To summarize Jeremiah 3:6-10, Judah didn’t take the warning that was available to her from God’s punitive dealings with Israel. And because that was the case, in Jeremiah 3:11-14 God is moved to received a repentant Israel.
Israel Is Less Guilty Than Judah
Jeremiah 3:11 has God reaching the conclusion that Israel is less guilty than Judah. And he communicates that to Jeremiah.
So, when God weighs the culpability of both Israel and Judah on the scale of his mind – Judah actually comes out as more guilty. And it’s not as if Israel is innocent. But compared to Judah and the sin she committed and the knowledge she had – Israel was comparatively less guilty.
God’s Message to Israel in Captivity
And that mental action of comparing the two kingdoms leads the Lord to send a message to Israel through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 3:12.
Let’s consider what exactly Jeremiah is being commanded to do here.
Now, remember that Israel was in exile at this time. And in this very book that we’re studying, Judah is the only one that’s promised a return to the land after 70 years. I don’t think that Israel ever received such a promise.
Added to this, we don’t actually see Jeremiah giving this message to the people of Israel in captivity. He could have – maybe he did. But we’re not told that it happened.
So, I assume that Jeremiah is given these words to proclaim – as the King James Version says – toward the north – probably while he’s physically in Judah. And what that means then is that this whole message – while it reveals God’s heart toward exiled Israel – it’s really intended for the people of Judah to hear and learn from. Jeremiah is going to be proclaiming this message presumably while facing north and he’ll be doing that somewhere in the hearing of his fellow Judeans.
And really, the rest of the text we’ll be studying in Jeremiah 3 is God’s message to Israel. And it’s a message that the people of Judah will hear.
Israel, Return to God!
So, God’s message to Israel begins with a call to return to him in Jeremiah 3:12.
God says “Shub you meshub-ing Israel!” Turn back to me – you who have turned away from me!
God Will Forgive Repentant Israel
And God makes it clear that he is ready to forgive them if they repent in Jeremiah 3:12.
God Is Merciful
Why will God not cause his anger to fall upon Israel? He says – because he is merciful. The Hebrew word there is chasid. If you’ve ever heard the term chasidic Jew then now you know where that term comes from. But the chasidic Jews are known for their strict, legalistic lifestyle. That’s not what God’s speaking of here. The term chasid communicates something of a kind piety. So, God is saying that he’s pious or holy. But that piety and holiness are completed with kindness. It’s kind piety. And that’s the character of God that he points to as the reason for him not continuing to look upon Israel in anger.
God Won’t Be Angry Forever
And isn’t it interesting what God says in that next statement? He will not keep anger forever. In Jeremiah 3:5 the people of Judah were asking whether that would be the case or not – “Will God be angry forever?” But in that situation, they were trying to question the appropriateness of God’s judgement upon their unrepentant idolatry. Here God is saying that the way to have him not keep anger forever is to repent!
Confess Your Sin
And that’s just what God says in Jeremiah 3:13. Would Israel like God to forgive their sins? All they need to do is own up to it.
Why God’s Angry
By the way, let me just point out what seems to make God the angriest. As God is condemning sin in the book of Jeremiah, what does he keep pointing to time and time again as the reason for that burning anger?
- Is God going after Israel and Judah for not tithing?
- Is he taking issue with them for trimming the edges of their beards?
- Or not building railings on the roof of their houses?
- Or wearing garments of mixed materials?
- Or sowing their fields with two different types of seed?
No. Those things were indeed commanded under the Mosaic Law. But they aren’t what God is going after specifically here in Jeremiah. So much of what God is expressing anger towards is the people’s idolatry – their choosing another god in place of him.
Come Back to the True Baal
One of those gods was named Baal – which meant something like master or lord or even husband. And so its interesting in Jeremiah 3:14 that the Lord declares that he himself is Israel’s true Baal.
So, again, turn back to God you children who have turned away from him! Why? He says I (emphasis!) am married to you – or I am master to you – or literally, I am Baal to you!
God is saying then – forget the false god Baal! I’m your true Lord – you’re true Baal!
And if Israel were to repent, God promises blessings for them in Jeremiah 3:14-18.