Today’s reading: Jeremiah 1-3.
From time to time it happens. A couple who divorced get together again and remarry. For the Jews living under the Old Covenant it was forbidden for the original couple to remarry if one of them had taken another spouse in the meantime (Deuteronomy 24). God abhorred the idea and said it would defile the land. His disgust may have come from the initial act of abandoning the marriage partner, for it symbolized rejecting God.
The nations of Israel and Judah had rejected God. Even when Judah saw the terrible consequences of Israel’s rebellion she continued in her own unfaithfulness. God, speaking through Jeremiah, told Judah that he condemned her for two sins.
- She had abandoned God (a spring of living water, meaning ideal fresh water).
- She had chosen instead false gods (self-made but broken cisterns for holding old stagnant water).
Despite her rebellion, God declares that he is willing to take Israel back, even though he has already given her a certificate of divorce.
“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the LORD, “I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,” declares the LORD, “I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt– you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,” declares the LORD. “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband.” Jeremiah 3:12-14
So we see the depth of God’s love and mercy. He was willing to take her back even though he had divorced her and she had been unfaithful with every foreign god. It remains a mystery to me how God could make this offer in light of the personal defilement it seems to involve, but like Hosea reclaiming Gomer he makes the offer to take back Israel. He is that devoted. He shows that much grace. He is willing to make that personal sacrifice. Who can say whether his action may be another reason why the sacrifice of his own divine son was necessary? What I can say is that his action shows the supernatural scope of his forgiveness. No matter how far from God your sin has taken you, he is willing to bring you back if you turn away from your mistake and turn back to God.
Oh, the measureless mercy of these gracious sentences! Deep and black as the sin is, and fearful and terrible as is the description of it, how bright, how clear is the immeasurable love which promises to put that sin away, and forget and forgive it once for all! Charles Spurgeon
Image by Helmuts Guigo on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0