Jeremiah 3

The Israelites are not faithful to God

1 The Lord says this:

‘If a man sends his wife away,

she may leave him and marry another man.

Then her first husband may not take her as his wife again.

That would be a sin against the land where you live.

But you have left me to live with other gods.

You have lived like a prostitute,

but you still think that you can return to me.

2 Look up at the tops of the hills.

You have loved other gods on all of them!

You sat by the side of the road,

and you waited for a lover to come.

Like a robber, you waited to catch men

so that you could sleep with them.

You have not been faithful to me,

but you have looked for other gods, like a prostitute.

The wicked things that you have done

have made the land unclean.

3 That is why I have not sent any rain on your land.

Even the spring rains have not come.

But you still live like a proud prostitute.

You refuse to be ashamed of what you have done.

4 You still call me your Father.

You say, “You have always been my friend.

You have loved me all my life.

5 Surely you will not always be angry with me!

You cannot continue to be angry for ever.”

Those are the things that you say.

But you continue to do as many evil things as you can.’

6 The Lord spoke to me while Josiah was king of Judah. He said,

‘Look at what the Israelites have done. They have not been faithful to me. They have worshipped other gods under every big tree and on every high hill. Israel has been like a wife who is not faithful to her husband. 7 I thought that one day she would come back to me. But she did not return. Israel's sister, Judah, saw what Israel did. 8 Israel was not faithful to me and she served other gods. So I sent her away, like a husband may send his wife away if she is not faithful to him. Judah saw what happened to Israel, but she was not afraid. Like a prostitute, she also went to find other gods that she could serve. 9 She was not ashamed of what she was doing. She worshipped idols made of wood and stone. She made the land unclean because she was not faithful to me. 10 Still Judah has not turned back to me. She wants me to think that she has, but she has not. Like her sister, Israel, she has not been faithful.’ That is what the Lord says.

3:7Israel was the kingdom in the north that had already gone away into exile. Judah was the kingdom in the south, with Jerusalem as its capital city. God was warning Judah that the same thing would happen to its people as had happened to Israel's people. He speaks about them as wives who have not been faithful to him. That is why he talks about each of the two kingdoms as ‘she’.

11 The Lord said to me, ‘It is true that Israel's people have not been faithful to me. But Judah's people are even more guilty than them.

3:11Judah was more guilty than Israel because she saw how God punished

Israel, but she still did not change.

12 Go now. Shout this message to my people in the north:

“You people of Israel have not been faithful to me.

But now return to me,” says the Lord.

“I will not always turn away from you.

I am kind and I forgive people.

I will not be angry with you for ever,” says the Lord.

13 “But you must agree that you are guilty of sin.

You have turned against me, the Lord your God.

You have loved to serve many foreign gods.

You have worshipped them under every big tree.

You have not obeyed my commands.” ’

That is what the Lord says.

14 The Lord says, ‘Return to me, you people who have turned away. Remember that you belong to me. If you turn back to me, I will choose one of you from each town and two from each family. I will bring you safely back to Zion. 15 I will give you leaders who will serve me faithfully. They will take care of you like shepherds. They will be wise and they will lead you well. 16 Then the number of your people who live in your land will increase. You will no longer need to talk about the Lord's Covenant Box. You will not think that it is important any more. You will forget all about it. You will not want to make another one. 17 Instead, you will call the city of Jerusalem “The Lord's throne”. At that time, people from all nations will come to Jerusalem. They will meet there to give honour to the Lord's name. They will no longer do the wicked things that they enjoy. 18 At that time, the nations of Judah and Israel will join together as one kingdom. They will leave their exile in a country in the north. They will come back to this land that I gave to your ancestors to be their home for ever.

19 I thought this:

“I want you people of Israel to be my children.

That would make me very happy.

I want to give you a good land as your home.

It is a more beautiful land than any other nation enjoys.”

I thought that you would call me “Father”.

I thought that you would always be faithful to me.

20 But you, Israel, have gone away from me,

like a woman who leaves her husband.

You have not been faithful to me.’

That is what the Lord says.

21 ‘I can hear a noise on the tops of the hills.

Israel's people are weeping.

They are calling out for help.

Yes, they have turned to bad ways.

They have forgotten to serve the Lord their God.

22 Return to me, all of you have turned away.

I will help you to be faithful to me.

Now you should say,

“Yes, we will return to you,

because you are the Lord our God.

23 The false gods that we worship on the hills have deceived us.

Our wild parties on the mountains have not helped us.

Only the Lord our God can really save Israel.

24 Since we were a young nation,

we have seen all our good things disappear.

The useless gods that we worshipped have taken them.

They took away the things that our ancestors worked to get.

They took away our sheep and our cows.

They even took away our sons and our daughters.

25 We are ashamed to agree that this is true.

We must accept the shame that we deserve.

We and our ancestors have done bad things

against the Lord our God.

Since long ago, we have not obeyed him,

and even today, we still do not listen to him.” ’