This morning I was preparing for the Church Leaders seminar, which will be from Jer. 3:15. But as I was going over the context, I was struck by this phrase, “Return, faithless Israel” (12, 14, 22). Christopher Wright, in his commentary, translates it, “Turn, you turning-one” or “Turn back, turning-away Israel.” The people who should have known better had turned. (The northern kingdom turned first and Judah should have learned, but rather followed suit). She is guilty of “playing the whore” (6), and not just once, but “all the adulteries of that faithless one,” (8). And on top of that, she “takes her whoredom lightly,” (9). God says that He expected after all this gut-wrenching turning away, that she (Israel) would return, but she didn’t.
At this point, one might expect that God would have given up both northern and southern kingdoms to His judgment, but instead He makes an appeal. “Return! If you return, I won’t look at you in anger” (12). God asks of them to acknowledge their sin and rebellion, to own it (13). In calling the turning-one to return, God is calling her to repent, which begins by owning the fullness of her sins. God then tenderly says, “I will not be angry forever” (12). What a promise! God could justly be angry forever, but He offers His wayward daughter a way of escape: acknowledge your sin and return to Me.
Spurgeon’s famous predecessor, John Gill, said, “unless a man knows his sin, and is convicted of it, he’ll never repent of it, or turn from it; and when he is made sensible of it, and sorry for it, he ought to acknowledge and confess it before God, against whom he has sinned; this is what is insisted upon, and all that is insisted upon; and it is the least that can be done, and is what every sensible sinner will do, who upon it may expect the discovery of pardoning grace and mercy.”
God is so tender and kind. His promise is to receive the one who turns, without anger. He can do this because of the great sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Truly, as we sing, “His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.” But we must return.