Jeremiah 3-4 | Return to Me

Return to MeJeremiah’s message is hard.  God’s justice and holiness demand satisfaction against sin.

Yet God is also merciful.  He is compassionate.  In fact, He says, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mat 9:13 ESV quoting Hos 6:6 ESV).

In the midst of His condemnation of Israel’s harlotry, God gives us a central message in the book of Jeremiah:  Return to Me.

The Hebrew word translated “return” is shub.  It means to turn, to turn again, to return.  It occurs over a thousand times in the Old Testament, and it is used in the book of Jeremiah more than any other book, 111 times.  Truly, God is trumpeting the significance of this message:  Return to Me.

In Jeremiah chapters 3 and 4, God gives us eight principles for returning to Him:

1.  God wants you to return. (Jer 3:6-7)

Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there.

“I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’ …”

It is God’s desire that you return to Him.  He does not want you to perish.  He wants you to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).

While condemning Israel’s sin, God is also fervently calling them to return to Him and be healed (Jer 3:22).  It is vitally important that you know that no matter how far you have gone, no matter how far you have walked away from God, no matter how stubbornly you have turned your back on God, you have never gone so far that God cannot forgive you and heal you.  Listen to God’s voice.  He’s calling you to return to Him today.  He wants you to return.  None of us knows how long we have in this life.  Don’t wait until it is too late.

2.  You must return with your whole heart. (Jer 3:10)

“Yet in spite of all this, her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the LORD.

Deception becomes a key repeated word in this section of Jeremiah.  We learn that some people do return to God but with a heart of deception.  God calls this treacherous (Jer 3:11).

The apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians that he was pleased that they “were made sorrowful to the point of repentance” (2 Cor 7:9).  Repentance means to have a change of mind, which results in a change of behavior, a change of direction.  In essence, Paul was pleased that the godly sorrow that the Corinthians experienced led them to return to God.  Paul goes on:

“… you were made sorrowful according to the will of God … for the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Cor 7:9-10)

God doesn’t want your lip-service.  He wants your steadfast love (Hos 6:6).  He wants you to know and understand Him (Jer 9:23-24).  Are you willing to deny the God who created you what He wants?

3.  You must acknowledge your sin. (Jer 3:13)

“Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God and have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice,” declares the LORD.

In order to return to God, you must acknowledge your sin.  There can be no healing, no cleansing without confession of sin.  See 2 Chron 7:14, 1 John 1:9

Jeremiah 3:21 says of Israel, “they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the Lord their God.”  Has America forgotten the Lord their God?  Have you forgotten the Lord your God?  Read Daniel’s awesome prayer of confession in Daniel 9:3-19.  Make it your own.

4.  You must return to God and to no one else, because there is salvation in no one else but God. (Jer 3:22-23)

“Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.”

“Behold, we come to You; for You are the LORD our God.  Surely, the hills are a deception, a tumult on the mountains.  Surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.”

Have you been faithless?  Have you turned your back on God and found yourself broken and empty?  Return to Him now, and He will heal your faithlessness (see also Jer 3:12).  He will restore the years that the locust has devoured (Joel 2:25-27).  He alone will be your salvation (Acts 4:12).

5.  You must put away your detested things. (Jer 4:1)

“If you will return, O Israel,” declares the LORD, “Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, and will not waver…”

If you want your faithlessness to be healed (Jer 3:22), you must return to God and to no one else.  Returning to God means that you are turning away from something else — your detested things.

What are your detested things, your idols, your besetting sins?  What is it that you have been chasing?  Money, popularity, sex, drunkenness, entertainment, violence?  When you return to God, you must put these things away.  Jesus says it like this:  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  When you deny yourself, you lay down your own desires.  When you follow Jesus, you take up the things He desires.

6.  You must come in truth, justice, and righteousness. (Jer 4:2)

“… and [if] you will swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness; then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.”

Truth, justice, and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne (Psa 89:14, Psa 97:2).  They will be the hallmark of His kingdom when Jesus returns to take His throne in Jerusalem.

If you are going to return to God and be healed, you must come to Him as you are, and that means coming in truth, which is the opposite of deception (see #2 above).  It means coming in justice, in fairness.  You must treat God with the respect, the reverence, the awe that He is due.  It means coming to Him in righteousness.  This does not mean that you must be righteous before you approach God.  That is impossible (Rom 3:9-23).  It means that you return to God in the righteousness that He offers you “as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24).

Only when we return to God in truth, justice, and righteousness will He heal our land.  Only then will God’s glory return to this nation.  Only then will America enjoy His blessings again.

7.  You must be receptive to God’s Word, and keep it. (Jer 4:3)

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, “Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.”

In Mark chapter 4, Jesus tells the parable of the seed and soils.  We learn in Mark 4:14 that the seed is the Word of God.  If the seed falls among the thorns, it is choked out and becomes unfruitful.  Why?  Because the thorns represent “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19).

God wants you to avoid the “thorns” and, instead, break up the fallow (unplowed) ground of your heart.  Then you will be like the “good soil” in Mark 4:20, which represents the one who hears the Word and accepts it and bears fruit.

Note that just hearing the Word of God is not enough.  You are to bear fruit, which means that you must keep His Word.  You must do it.  You must obey it.  See John 14:15

8.  Remove the callousness of your heart with a new heart. (Jer 4:4)

“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,

Or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”

Circumcision in the Old Testament identified a man as a Jew.  It identified him as part of God’s covenant.  Likewise, circumcision of your heart identifies you with God’s family.

Physical circumcision involves the cutting away of the foreskin.  Spiritual circumcision involves a cutting away of the callousness of your heart, the hardness of your heart, leaving you with a heart sensitive to God.

In fact, God promises to cleanse you and to give you a new heart.  He promises to remove your hard heart of stone and to give you a soft, pliable heart of flesh.  He promises to put His Spirit within you and to cause you to walk in righteousness.  See Ezek 36:25-27

These are glorious promises full of freedom and security.  Do you need forgiveness?  Does your soul need healing?  What must you do?  You must call upon the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Rom 10:13), for there is no other source of hope and help.  You must return to Him.

This is part of a series of notes on Jeremiah:

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