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Lowell Brueckner

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A Call to Backslidden Israel



Please have your own Bibles open to Jeremiah 3, in order to follow the text. We will not have the entire text written in this article...

Chapter 3

 The power of God unto salvation

 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly” (Mt.1:18-19). Joseph was faced with a major dilemma. Of course, he was completely ignorant of what God was doing and what part he would play in His plan. Anyone would be, if the Lord did not open his understanding. He is judging the circumstance according to the law, with only human, fleshly knowledge, and being a just man, he comes to the conclusion that he must break off his betrothal commitment to Mary. Because he was a compassionate, merciful man, he determined to do it privately and secretly. This was as far as the law could take him and it offered no real remedy to the situation.  

 The law was good, because it uncovered sin and pronounced judgment against it, but it was powerless to transform. On the other hand, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The Holy Spirit is always involved and it is His involvement, which actually causes the problem, according to human understanding. If there was ever a manifestation of the power of God unto salvation, it was in the womb of a virgin.

 In this third chapter, Israel is portrayed as an unfaithful wife, who should legally be put away by her Husband. It would have been totally righteous for God to reject her and never be involved with her again. However, the gospel comes from the heart of a loving, compassionate God and cries out, Return to Me. She will find mercy to deal with her many sins and grace to restore her to fellowship with her Lord. The gospel is revealed throughout the Old Testament and works powerfully to cleanse and transform the heart. His perfect righteousness will be satisfied at the cross. 


 We must remember that this is all allegory; it speaks of Israel’s spiritual state. So spiritually, she is worse than a divorced wife, who finds another man. She has sinned with many lovers. Principally, idolatry is in Israel’s heart and she has lusted after the gods of the nations around her. The desolate heights (2) are the high places, mentioned often in her history, a cultural perversion that has no natural attraction, yet draws the heart of the people to worship other gods. Any sin done against fellow men are not to be compared to the wickedness of sinning against our Creator. The first three of the Ten Commandments deal exclusively with blasphemy and idolatry. The Christian must adjust his thinking in order to see that to offend God is worse than murder or theft. It is worthy of an eternity in hell.

 There are immediate repercussions to bring it powerfully to Israel’s attention. There have been terrible droughts. One lasted 3 ½ years and brought the population to cannibalism (3). If you will study carefully Romans, chapter 1, you will see that God has clearly shown his wrath to mankind (Ro.1:18), because they have rejected their Creator. They did not glorify Him, they were ungrateful, futile, walking in darkness (Ro.1:21).

 On that basis, God turned them over to uncleanness among themselves (Ro.1:24-27), but remember, the root cause is their desecration of God in their own minds. I will cite Romans 1:28 for our example: “As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” From that mistreatment of God springs sexual perversion, envy, murder, strife, etc. (Ro.1:29). Yet a hardened heart feels no shame for these shameful practices. That was the state of Israel and that is the state of mankind in general.

 In the last chapter, verse 27, foolish, deluded souls called a tree “my father” and said to a stone, “You gave birth to me”. It is time to awaken to truth, as the prodigal, to come to his senses, and think of his true Father. When people cast off all restraint, they ignore God and follow their own way, in which there is no right or wrong. Then, they come to think on the good things that God teaches (4): “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Php.4:8).

 Again, as in the case of the prodigal, the question is, “Will my Father receive me? Is He still angry and will He keep His anger forever? Am I eternally lost? It is true, I have done everything that I was capable of doing against Him” (5).

 Another prophetic session with the Lord

 In verse 6, Jeremiah begins to write of another session with the Lord in the days of Josiah. To backslide is a strong verb and it means to turn one’s back on God and go in another direction. The Lord calls Jeremiah to observe the apostate hearts in the northern tribes of Israel. He not only has to hear about it, he must give personal testimony. They have already been carried away into captivity, because of their spiritual harlotry, having abandoned their true God for generations. They practiced rampant, unrestrained idolatry.

 After she had done all these things, the great heart of God called to her to return. The gospel of grace was not at all announced first in the New Testament. Northern Israel’s sin was notorious, but southern Judah’s evil heart surpassed that of her sister nation. Judah is treacherous (7). The figurative divorce papers given Israel spoke of the Assyrian captivity, in which a large segment of the population was transferred to Assyria, while Assyrians were sent to occupy Israel. There was abounding evidence of her spiritual adultery, so the cause was just and righteous. Judah witnessed the Assyrian invasion and conquest of Israel, but did not learn, because there was no fear of God in her heart. Judah did worse than Israel (8).

 This prophecy is particularly for Judah, using the strong Hebrew term, backsliding, a state akin to apostasy, for Israel, in order to emphasize in a greater way, the exceeding treachery in Judah. For that reason, Israel’s harlotry is also defined as casual, meaning it was done lightly and without fear. It is done mindlessly, insanely, deifying stones and trees (9).

 However, Israel’s sin was open; Judah was deceptive, as was their patriarch, Judah, before his true transformation, instigated by Joseph, collaborating with the Lord. In verse 10, the treachery is explained. In witnessing the fall of northern Israel, Judah returns to God half-heartedly, in pretense! In modern terms, she has performed a cover-up, a partial repentance, which resulted in a deceitful sham. Old-time preachers of righteousness called this practice in Christianity a spurious conversion. For whatever convenience, people made professions of faith in Christ with reservations. They held something back, something hidden safely away, in some proverbial skeleton in the closet, which was too costly for them to disclose. Charles Finney was one who spoke and wrote of spurious conversions; so did Charles Spurgeon and, I imagine, so did many other true messengers of the gospel.

 In God’s estimation (which is the only one that matters), backsliding Israel is more righteous than treacherous Judah (11). Jeremiah has a wonderful mission to perform, sending this message from the Lord to the remnant that remains in the north: Return, backsliding Israel, I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful; I will not remain angry forever (12).

 There is a condition for her return, however, there always is and always will be. She is to be made aware of her sin. To the degree that she recognizes her sin, to that depth will be her repentance, that is, her return to God. In every true conversion, there must be recognition of sin, preferably a deep remorse. That will come through an acute understanding of Whom they have offended… You have transgressed against the Lord your God. The gravity of their sin must be clearly depicted: You have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree. That is, they have freely given their soul’s treasures to demonic forces, God’s enemies, and they have done so habitually. And you have not obeyed My voice… They have disobeyed the Sovereign Authority of the universe, despising His word (13).  

 God pleads as a Father to His children, but also from an even closer relationship, that of marriage, the tightest bond known to mankind. This is an individual call to come, to one or two at a time, out of their idolatrous cities and families. By His own hand, He will bring them to the blessings of Mount Zion (14).  To help guide them along the way, He will give them spiritual pastors, (notice the significant figure of speech) who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Here are gospel riches, as dear as any in the New Testament, according to My heart. The Lord is offering free grace to a sin-ridden people (15).

 A prophetic look, far into the future

This is Jeremiah 3:16, not John 3:16, but it is the gospel nonetheless. He speaks of a future day, when Israel will not be mindful of the golden ark of the covenant, God’s seat in the tabernacle in the wilderness. They will gather around His throne in Jerusalem, when Jesus reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yes, Jeremiah is prophesying of the Millennial Reign of Christ. The majesty of this and the following verses cannot be applied to anything less. It does not require, nor hint at, an ethereal interpretation of the church’s replacement of Israel. Everything in this chapter, up to this point, has spoken of literal Israel and Judah. Literal Jerusalem is named as the Throne of the Lord, then sealed by the words, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem, to which all the Gentile nations will attend. The devil will be bound and human nature will be overruled by the righteous reign of Christ (17).

 Israel will no longer be divided and even in our day, the Lord has brought forth a united Israel, under one sovereign government, in preparation for the Millennium. He gave the inheritance to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and since the 20th Century, their descendants are returning to their native land for the first time since 70 A.D. (18). “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Ro.11:29).

 The term, put you among the children, refers to divine adoption. They may be unfaithful to their covenant, but God cannot be. They will yet have the pleasant land and beautiful heritage, unequaled in all the nations of the world. If He has declared that they will call Him Father and not turn away from Him, then that word will be fulfilled (19). It is undeniable, Israel has broken her marriage covenant, dealing treacherously with their heavenly Husband (20). That is the greatest cause in the world for heartfelt grief. And there will be the very deepest grief expressed (21): “Then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zec.12:10).

The Lord God calls for their return and healing and there will surely be a response: Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God” (22). It will be performed in a most direct fashion, for salvation is of the Lord and comes only through Him. Don’t look to the hills and mountains, as an indirect means or method, through which He might work (23). Put a question mark after the first part of Psalms 121:1: Will I lift up my eyes to the hills?  From whence comes my help? 2. My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” “Smart” men hold too many explanations for God’s supernatural work. “I know whom I have believed,” said the apostle (2 T.1:12), and we need to be gazing upon ‘whom’ and not trying to figure out ‘how’.  

 Shameful practices have brought loss to Israel’s labor, their flocks and herds, and their children (24). Verse 25 explains the humiliation that will bring salvation. They are found, lying humiliated in shame, covered with dishonor, because of sin. This works for the Gentile sinner today, as much as it will work for future Israel. It includes a realization of being conceived in sin, through the sin that goes all the way back to Adam. From his day to the present, we are an evil, disobedient race. Let society claim it is not so, let psychology try to remove the guilt, nothing will erase the truth of God’s word. There is no getting around it and unless someone yields to it, there will never be salvation for that person.   





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