“Radical Forgiveness” – Jeremiah 3:1-13

May 12th, 2019 Mother’s Day

Jeremiah 3:1-13

“Radical Forgiveness”

Possible Aux. Texts: Dt 24:1-4

Call to Worship: Psalm 32


Service Orientation: No sin or law can exclude you from God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness and love.  Only your unrepentant, hard, prideful and rebellious heart.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. — 1 Peter 2:25                                                                                                                         

Background Information:

  • This Hebrew word shuv (NIV = return, turn repent) throbs like an insistent motif throughout the passages; forms of the word occur no less than eighteen times, a fact concealed by English translations. It has several meanings all derived from the basic idea of turning.  You can turn in different directions.  You can turn away from someone, turning your back on them, deserting them; so a noun from the verb shuv is used to describe Israel as “the faithless one” in 3:6, 8, 11, 12.  You can turn back or turn towards someone, so the word is used in the sense of returning, of doing that right about-turn, back to God, which is what the Bible means by repenting; this is the meaning it has in 3:22; 4:1.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 36)
  • (v. 2) Barren heights may more precisely be translated caravan roads, the place where traders traveled from one locale to another, cf. Holladay, Jeremiah, 1, 36. Most roads were located on ridge routes in Israel.  There may be further allusion to the fact that Canaanite religious sites were located on high places (see Lundom, Jeremiah 1-20, 302).  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 41)
  • (v. 2) The language of verse 2 contains a Hebrew term compiled the Masoretic Text provided a substitute word to be used in public reading. The NIV choice of “ravish” catches something of the physical and offensive nature of the term, but it is acceptable for public reading.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 69)
  • (v. 3) Israelites were tempted to worship Baal in particular, and Baal was a storm god, the one who brought the rains and fertility. In other words, the Lord seems to say, if you worship Baal for rain and fertility, then I will withhold them to show who is really in control.  We see a similar situation during the time of Elijah, when Ahab and Jezebel promote the worship of Baal with the result that God withholds the rains for a long period of time (see 1 Kgs 17:1).  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 40)
  • (vss. 4-5) In 3:4-5, 19-20 the prophet extends further his use of imagery drawn from the pattern of human relationships to emphasize that all such relationships demand certain qualities if they are to be real and effective. So fatherhood and friendship, especially loyalty and trust; religion could be no less dependent upon these values than could human relationships.  The prophet argues, however, that Israel’s religion had become empty of loyalty and sincerity–virtues indispensable in all other relationships.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 34)
  • (vss, 7-10) A contrast is drawn between two sisters, one of them Israel, which here means the northern kingdom of Israel which was overrun by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., the other Judah, the southern kingdom which survived the Assyrian onslaught. Israel had played fast and loose with the Lord, had refused to return to her true husband, and had been given a divorce decree.  Judah might have been expected to learn from her sister’s bitter experience.  But not a bit of it.  She too played the same game, and compounded her offence by going through the motions of returning to her husband: she “did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense [or falsely], says the Lord” (v. 10).  (Robert Davidson, Dayly Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 38)
  • (v. 9) In Canaanite religion the main emphasis was on fertility and sex. Worship was entered into in order to insure the fertility of the land, the animals, and the people.  Sacred prostitution was practiced widely.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 399)
  • (v.12) Did Jeremiah actually travel to the Northern Kingdom and speak to those remaining in the land who had not been deported by Assyria? Did he contact some who had been exiled to distant lands?  Either is possible.  But most interpreters believe he spoke rhetorically to them through his words to Judah.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 41)
  • (v.12) Turn Again, O Turncoat Israel!–The efficacy of this wordplay appears in the verses which follow (12-14): “Turn again, Oh, turncoat Israel”; or again, “Turn back, ye back-turning sons.” (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 826-7)
  • (v.13) Most versions translate the Hebrew word as rebelled. Two other excellent renderings are “revolted” and “trespassed.”  The Hebrew verb used here is probably the strongest word in the Hebrew language for wrongdoing or sinning against God.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 40)
  • Now all must repent and return to God in their hearts; only by such a movement would an eventual return to Zion be rendered possible. With such a message the Book of Jeremiah is given a thematic framework that conveys to the reader its overall message of hope.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 36)


The question to be answered is . . . What is Jeremiah trying to tell us in Jeremiah 3:1-13?


Answer: God loves us so much that no broken covenant or law nor any sin can ever keep Him from loving us and pursuing a relationship with us.


Common lies from the Pit of Hell:

Lightning will strike me and the church if I go to church.

God could never love me.

God could never forgive me.

I’m not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness.


Background Information from Matthew 19:1-12

  • Remember that this teaching in Matthew 19 comes right on the heels of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, where Jesus taught His disciples to forgive extravagantly (Mt 18:21-35). The implication is that we are to work and pray toward reconciliation and restoration, not because it’s easy, but because Christ is in you.  Divorce is possible, but because of the gospel, it’s not inevitable.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 255)
  • (Mt 19:3) The Pharisees regarded Dt 24:1 as a proof text for divorce. But Jesus focused on marriage rather than divorce.  He pointed out that God intended marriage to be a covenant–a permanent promise of love and faithfulness.  The Pharisees regarded divorce as a legal issue rather than a spiritual one–marriage and divorce were merely transactions similar to buying and selling land (with women being treated as property).  But Jesus condemned this attitude, clarifying God’s original intention–that marriage bring unity that no one should separate.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)
  • (Mt 19:5) The Jewish term for marriage was Kiddushin. Kiddushin meant sanctification or consecration.  It was used to describe something which was dedicated to God as his exclusive and peculiar possession.  Anything totally surrendered to God was kiddushinThis meant that in marriage the husband was consecrated to the wife, and the wife to the husband.  The one became the exclusive possession of the other, as much as an offering became the exclusive possession of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 236) (red bold emphasis Pastor Keith)
  • Jesus’ answer was that what Moses said was not in fact a law but nothing more than a concession. Moses did not command divorce; at the best, he only permitted it in order to regulate a situation which would have become chaotically promiscuous.  The Mosaic regulation was only a concession to fallen human nature.  In Gn 2:23-4, we have the ideal which God intended, the ideal that two people who marry should become so indissolubly one that they are one flesh.  Jesus’ answer was: “True, Moses permitted divorce; but that was a concession in view of a lost ideal.  The ideal of marriage is to be found in the unbreakable, perfect union of Adam and Eve.  That is what God meant marriage to be.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 234)
  • We cannot redefine what only God has the prerogative to define. Marriage is the one-flesh union of a man and a woman in a wholehearted, mutual, and lifelong relationship.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 252)
  • According to God’s plan, when a man marries, he establishes a bond with his wife of such a nature that she is as much a part of him as his own body is. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 377)


The Word for the Day is . . . Forgive


What is Jeremiah telling us here?:

I-  The Law says second level broken marriage covenants should not be restored.  (Jer 3:1; see also: Dt 24:1-4; Mt 19:1-12)


Dt 24:1-4 forbade the remarriage of a man with his divorced wife, even if her second husband had died or divorced her.  This law evidently did not apply to a man whose wife was forcibly taken from him (cf. 2 Sm 3:14-16 [David and Michal]).  The purpose of the law was to curb the husband’s arbitrary use of his right to divorce his wife.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 397)


(v. 4) The regulation that is now made is a restriction on the first husband, who may not remarry the woman.  The reason is that “she has been declared defiled.”  The word “defiled” is regularly used for cultic uncleanness, that which is unacceptable in the holiness sphere.  And the sexual realm is one of those in which defilement might occur.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 358-9)


(v. 4) Perhaps God gave this prohibition to ensure that marriage was not reduced to wife-swapping, a practice that defiled the very meaning and covenant of marriage.  No one could say, “I’ll go marry someone else and if that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to my first mate.”  God wanted the sanctity of marriage to be maintained.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 257)


(v. 4)  The main requirement of the law comes in its final clauses in verse 4: a man may not remarry a wife he has divorced if she has subsequently been married by another man and then divorced or widowed.  The practical effect of this rule is to protect the unfortunate woman from becoming a kind of marital football, passed back and forth between irresponsible men.  It is likewise for the woman’s protection that a certificate of divorce is to be given to the woman (lit. “into her hand”), since it proves her status as free to marry the second man.  Otherwise, she (and he) could be accused of adultery.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 255)


In a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor.  And you have a relationship as long as  the vendor is giving you a product at a good price.  But you are always looking to an upgrade.   And so you say to your vendor, “We have a relationship.  But, you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out-a-here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” . . . But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. . . . A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I have made a promise.  And the relationship is more important than my needs.  My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.”

Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter; that will be bad for the covenanter; that covenant will be exploited.  (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)


When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow.  For example:  The other covenant relationship is the relationship between parents and children. . . . In parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up.   You give and you give and you never get back. It is not a consumer relationship at all.  You adjust to them. . . . What is weird is you do it and you are so invested in your children so that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them.  There is a deeper richer kind of feeling because you are invested in them.  And in the same way, if you treat your marriage . . . as a covenant relationship, if you are committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow.   (Tim Keller message,  “Love and Lust”)


The woman is a victim in the case, and the use of the language of uncleanness trades on the terminology from the realm of adultery in order to show that she has been ill-treated.  The first husband, in particular, has forfeited his right to marry her because he shamed her, driving her as a result into a second marriage.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 360)


At first it may seem that the wife is being given shoddy treatment here.  Actually this law is intended to protect her.  In those days marriages and divorces were not performed by government authorities or authorities accredited by the government, which is what officiating ministers at weddings are today.  They were domestic matters, and all that the husband needed to do was to tell his wife that he was divorcing her.  The Bible brought in laws to protect the wife, which is what the “certificate of divorce” (24:1) does.  Without something in writing that she was divorced, she would be accused of adultery if she marries again.  This law “provides guideposts” for divorce.  There had to be adequate grounds for divorce, and a legal document was required.  This law makes divorce a serious matter.  In those days a woman could be easily transferred from man to man.  She could be discarded by her husband without adequate reasons.

What this law says is that a man cannot just change his mind after divorcing his wife and simply take her back.  It forces the man to think more seriously, before divorcing, of the implications of divorcing his wife.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 544-5)


The bill of divorcement we have good reason to believe, was mandatory in the case of dismissal.  It served a variety of purposes.  It was a legal document and therefore served as a deterrent of hasty action on the part of the husband–it would serve to restrain frivolous, thoughtless and rash dismissal.  It would also be a testimonial to the woman of her freedom from marital obligations to the husband who sent her away.  And it would be a protective instrument in the matter of the woman’s reputation and well-being, particularly in the event that she married another man.  (John Murray, Divorce, 9)


The prophet conveys his religious sense by pointing out that the marriage relationship, on which society rests, cannot survive without loyalty, trust, and steadfastness of purpose.  It cannot be an occasional affair!  The prophet’s hearers and readers would have felt sufficiently outraged at the described behavior of the woman for this point to need no additional explanation.  Yet what they failed to realize was that the religious relationship binding Israel to God was subject to precisely the same rules of conduct.  To have any meaning at all it needed the same steadfastness and loyalty.  It too could not be an “occasional affair,” which is how so many in the nation had come to regard it.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 34)


The emphasis in this legislation was not on regulating the behavior of the wife but in restricting the right of a husband to treat his wife as a disposable property.  He must be sure that he wanted to end the marriage the first time, because once his wife was gone from his house she was lost to him forever.  To show disrespect for a former wife by maintaining a future interest in her as a mate would be to bring sin upon the land that God was giving Israel.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 282)


This law, which forbade a divorced couple to reunite, was aimed against what would amount to virtually lending one’s partner to another–for if an authoritarian husband could dismiss his wife and have her back when the next man had finished with her, it would degrade not only her but marriage itself and the society that accepted such a practice.  (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 35)


Because of their covenant relationship with God, Judah called Him “Father” and “Guide,” which were titles Jewish wives sometimes used in addressing their husbands.  But how could God give them covenant blessings when they were violating covenant commandments?  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 36)


II-  Our covenant with God has been broken.  (Jer 3:2-13; see also: Ex 32;1 Chr 5:25; 2 Chr 12:2; 29:6; 30:7; 36:14; Ezra 10:2; Neh 1:8; 13:27; Isa 57:3; Jer 3:20; 5:7, 11; 7:9; 13:27; 23:10-14; Ezek 6:9; 14:4; 15:8; ch 23; 39:23; Bk of Hosea; Mt 12:39; 16:4; Mk 8:38; Rom 3:23; 6:23; Jam 4:4)


All the unproductive and fruitless hills testified of the immoral excesses in which the people had engaged.  The evidence could be seen all around.  Shrines existed everywhere, indicating the people had engaged in the kind of immoral rites practiced by the Baal cult.  The lifestyle resembled the Arabs who waited in ambush to attack a trade caravan.  The difference was that the people of Israel were waiting to engage in an adulterous relationship with a prostitute of Baal worship.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 38)


They had acted worse than common prostitutes, who at least waited for lovers to come to them, for Judah had pursued false gods and repeatedly committed spiritual adultery with them.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 36)


III-  Sincere faith and repentance prompts God’s love and forgiveness and trumps the Law and broken covenants. (Jer 3:12-13; see also Bk of Hosea; Rom 3:19-28; 4:13-16; 6:14-15; 8:1-4; Gal 2:16-21; 3:1-25; Phil 3:8-9; Heb chs 9-10)


They are guilty, but Yahweh is merciful.  He is waiting to see the first sign of repentance.  If they will take one step toward him, he will take ten steps toward them.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 38)


Three prophets use the divorce law in their message.  Jeremiah asks whether Israel, having deserted Yahweh for other lovers, could simply be taken back by Yahweh.  The answer is that what may have been impossible under the law was possible by God’s grace, given genuine repentance (Jer 3:1-5; 4:1f.).  Isaiah looks for the certificate of divorce between Yahweh and Israel, and finding none leaves open the possibility that though Israel has been sent away for its unfaithfulness, a formal divorce has not taken place and there could be restoration (Isa 50:1f.).  For Hosea divorce is a painful personal experience.  It seems God suspends the prohibition on remarriage of a divorced wife in Hosea’s case, in commanding him to recover Gomer after her unfaithfulness, though it may be significant that she had returned to prostitution and had not, perhaps, been married to another man (Hos 3:1-3).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 256)


Within the repeated call to Judah to turn resides the promise that God will do what the divine law (Dt 24:1-4) says is legally impermissible: to restore a sinful spouse who has apostatized and legally married another.  It is a profound theological claim that God’s ability to restore is not limited by human inability to heal broken relationships.  Even the Deuteronomic law regulating divorce–when read prophetically–points to the God of grace beyond human culpability and its consequences.  In NT terms, even the curse of the law on disobedience is born by God’s Son in order that the blessing promised to Abraham can be received through faith (Gal 3:13-14).  What the law weakened by human fallibility cannot do, God has done in Jesus Christ.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 74)


We must never forget that God, as he wills, exercises grace beyond the law.  Ruth was a Moabitess and was excluded from Israel (cf. Dt 23:3); how then does she become the ancestress of David and of the Lord Jesus?  God operated by grace beyond the law.  So God was ready to forgive Judah in spite of all her past failures.  Legal claims to the contrary, God calls Judah to the solution to her predicament–namely, repentance.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 397)


Legal custom forbade the remarriage of a husband and wife, once the wife had been divorced and gone to marry another man.  That law is used here to demonstrate the impossibility of Israel and Judah’s removing the effects of their sinfulness by simply deciding to do better and return to their first Lord.  That same law, however, will not keep God from healing the people from his side.  It is important to note that his “overrule” of the Torah does not make the law bad or its principles invalid.  The better analogy is the Pauline claim that what the law could not do, God has seen fit to do–all for the sake of those he loves (cf. Rom 8:1-4).  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 72)


The people’s crying to God was empty lip service because they continued in their wickedness (v. 5).  Did they think a pretense of obedience to God would insure his favor?  Moreover, they were building on false hopes that God’s anger would not last; so they persisted in wickedness to the limit of their power, evidently convinced that God’s wrath would subside regardless of what they did.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 398)


What then is the point of this illustration?  It seems to be saying two things:

(1) It is trying to make the people face honestly the difficulties in the way of reconciliation.  True reconciliation, as we well know in human relationships, is a difficult, costly experience, which can never be built on a quick “let’s forget it” attitude.  A faithless, unrepentant people cannot simply turn to God as if he were some benign sugar daddy, momentarily angry but at heart a soft, indulgent friend prepared to give them anything they ask as soon as they say “please.”  Reconciliation can never be merely a matter of words.

(2) It is pointing to reconciliation based, not on what is legally possible, but on something which goes beyond the law or any legal rights the people may or may not have, to that something in the character of God which alone can give hope of a new beginning.  The OT too is the story of a prodigal and of reconciliation flowing from the unchanging, costly love of a father.  (Robert Davidson, Dayly Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 37)


Outwardly much had changed; inwardly nothing had changed.  There had been a “false” return, and that was worse than no return at all.  As Jeremiah found out to his cost, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to preach repentance to a people who believe they have already repented.  There is nothing like a good dose of “religion” to inoculate people against the radical claims of God.  (Robert Davidson, Dayly Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 38)


Nothing shows more clearly the proximity of Jeremiah’s early message to that of Hosea, not to say his indebtedness thereto, than the turn which Yahweh’s plea (2:9) to the people now takes.  In spite of all that they have done–their infidelities, their backslidings, their idolatries, their defections–they are now invited to return.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 823)


Jeremiah’s repeated use of the term šub urges exploration of the nature and function of repentance in the Christian life.  There are rich resources in the history of Christian piety on this subject.  Fasting, self-denial, acts of charity, and spiritual disciplines such as lectio divina and frequent prayer have all been classical means for turning and returning to the Lord.  But repentance first of all means turning from an activity toward God and engaging in obedience to his revealed will.  In Christian terms it is not just the rejection of sinful activity but the embracing of the good revealed in Jesus Christ.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 73)


God had not initiated the “divorce” with his people even though they had forfeited their rights to the marriage relationship by their sinful conduct.  God had a right to extend grace and mercy, which he did.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 38)


Punishment for infidelity was inevitable.  But beyond that, restoration and healing required a wholehearted return to the Lord.  Perhaps this section reflects a development in Jeremiah’s message over the decades of his ministry; as a result of calls for corporate repentance, Jeremiah learns that Judah is inherently unable to change her ways.  Although this makes judgment on the people unavoidable, it is not the last word.  God himself will bring about change among his people and thus offer a new beginning for future generations.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 71)


The word translated “faithless” (vss. 6, 11), and sometimes rendered “backsliding,” contains a play upon the two senses of the Hebrew root–implying both to turn the back on Yahweh and to turn back to him.  This describes superbly the inner ambivalence at the heart of the people.  It becomes also the deliberated strategy of the use of the term “return” throughout the rest of ch. 3 and in 4:1.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 826)


Their harlotry had been deliberate, and no language of endearment–“My father, thou art the friend of my youth”–could hide their duplicity, for their ways betrayed them (3:1-5).  Jeremiah urged God’s case against his people even more strongly by likening Israel to a faithless wife now divorced.  The Northern Kingdom had sinned away her day of grace and was now in captivity.  But Judah, her treacherous sister, was following Israel’s example.  Although espousing outward reform under Josiah, Judah was only pretending.  This compounded her sin.  Yet God wanted faithless Judah to repent.  Even faithless Israel might yet be brought home to Zion if she were to acknowledge her guilt (3:6-14).  (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 31)


They were incapable of registering any shame by such a simple thing as blushing.  They had no consciousness of sin.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 39)


Their relationship with God consisted of overemphasizing his unconditional love.  They heaped up words of praise for him, assuring themselves that he accepted them as they were and, therefore, demanded no change in their lifestyle. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 39)


Jeremiah did admit that Judah took a superficial step toward repentance, but he stated frankly that it was not sincere and won no favor with God.  Could Jeremiah have been speaking of the revival in the days of Hezekiah?  Was he suggesting the people never actually took those reforms seriously or they would not have reverted so quickly to pagan worship under Manasseh?  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 40)


Worship Point: Praise God Whose unreasonable love for us obliterates any human understanding or concept of love.  He loves us enough to discipline us.  (Dt 8:1-5; Prv 3:11-12; 1 Tm 1:16;  Heb 12:5-6)


Why did God create us and later redeem us at great cost even though he doesn’t need us?  He did it because he loves us.  His love is perfect love, radically vulnerable love.  And when you begin to get it, when you begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of your own love starts to wash away, and you’ve got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to other people.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 99-100)


By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact.  If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God.  How will that individual become more loving, then?  Can we grow in love by trying to love more?  No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love.  The solution, John implies, is to know God better.  This is so simple that we miss it all the time: our means for becoming more loving is to know God better.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 146)


Like Jeremiah, Jesus’ call for repentance was not about change for change’s sake but for the sake of knowing God and the joy of obedience to his revealed will.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 71)


I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love.  I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient.  We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way.  None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.

But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying.  We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.

Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us.  Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives.  And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)


Gospel Application: Christ died for the chiefest of sinners.  Christ died for you because He loves you.  (Jn 3:16; 15:13; Rom 5:6-10; 1 Jn 4:9-10)


In short, the “secret” is not simply the fact of marriage per se.  It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself.  And what was that?

MMMM      Jesus gave himself up for us.  Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Phil 2:5ff).  But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Rom 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Pt 1:4).  He gave up his glory and power and became a servant.  He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Rom 15:1-3).  Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him and he with us.  And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage but to living it.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 41-2)

If God had the gospel of Jesus’ salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only “works” to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


The chiefest of sinners are not necessarily those who do heinous, disgusting, rebellious or gruesome crimes.  God says the chiefest of sinners are those who know God and know better and sin anyway.  —Pastor Keith


We should rightly object to the binary choice that both traditional and contemporary marriage seem to give us.  Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, or is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself?  The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.  Jesus gave himself up; he died to himself to save us and make us his.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)

Spiritual Challenge: When you “feel” God can’t love you and could never take you back; you not only blaspheme God by confessing His love to be less than it is (more like human love rather than the love the Bible reveals God has for sinners); but you also display an arrogance and pride in that you think your sin is bigger, and more damning than anyone else’s sin.  Therefore, you think, God is incapable of forgiving you.   These thoughts are from the pit of hell.  Tell Satan where to go.


Our identity issues are fundamental misunderstandings of who God is: Guilt issues are a misunderstanding of God’s grace, control issues are a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty, anger issues are a misunderstanding of God’s mercy, pride issues are a misunderstand of God’s greatness and trust issues are a misunderstanding of God’s goodness.  Let God be the loudest voice in your life!  God doesn’t love us because of who we are.  God loves us because of Who He is.  (Steve Brown; January 2019 Steve’s Letter)


Spiritual Challenge Questions:

  1. A lot of people have a hard time forgiving. Why is that?  What is there about us that makes forgiving another hard to do?
  2. Every time forgiveness takes place somebody pays; usually the one doing the forgiving. How do we understand God’s justice in forgiveness?  How does James 2:13b give us insight into Justice, mercy and forgiveness?
  3. How does Jesus empower us and encourage us to forgive? How can we better facilitate or display that empowerment and encouragement? 


So What?: To enjoy a relationship with a holy, righteous, perfect God, we must acknowledge, confess, and repent from our sins and forgive others as God forgives us.  (Mt 5:7; 6:12; 18:21-35; Mk 11:25; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; Jam 2:12-14)


It is not your sins that will keep you out of heaven.  Jesus died for that.  It is your thinking that your damnable good works will get you into heaven so you don’t think you need Jesus.  —Tim Keller paraphrased by Pastor Keith


“We inoculate the world with a mild form of Christianity so that it will be immune to the real thing.  (William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas; Resident Aliens, 90)


Jeremiah shows us that as Christ followers, you must be willing to judge other Christ followers.  Not according to your standards, preferences, or values; but according to God’s.  (See Mt 7:1-2, 6; 19:28; Lk 6:37; Jn 7:24; 8:15-16; Acts 4:19; 17:11; Rom 2:1-3; 14:1-13; 1 Cor 2:15; 4:3-5; 5:3-13; 6:1-5; 10:15; 11:13; Jam 2:12-13; 4:11-12; 5:9; 1 Jn 4:1)


Do for your spouse what God did for you in Jesus, and the rest will follow.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


“Why should that sin be unforgivable?  What differentiates it so terribly from all other sins?   The answer is simple.  When anyone reaches that stage, repentance is impossible.  If people cannot recognize the good when they see it, they cannot desire it.  If they do not recognize the evil as evil, they cannot be sorry for it and wish to depart from it.  And if they cannot, in spite of failures, love the good and hate the evil, then they cannot repent; and if they cannot repent, they cannot be forgiven, for repentance is the only condition of forgiveness.  It would save much heartbreak if people would realize that the very people who cannot have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit are those who fear that they have, for the sin against the Holy Spirit can be truly described as the loss of all sense of sin.”  (William Barclay;  Commentary on Matthew Vol 2, 52)


There is a problem with free forgiveness.  If you can always wipe the slate clean, how much does it matter what you write on it next?  It is a problem for both parties–not only for the one in the wrong, who may feel that he can get away with more and more, but also for the one who forgives, who has to wonder what his forbearance may be doing to the other person.  Here God sets about shaking his people out of their complacency.  (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 35)


In Jeremiah we find a mixture of conditional and unconditional oracles, the present oracle is the latter.  Their sin is so great that there is no chance at repentance.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 40)


If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—”OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless.  Just how far can I go with other women?  Can I hug them?  Kiss them?  Go to bed with them?  How often?  How many?—we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man.  If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love.  And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way—”Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance.  What can I get away with?  How far can I push it?”—that Christian will end up equally impoverished.  Paul’s response says it all: “God forbid!” (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 186)


Special Consideration:

Verse 11 serves as a transition from Jeremiah’s condemnation of Judah for learning nothing from Israel’s moral failure.  His contention was that Judah had the example of Israel to observe and was, therefore, more guilty than her sister kingdom.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 40)


Because Judah has witnessed the consequences of God’s punishment of Ephraim, this amounted to a special call and opportunity to repent.  Judah had not repented; instead it arrogantly congratulated itself upon its escape and had begun to behave worse than its sister kingdom (3:8).  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 32)


In spite of her sins, Judah considered herself favored beyond the possibility of judgment on her.  How vividly this shows that Josiah’s reformation was superficial and short-lived! (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 398)


Your relationship with God is not based on your performance.  It is based upon God’s love for you and your faith in Jesus’ performance.  Can you die to looking to anything in yourself to save you?  You will know your heart and mind have comprehended God’s love and forgiveness for you when you are more concerned your sin will disappoint your Loving Father in Heaven than you are with being embarrassed when your sin goes public. (Ps 32; 51; 86; Lk 7:36-50)  —Pastor Keith


You can know that you are on your way to being lost forever when you no longer care you are on your way to being lost forever.  —Pastor Keith






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