Jeremiah 3 A Call To Repentance – A Future For The Remnant.
The law forbade a man from remarrying a woman after he had divorced her and she went on to marry another (Dt. 24:1-4). This is the point made here by the prophet (v. 1). The people have played the harlot through their idolatry everywhere, and yet they wanted to be received back without true repentance (v. 2). They refuse to even be ashamed so that the blessing of the latter rain is withheld (v. 3). They had forgotten the covenant (Pr. 2:17 Cf. Hos. 2:15). They needed to turn to the LORD as their Father, he who has guided them in the past, to possibly avert further judgment (vv. 4-5 Cf. 4:1; Ps. 103:9). The prophet and the people of Judah could see the idolatrous practices of Israel that had sent them into captivity, but Judah followed in their footsteps anyway (vv. 6-7). Their hearts were evil (7:24). Both Israel and Judah had been judged for not obeying the law or the words of the prophets (II Kgs. 17:13 Cf. Ezek 16:47-48).
Israel had been given a certificate of divorce, a covenant lawsuit verdict, but Judah followed in her footsteps anyway (vv. 8-9 Cf. II Kgs. 17:6; Ezek. 23:11). Israel’s sins had caused the separation and eventual divorce (Cf. Is. 50:1), and Judah was in danger of experiencing the same end (Cf. vv. 2, 27). Any return on Judah’s part was only superficial, and not from the heart, therefore it was in pretense (v. 10). What is meant here by ‘pretense’? The KJV has ‘feignedly’, the only place where the KJV uses this translation. One might think of the adjective “half-heartedly’. The Hebrew ‘sheker’ refers to “an untruth; by impl. a sham” (Strong’s). Later Jeremiah will describe them as saying the right things, but being far from the LORD in their minds (kilyah), that is, their inward self. Thus, there is an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true. For this reason the LORD said to Jeremiah, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah” (v. 11).
For this reason Jeremiah is told to call to the northern kingdom to return to the LORD, that his anger might not fall on them as warned, so that the LORD might have mercy on them, but again, only if they confess their sins and repent of them – in rejecting his word and giving themselves over to idolatry (vv. 12-13 Cf. 12:15; 33:26). In a covenant relationship there is blessing or there is cursing (Lev. 26; Dt. 30:1-2). The word through Jeremiah then amounts to an invitation to the remnant – “one from a city and two from a family,” to be brought to Zion in fulfillment of the promises of the covenant in them (v. 14 Cf. 23:3; Rom. 11:5). To this end he will give them shepherds according to his heart, who will feed them with knowledge and understanding (v. 15 Cf. Ezek. 34:23). When this happens their numbers will increase, and they will no longer look to the past ark of the covenant, instead the entire city “shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all nations shall be gathered to it” (v. 16 Cf. Is. 65:17).
Jeremiah wrote about a transition from a focus on one nation, which did allow for the entrance of strangers, but not of the scope he here envisions with a new administration (v. 17 Cf. 31:6, 31ff). Jeremiah actually states that the ingathering of the Gentiles will cause a return of many from both Judah and Israel, so that this new remnant will also result on an increase from the original nation (v. 18 Cf. 50:4; Ezek. 37:16-22; Hos. 1:11; Amos 9:11-15). This was in fact part of Paul’s argument at Romans 11. This will only happen when they regard the covenant LORD in a personal way – as their Father, their Redeemer (v. 19 Cf. Is. 63:16). However, despite this promise of a future, Israel remained on a whole, a divorcee (v. 20 Cf. 48:8), weeping and praying, even though they forgot the LORD (v. 21). Repentance was required and not forthcoming (v. 22), because only through the LORD, and on his terms, would there be salvation (vv. 23-24 Cf. 17:14). They needed to listen to his word and acknowledge their sin (v. 25 Cf. 14:20; 22:21).