Jeremiah 3

1 ‘A man may send his wife away.

Then she may leave him and marry another man.

If her first husband returned to her, he would not be clean.

He would make the whole country bad.

But you have lived with many lovers.

And you want to return to me,’ says the Lord.

2 ‘Look at the tops of the hills.

You have loved other gods on all of them.

You sat by the side of the road, waiting for lovers.

You waited to catch men.

You have made the country bad.

It is dirty with all the wrong things that you have done.

You have loved other gods when you should have loved me.

3 That is why I have not sent any rain to you.

And that is why the spring rains have not come.

But you are still proud.

You are not ashamed of the bad things that you have done.

4 You say to me, “You have been my friend, who has loved me all my life.

5 Surely you cannot be angry with me!

You cannot always be angry.”

Those are the things that you say.

But you do as many wrong things as you can.’

Israel is not faithful to God.

6 The Lord spoke to me while Josiah was king. ‘Look at what Israel's people have done,’ he said.

‘They have not been faithful to me. They have worshipped false gods under every big tree and on every high hill. They have been like a wife who is not faithful to her husband. 7 I thought that they would come back to me. But they did not return when it was over. Israel's sister, Judah, saw what Israel did. 8 I sent Israel away, like a husband may send his wife away. I sent her away because she had loved so many other gods. But Judah's people, who had not been faithful, were not afraid. Judah's people also went out and they found other lovers. 9 Israel's people were not sorry that they had not been faithful to me. So they worshipped gods that they made from wood and stone. They made the country like a dirty place because they did very many bad things. 10 Judah saw this, but Judah was not faithful. Judah's people did not really return to me. They only made it seem that they had returned to me,’ says the Lord.

11 And the Lord said to me, ‘Israel's people have not been faithful to me. But even they are not as guilty as Judah has been. Judah has been less faithful to me than Israel. 12 Go. Turn to the north, and say:

“You people in Israel who have not been faithful, return to me”, says the Lord.

“I will not always be angry with you,

because I am full of mercy”, says the Lord.

13 “But you must believe that you have done many wrong things.

You must agree with me that you turned against me.

You loved many foreign gods.

You worshipped them under big trees.

You have not obeyed me,” says the Lord.

14 Return to me, you people who are backsliding,’ says the Lord.

‘I am your husband. I will bring some of you to Zion. I will choose one from a town and two from a family.

15 Then I will give shepherds to you that I can trust. They will lead you and they will teach you good things. 16 After some time, the number of your people will grow. Then you will think in a new way,’ says the Lord.

‘You will not talk or even think about the Covenant Box of the Lord. You will forget all about it. You will not want to make another one. 17 Then they will call Jerusalem “The Throne of the Lord”. At that time, people from all countries will come to Jerusalem. They will all give honour to the name of the Lord. They will not do the wrong things that they want to do any more. 18 Then the people from Israel and the people from Judah will join together in Jerusalem. They will come from a country in the north. They will come to this country that I gave to your ancestors. I gave it to you and to your ancestors to keep.

19 I myself said,

“I want very much to make you my sons.

I want to give a good country to you.

It is more beautiful than the country that any other people enjoy.”

And I said, “You will call me ‘Father’.

And you will not stop obeying me.”

20 But you have been like a woman who has left her husband to go to another man.

You, Israel's people, have not been faithful to me,’ says the Lord.

21 ‘I can hear a noise on the high places.

Israel's people are crying and they are asking for help.

They are crying because they have left the good ways.

They have forgotten the Lord, their God.

22 Return to me, you backsliding children.

I will cause you to stop doing wrong things.

You should say, “Yes, we will come to you

because you are the Lord our God.

23 We hope for help from the other side of the hills and the mountains.

But it will not come.

Only the Lord our God can really save Israel.

24 Since we were young,

we have lost all our good things.

False gods have used them up.

They ate the things that our fathers worked for.

They took their sheep and cows.

They took their sons and daughters.

25 We are ashamed.

We want to lie down and hide ourselves.

From many years ago until now,

we and our ancestors have not obeyed you.” ’