The Honeymoon Is Over
When we start something new, such as a new marriage or a new job or even a new church, there is typically a “honeymoon” phase. The honeymoon phase is when we’re excited about new opportunities and optimistic about the future. Everything seems perfect. Then the honeymoon ends. We find out that we’re all sinners.
Our relationships with others don’t have to grow very deep before we come face to face with the sinful nature of fallen humanity. Any relationship we build with other sinners inevitably requires both confrontation and forgiveness of their sin, and confession and repentance of our own.
In Jeremiah 2:1-3, God recalls a similar “honeymoon” phase in His relationship with Israel. “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:2b). For a brief moment, Jeremiah paints a wistful vignette of a time gone by, as he remembers the early days after God had redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt and made them His treasured possession.
The tranquil scene is shattered by the ugly reality of Israel’s sin. Jeremiah launches into a long, graphic, and gut-wrenching account of Israel’s continual fall into idolatry
(2:4 – 3:5). A key to this section is the metaphor of idolatry as adultery, and even prostitution (2:20, 24, 32-33; 3:1-3). The honeymoon didn’t last long. Yahweh’s bride, Israel, revealed her true character almost immediately. Even before Moses made it down the mountain with the Ten Commandments, she had already made and worshipped the golden calf. It’s as if the minister has just said “you may kiss the bride,” but the bride is already locking lips with some guy from the catering staff.
Centuries later, in Jeremiah’s time, not much has changed. Or if it has changed, it has gotten worse. Sin has caused a split in God’s people between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom has been destroyed and its people taken into exile by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom has learned nothing from the fate of the north (see 3:6-11).
All of this leads us to an urgent question: is there any hope? Can God’s people be restored? There is more at stake here than the fate of an ancient people group. These people are the heirs of God’s promises to Abraham, through whom God promised to bless all nations of the earth (Genesis 22:18). God’s plan of redemption is bound up with this nation. Has God’s plan failed? No. In this week’s sermon text, God calls Jeremiah to do something surprising. He proclaims a message of hope and a promise of restoration—not to the southern kingdom, but to the north. He preaches to an empty land, calling out to the people long since carried away to exile. He calls them to repent, promises a future when they will be restored, and proclaims that all nations will one day be gathered in to the presence of God.
How can this be? How can God’s guilty, divorced bride return to Him? Jeremiah gives only one answer, an answer that we understand more fully in light of the coming of Christ: “For I am merciful, declares the Lord.” (3:12)
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