd?” But perhaps the question is less a prideful indictment and more a humble inquiry. Perhaps the sheep queries the shepherd, with a mouth full of grass, “May I ask why you have now led us to this particular pasture?”

“Yes you may.” I am an undershepherd. I don’t presume to know exactly which portion of God’s Word would be best for us, but I know do takes the whole Word to make whole Christians. Because of limitations of time, the elder’s aim and method is simple. We want you to have a balanced diet. If we just started preaching straight through, some of you would hear nothing but law during your time here. Thus, we chew on some Old and then some New. We munch on poetry and then prose. We devour an epistle, then a prophet. After a bite of the historical, we chomp on some wisdom.

This being said, perhaps there is no genre of Holy Writ more neglected today than the prophets. Oh, they are certainly cherry picked, but when you see the tree as a whole you cannot but notice how very little fruit has been picked. The prophets contain much bitter medicine that would do our souls good, but we have been fed only the most sugary portions. If a poll were taken in the average Evangellyfish church to cite passages from Jeremiah, I’m certain Jeremiah 29:11 would be to most cited and nearly the only cited portion.

There is likely no genre more neglected, and also, none more needed. Not merely because our diets have been imbalanced, but because disease is rampant, and the prophets shout the cure—repentance. The whole of God’s Word is enduringly relevant for the church, but when the church has apostatized and committed adultery with the world in unfaithfulness to her Betrothed, then we had best go to Jeremiah and not Philippians, for such is a time to mourn and not rejoice.

Here we have not only medicine, but a lot of it. What is the longest book in the Bible? Perhaps you answered Psalms, and by chapter count that is correct. But man inserted the chapter divisions (though in the case of the Psalms their work was simply one of counting the divisions already there). If we count by God’s inspired words in the original languages, the Psalms fall to third place, behind Genesis in second place and Jeremiah in first.

There is not only much medicine, but there is potent medicine. The American church is riddled with cancer. Jeremiah is chemo for those who would receive it. 

“But are not we as a church celebrating a time of health?” Yes, but we are not immune from nor are we innocent concerning the sickness we see around us. Further, my zeal and hope is that our fellowship have a prophetic voice, speaking God’s Word into the nonsense that pervades in the American Church.