Taking Turns and Making Turns

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Taking Turns and Making Turns

Jeremiah 3:6–18 (NRSV)

A Call to Repentance

6 The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? 7 And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the LORD.

11 Then the LORD said to me: Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
Return, faithless Israel,
says the LORD.

I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
says the LORD;

I will not be angry forever.

13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you have rebelled against the LORD your God,
and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree,
and have not obeyed my voice,
says the LORD.

14 Return, O faithless children,
says the LORD,
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.

15 I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.

God acts strange. In the ocean of sinners that cover this world, He does not simply wipe out the worst of us and threaten us with extinction if we don’t shape up our act. That is the way of fallen humanity. That might even be the way of nature. It is not God’s way though.

Jeremiah was the prophet sent to Judah, the southern half of former Israel, who deemed themselves superior because they had the Temple in Jerusalem. (If you would like to know more about this split, check out the aftereffects of the land Samaria in places like John 4.) His message, to Judah/Judea was that they did not learn from their sister’s mistakes of giving up their trust in God to make treaties with other nations. Whenever you see the word adultery in the Old Testament prophets, it is often referring to political/spiritual adultery more than sexual adultery. The Israelites entered into a political/spiritual marriage with God and he saw their treaties with other nations as cheating on Him.

Judah, did not just make treaties though. They made false idols of wood and stone – probably other gods imported from those other nations. They did not want to be seen as a backward nation with only one God while bigger nations grew around them. They sold themselves and their country out to foreign powers in hopes to attain mercy at their hands. It failed miserably. They lived – and history shows this truth through their story – that if you indeed “…will not stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

Both nations were promised restoration, but the promise was not to every individual. God promised hope and new life, new shepherds, and a new start in this Promised Land to those who would turn away from past mistakes. As it turns out, God can save us from anything, but the one thing He refuses to save us from is ourselves. He will not bar us from following our own evil wills. Repentance means surrender. It is like taking our own will under arrest and putting God in charge. Rather than just taking turns pointing out who the bigger sinner is and blaming each other, God calls us to make turns in our own path, turning around and walking back to Him.

What sins in the world around you stand out the most to you today?

How do those sins affect your own life?

What is something you can do today to take another step in surrendering your selfish will to God?

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