Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jeremiah 3

Israel's harlotry (vs. 1-5)--Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is the law referenced in verse 1. If a man divorced his wife and she married another, her first husband could never take her back again. But though Israel had "played the harlot with many lovers," Jehovah would accept her back. The "harlotry" of these verses, of course, is idolatry, and the accusation is that Israel (the northern kingdom) had had "many lovers" (v. 1), i.e., worshipped many false gods. The "Arabian" of verse 2 has allusion either to a huckster in the market or a thief by the side of the road, probably the latter given the description. Regardless, the Lord had punished Israel (v. 3), and though they had apparently now become to call on Him (vs. 4-5), it was too late because "you have spoken and done evil things" (v. 5).

"Her treacherous sister Judah saw it" (vs. 6-11)--Jeremiah again dates his prophecy in verse 6--"in the days of Josiah the king." As noted in verse 1, even after all her harlotry, the Lord was willing to accept Israel back (vs. 6-7). But Israel refused. Judah, the southern kingdom, saw all of this (v. 7), even the Lord putting Israel away (in Assyrian captivity). But "Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also" (v. 9), having "committed adultery with stones and trees"--again, a reference to idolatry. Under Josiah, there was a tremendous reform, a cleansing like none other in Israel's history. That great king attempted to remove all the signs of idolatry in the land, something no previous king had done. "Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem" (II Kings 23:24). Yet, while Josiah was a good and honest man, his people had "not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense" (v. 10). And Judah, because she had seen what the Lord had done to the northern kingdom, was more to be blamed than Israel (v. 11). If we do not learn from history, then it's our own fault if we suffer horrible consequences.

God's plea for restoration (vs. 12-19)--Jeremiah then is commanded to "proclaim these words toward the north" (v. 12), a message for Israel. The merciful Lord would forgive, if they would "acknowledge [their] iniquity” and that they had “not obeyed My voice" (v. 13). He would accept them back into the "marriage" covenant, bring them back to Zion (v. 14), and provide "shepherds" who would "feed [them] with knowledge and understanding" (v. 15). The language of the rest of this section sounds Messianic. There would be no more need for the ark of the covenant (a symbol of the Jewish system, v. 16), the Lord would reign from "Jerusalem" (the church), and "all the nations shall be gathered to it" (v. 17)--Gentiles, too, would be welcomed into God's kingdom.  It would be a holy kingdom (v. 17), and all of Jehovah's people would walk together, i.e., there would be no more division. All this could be a hyperbolic vision of the blessings that would be restored to national Israel after the return from exile, but it does seem to be referring to the New Testament age. How could God do this for such wicked, sinful people? Only upon their humble submission to Him: "You shall call Me, 'My Father.' and not turn away from Me" (v. 19). It is very rare in the Old Testament for God to be referred to as "Father;" that's a concept largely reserved for Christianity. And that might be another indication that this passage is Messianic.

"In vain is salvation hoped for from the hills" (vs. 20-25)--The figure of an adulterous wife is once again brought forth (v. 21). The results of their idolatry caused much weeping and sorrow (v. 21), but again, upon repentance the Lord would "heal" His "backsliding children" (v. 22). He's the only one who can help; no nation "from the hills" will protect them or provide salvation for them (v. 23). Their sin had cost them their wealth ("their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters," v. 24), and they should admit and confess those sins, which they had committed "from our youth even to this day"--from the very time God had brought them out of Egypt. They never really did.

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