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Unfaithful Israel February 4, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 3:6-4:4.

Summary: The events in this passage occur during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. At this time, God speaks through Jeremiah, comparing the deeds of the northern kingdom of Israel with those of the southern kingdom of Judah. Although both nations have been adulterous toward Him, He regards the adultery of Judah as egregious – as she persists in her idolatry, dismissing the punishment that has befallen her northern sister. Thus, He calls the people of both nations to acknowledge their sins, repent of them and return to Him. Moreover, He promises to unite Israel and Judah as one nation – where He is their King.

Thoughts: Here, God promises that He will forgive the people of Israel and Judah and restore them to a right relationship with Him – if they will repent of their sins. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 14 and 15 of chapter 3:

God intimates that the exile will be temporary, and the Israelites will again have a part in his inheritance, if they return to God in sincerity and truth…God promises that he will provide for the salvation of his people after their return from exile, so that they will not perish again.

Initially, I was confused by the fact that God demanded that His people repent of their sins – implying that deeds, in some form, were a prerequisite for His blessings. After mulling over this point, I was able to convince myself that it is right for God to require repentance from His sinful people. In particular, we know that:

  • on one hand, while repentance constitutes an action for a sinner, it is relatively straightforward; on the other hand, God could have demanded that a sinner perform an impossible task in order to receive His favor, e.g. demanding that a sinner grow wings and immediately fly to the moon
  • God cannot maintain a right relationship with an unrepentant sinner, as sin is antithetical to His holiness.

Of course, as sinners, we may – and often do – struggle to express genuine remorse over our sinful deeds. We must rely on the assistance of the Holy Spirit to apprehend the nature of our sins and delight in righteousness.

In verse 4 of chapter 4, we see that God commands the people of Israel and Judah to circumcise their hearts. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

In effect the prophet is saying, ‘When God commanded the descendants of Abraham to be circumcised, it was not his aim to have a small part of skin cut off. He had something higher in mind – that you should be circumcised in heart.’

This verse reminds me of a concept that I have been contemplating – namely, the simplicity of the Christian life. In particular, this world furnishes myriad opportunities for excess in our lives; we are readily distracted by the Internet, high-end electronic gadgets, and/or our favorite sports teams. While these things are not inherently sinful, they can slowly displace God from our hearts if we do not strive to place them in the proper perspective. Thus, we need to circumcise our hearts on a daily basis – cutting away cruft and refocusing on the simplicity that constitutes our heavenly calling. Indeed, my thought is that the Christian life is an exercise in daily circumcision of one’s heart. Cutting away cruft can be a painful endeavor, yet God calls us to that crucial task; thus, we must bravely meet that challenge.

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