Today: [Jeremiah 3] Is God an Adulterer? In Jeremiah 3 God Himself seemingly admits that He is violating His own law by seeking to be reunited in marriage with an adulterous people. The issue of adultery and remarriage in today’s church is one of the most scandalous and contentious issues one can consider. Churches and families have been torn apart. Ministries destroyed and homes devastated, not just by the occurrence of marital problems and breakup but even more so by the church’s vicious and venomous handling of those who have suffered in such situations.
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[Jer 3:1-25 KJV] 1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. 2 Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. 3 Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. 4 Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou [art] the guide of my youth? 5 Will he reserve [his anger] for ever? will he keep [it] to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest. 6 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen [that] which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. 7 And I said after she had done all these [things], Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw [it]. 8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. 9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
In this chapter the Spirit of the Lord speaking through the prophet challenges the southern kingdom with a reference to laws respecting marriage and divorce. The specific passage involved is Duet. 24:1-4 that gave allowances for a divorce to take place but goes on the stress that if a divorce and remarriage happen and then a second subsequent divorce, that for the original couple to reunited was (De. 24.4) an “abomination” that would cause the land to sin. Now this is all very interesting but what truly gets our attention is that God is applying this to Himself and to His relationship to the people of God. He maintains that because of the whoredoms of the people that He had divorced Himself from them ~ yet in the very first sentence of our chapter implores the nation to return to Him, admitting it is contrary to His own law. How can this be? As my wife often says:
Because God is God and He can do anything He wants anytime He wants and He doesn’t have to check with anyone.
Question – if it is an abomination for such a action to be taken (divorce and subsequent remarriage to the original partner), does this make God an adulterer? Before that what about the fact that God is a divorcee? There are denominations and churches that will not allow a divorced, or a divorced and remarriage person to serve in leadership or preach in the pulpit. The passage they often use is found in the gospel of Matthew:
[Mat 5:31-32 KJV] 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Again the question can be asked in the light of our chapter in Jeremiah. If we are to read this verse the way many read it then we can only conclude that the supposed perspective of Jesus Himself on this matter is an indictment of His own Father under charges of adultery. Is God an adulterer and guilty of abomination because according to Jeremiah 3, He has divorced and then remarried unfaithful Israel? Isn’t that the clear implication of the verse? Isn’t this how many interpret these passages? How can you read one passage on this matter in Matthew and another in Jeremiah and come up with this kind of thinking? God does not contradict Himself. Properly understood there is no contradiction between Jeremiah 3 and Matthew 5:31-32. Properly read in context, this discourse in Matthew 5 is about the fact that Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. How does Jesus fulfill the law? By bringing about its purpose, the purpose expressed in Galatians 3:24 that the law is not there to keep us in line, but as a school master to bring us to Christ. Reading these passages within that context unified these seemingly opposing passages. Reading them within this context you will find these passages perfectly in harmony.
11 And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. 12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; [and] I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I [am] merciful, saith the LORD, [and] I will not keep [anger] for ever. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. 14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit [it]; neither shall [that] be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. 19 But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me. 20 Surely [as] a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD. 21 A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping [and] supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, [and] they have forgotten the LORD their God. 22 Return, ye backsliding children, [and] I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou [art] the LORD our God. 23 Truly in vain [is salvation hoped for] from the hills, [and from] the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God [is] the salvation of Israel. 24 For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.
The first part of the chapter deals with unfaithful Judah. Beginning in verse 11 Jeremiah is instructed to go and prophesy to the remnants of the northern kingdom which by this time was very vestigial with very few inhabitants left that had not gone into captivity. He declares that He is married yet to the northern tribes and calls upon them to cross the border between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom and to return to Jerusalem and the rule of the kings of the line of David.
What is backsliding? Backsliding, without getting too graphic is not intended to give a picture of a weak believer who struggling in faith falters in spite of doing their best to live for God. Backsliding is a behavior observed when a she-ass is in heat and she is looking for some relief by backing up toward a prospective mate or upon a nearby tree. Without spending too much time on that picture, suffice to say it is very unflattering yet that is the description affixed to the people of God to define their spiritual state. The people are steeped in idolatry, going after other gods like an animal in estrus. We see falling away in our faith as growing cold and being victimized by temptation. God sees it as something much more distasteful.
In spite of the whoredoms of the people God is crying out to them and by extrapolation to us – that He is yet prepared and of a heart to be married to us and to restore us to right relationship to Him. How do we get started? Verse 13 tells us the beginning point is acknowledging our iniquities and transgressions – FROM HIS PERSPECTIVE AND NOT OURS. We often repent using words similar to Adam and Eve in the garden, blaming circumstances, upbringing, other people, even the devil himself. What God is really after and true repentance is taking responsibility for your actions without any excuse – looking to Him to deliver us from our own corruption.
If we will turn and repent the promise is in v. 15 that He will send us pastors according to His heart that will feed us with knowledge and understanding. One of the all time favorite past times in Christian culture is to criticize leaders. Remember however that Dan. 2:21 tells us that God sets up leaders in their places. Verse 15 tells us that the character of our leaders is a reflection of the quality of relationship the people have with God Himself. If our leaders are defective, flawed and imperfect it is because the people are idolatrous and backslidden. Thus when we see the failures of a leader we must also look at ourselves and realize that if our hearts were found in greater purity God would give us greater leaders. A sobering and much neglected assessment in popular Christian culture.
The remainder of the chapter is a repetitive call for the people to return to God. If they will return they will be multiplied and increased. If they continue in their own path the opposite will be their experienced. Are you walking in increase and the multiplication of the blessings of God. That can be for many reasons. We often conclude that the reasons we are suffering the absence of what God has promised in our lives through the cross is because we are so godly that the enemy is after us. The testimony of Jeremiah and the Spirit of God speaking through Jeremiah is the opposite. This is a conclusion that most Christians are incapable of arriving at – they are so entrenched in their own self-assessment of how spiritual they are. We can only recall the words of Isaiah speaking by the Spirit of God in Isa. 1:5 “why should you be smitten anymore? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick. The whole heart is faint.
What is the answer? To allow the law of God that condemns us in our whoredoms to fulfill its purpose according to Gal. 3:24 and bring us, exhausted in pursuit of our own righteousness, and cause us to fall at the foot of the cross and declare – we need a savior.
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