Return to Me Faithless People And I Will Cure You of Backsliding

3:19 to 4:4

DIG: In what sense has Isra’el become like a disenfranchised firstborn son? Like an unfaithful woman? Under what conditions would God find Isra’el acceptable again (3:22-25)? Were the ten northern tribes ever “lost?” What should Judah during Josiah’s day do now (see Hosea 10:12; Matthew 4:7 and 22)? What is circumcision of the heart?

REFLECT: Is there an area of your life that ADONAI is calling you back to Him today? Asking you to return (shuwb) to obedience to His Word? How does God feel when we sin? When we repent (shuwb)? What actions will demonstrate genuine repentance (shuwb) on your part? How can you help others back to the Lord also?

During the reign of Josiah

These verses switch back and forth between the spiritual awakening under Josiah (3:21-3:22a and also see Ay - 4:3-31) to the far eschatological pleading of the believing remnant at the end of the Great Tribulation before the Second Coming (3:22b-4:2), and back to Josiah’s day to avoid the wrath of God.

ADONAI’s desire was to bless His people. The need is spelled out: return (shuwb) to God the Father! Unless this happens YHVH cannot regather the united kingdom of Isra’el and give them the inheritance of the Land (3:14-18).

The necessity of repentance both in Josiah’s day and at the end of the Great Tribulation: YHVH thought to Himself, “Oh what a joy it would be for Me to treat you like a son (3:19a NET)! God would single Isra’el (this signifies the whole nation, including Judah) out from among His other sons (the other nations). The word you (Judah) addressed here is feminine; however, the object treat is masculine. According to Hebrew law, daughters were usually unable to inherit. Judah, addressed as a daughter, could claim no right to receive divine mercy. Yet, figuratively she will be regarded as worthy of a son’s inheritance. ADONAI is gracious.

What a joy it would be for Me to give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful piece of property there is in all the world because the divine Presence isespecially seen in it (3:19c NET). I thought you would call Me “Father” and not turn (shuwb) away from following Me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you, Yisra’el, have been unfaithful to Me, declares the LORD (3:19b-20). The prophet paints the picture of a parent who has labored and dreamed for the wonderful day when his son is old enough, responsible enough, and responsive enough to receive all that has been saved for him since his birth. The father wants to give the son his inheritance even more than the son wants to receive it. But the moment of giving never comes because the son neither understands nor cares. The wounded father is left with the shambles of his hard work and broken dreams, and knows the bitter combination of deep hurt and heavy resentment.51 Because of Israel’s past spiritual adultery, she must repent.

Josiah’s day: A cry is heard on the barren heights, more pleasing to God than their worshiping wood and stone, the weeping (sorrow for sin) and pleading of the people of Isra’el (seeking forgiveness for past sins), because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten ADONAI their God (3:21). Isra’el is found in the process of repenting. Idolatry on the barren heights had been wiped out (3:2). Return (shuwb) faithless (from shuwb) people. He is still their gracious Father, whose house is still open to them, whose arms are extended to them (Luke 15:20-24).

Come to Me! I will cure you of backsliding (from shuwb) (3:22a). In Scripture, sickness is one of the many metaphors for sin (Psalm 41:4; Isaiah 1:5-6; Jeremiah 8:22, 30:12; Mark 2:17). Here, YHVH says that He will cure Isra’el of her sin. Like an infection entering the bloodstream, sin secretly gets into our inner being and goes to work weakening and destroying. It gradually infects the whole system, producing spiritual laziness and loss of spiritual appetite; and if not cared for, the “sin sickness” can lead to dire consequences. When we hear about believers suddenly falling into open sin, in most cases a gradual spiritual slide preceded the sudden fall.52

We know that once Josiah was killed on the battlefield (see Ai – Josiah Ruled for 31 Years from 640 to 609 BC) Josiah’s fourth son Jehoahaz was an evil king who opposed the reforms of his righteous father and reigned a mere 3 months. Next, Jehoiakim, Josiah’s second son becameking and reigned 11 years. Josiah’s purge of false gods came to a sudden stop when Jehoiakim became king. Judah would then be in a spiritual death spiral that would last the entirety of Jeremiah’s forty-five-year ministry.

Far eschatological: These are the words of the confession before the Lord returns (also see the commentary on Revelation Ev – The Basis for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ): Yes, we will come to You, for You are the LORD our God (3:22b). Surely the idolatrous worship on the hills and mountains is a deception (First Kings 14:23-24, 15:11-13; Second Kings 23:4-15; Psalm 106:35-40; Isaiah 28:7-8; Hosea 4:9-14; Amos 2:7b-8). They confess the failure of idolatry to bring them salvation. Help did not come from the hills and mountains where idolatry took place. Nowhere but in YHVH is salvation to be found. Now they see that ADONAI our God is the salvation of Isra’el (3:23).

They confess the results of idolatry (also see Hosea 9:10). From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor – their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters because they had been sacrificed to Ba’al. From Isra’el’s youth, that is, through the entire history of the covenant there never was a time of faithfulness. From the very beginning she had sought other lovers.The term shameful gods is a slang term for the Canaanite god Ba’al (3:24 and 7:31). It was the worship of Ba’al that was a shameful thing (also see Judges 6:32; 2 Samuel 11:21 and 28; 1 Chronicles 8:33 and Hosea 9:10). In Jeremiah 11:13 the prophet mentions that shameful god Ba’al. Isra’el had therefore been scandalized and left without a place of belonging. Her own actions had caused her to be utterly displaced, abandoned with none to protect her, especially from the antichrist.

At the end of the Great Tribulation, the believing remnant will say: Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. So intense will the feeling of shame be that it will appear to enshroud us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed ADONAI our God (3:25). The crux of the confession touches on the vital point of obedience. Both the present generation and their forefathers, all the way back to the Exodus, had failed to obey.

ADONAI says that two actions will demonstrate genuine repentance before the Second Coming: It is surprising that in the face of such gross spiritual adultery there was still a chance to return to YHVH. That in itself is an amazing possibility. Here Ha’Shem issues yet another invitation, but it comes neither easily or cheaply.

First, remove detestable idols: If you, Isra’el (this signifies the whole nation, including Judah), will return (shuwb), then return (shuwb) to Me, declares the LORD. This is a third class – unfulfilled condition.It has the possibility (or even the probability) of becoming a reality. If you put your detestable idols out of My sight and no longer go astray (4:1), then you will not have to be removed.

Second, swear by the true Ba’al instead of the counterfeit Ba’al: In 3:13a when YHVH said: Return (shuwb) faithless (from shuwb) people, declares ADONAI, “for I am married to you (3:14a). There is a play on words. The phrase for I am married is translated from the Hebrew word ba’al. This is the same word for the Canaanite counterfeit god Ba’al. ADONAI is the true Ba’al of Isra’el - not the one the Canaanites call Ba’al. And if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, “As surely as ADONAI lives,” then the consequence of genuine repentance is the implementation of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4 and 28:14) the Gentile nations will invoke blessings by Him and in Him they will boast (4:2). All the Gentile nations of the earth will be blessed through Him by virtue of what happens with Isra’el (also see Romans 11). Jeremiah will have more to say about the restoration of Isra’el in Chapters 30-33.

Near historical during Josiah’s day: This is what ADONAI says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns (4:3). The problem with the Israelites was their dishonesty; they would use the right words but they really didn’t mean it from their hearts. They would verbalize obedience to the One True God, but wouldn’t give up their false gods. It was easy to say, “As the Lord lives,” but their hearts were hard and crowded with thorns like a neglected, unplowed field.

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you people of Y’hudah and Yerushalayim. The radical change necessary in Y’hudah is made much clearer by the call to a circumcision of the heart. Jewish boys were circumcised when they were eight days old, given a name, and made a son of the covenant (Genesis 17:9-14; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59). Although no amount of surgery on the body could change the heart, the Jews thought that this ritual was their guarantee of salvation (Matthew 3:7-9; Acts 15:1-5). YHVH, however, wanted them to “operate” on their hearts and put away their callousness and disobedience. Therefore, circumcise your hearts and do not be stiff-necked any longer (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:11).53

If they do not repent, they will suffer God’s wrath which will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done – burn with no one to quench it (4:4b; alsosee Hosea 10:12; Matthew 4:7 and 22). The prophet’s words are angry. The wrath of God is a lamentation. All prophecy is one great exclamation . . . ADONAI is not indifferent to evil! He is always concerned. He is personally affected by what we do to each other. This is one of the meanings of the righteous anger of Ha’Shem: the end of indifference!54

The future of the relationship is left open, but it reveals the wounded hope of YHVH. What counts now is not foxhole repentance in order to survive. What counts now is the reality of this husband, who with bitter yearning and affronted loyalty, still open to a relationship, even against the wisdom of the Torah. If perhaps the relationship can be resumed, it will be outlined the righteousness of Torah. It will be the odd righteousness of the first husband, God, who violates Torah for the sake of the relationship (Ps 143:1-2). God's powerful yearning risks defilement for the sake of covenant (Luke 7:34-35).55

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