God, through Jeremiah, is talking to His children. This message is not for those outside the family of God, not for the unsaved, but for us who know God as our Father. He is talking to the ancient Jews, and to Christians this side of the cross.
He calls us an unfaithful wife, someone who wants to be married AND live like we aren’t. God, in chapter 3, tells us He doesn’t want a divorce, so He warns us, begs us to return to Him. But Jeremiah tells us God’s bride continues in her unfaithfulness. So to her He says:
“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (3:22)
Then in chapter 4, God tells us what coming back to Him looks like. Warren Wiersbe, in his Bible handbook entitled “With The Word” wrote an outline I’d like to share with you today. You can find his words on page 499 of that handbook. (Oliver-Nelson Books, copyright 1991)
- Returning to God looks like plowing a field (3:3). Breaking up the hard ground and planting only good seed is the picture here. A hard heart needs breaking to make it fertile. Am I willing to let God break my heart?
- It looks like surgery (vs 4). Circumcising the heart involves the painful cutting away of anything that identifies us with the world. But, like with surgery, the pain is temporary, the benefits long-lasting. What is it God is asking me to cut away today?
- Returning to God looks like joining the army (vv 5-6, 19-21). I remember when my nephew joined the army, he left home. We couldn’t go with him and, really, he wouldn’t want Aunt Connie following him around during training anyway. He tells us that training was hard, not always fun, they broke him in order to build him up. But that kid came home a man. That training changed him into a soldier. The Bible tells us a soldier answers the call of the trumpet, drops everything else, and reports for duty. Do we realize there is a battle raging in our lives? Returning to God might involve going back to boot camp, to study, to put on the whole armor of God, to pray, to go. God’s trumpet is blaring. Am I answering the call?
- It looks like taking a bath (vs 14). If we want to return to God we’ve got to wash the evil from our hearts, purify our minds, allow God to scrub the enemy off of us and get rid of any trace of the world. Paul calls it coming out from among them and being separate. God deserves a bride who is totally His. Does that describe me? Or do I still have a smudge of filth on my face?
- It looks like growing up (vs 22). Jesus tells us to come to Him like a child, but that’s different than being childish. Maybe it’s time I quit playing around and got serious about my relationship with God. Maybe it’s time I quit demanding my own way, throwing tantrums when I don’t get what I think I deserve. Maybe it’s time I quit putting myself at the center of my life like a two-year-old, and put my Bridegroom where He deserves to be.
Backsliding doesn’t come on anyone suddenly. It starts with a thought, a look, a taste. It starts with busy schedules that steal our time away from God’s Word, or from church on Sunday. It begins as a thought, then a desire, then an action. And one action leads to another, then another. That gradual stepping away from God is a slippery slope.
Hear God tell us to STOP! Hear Him beg us to return to Him, to do whatever it takes to be that Bride He deserves, even if the process is painful and humbling. God wants His Bride back. That means you, dear one!