Jeremiah 3

1‘If a man divorces his wife
and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers –
would you now return to me?’
declares the  Lord.
2‘Look up to the barren heights and see.
Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
with your prostitution and wickedness.
3Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
you refuse to blush with shame.
4Have you not just called to me:
“My Father, my friend from my youth,
5will you always be angry?
Will your wrath continue for ever?”
This is how you talk,
but you do all the evil you can.’

Unfaithful Israel

6During the reign of King Josiah, the  Lord said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. 9Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. 10In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence,’ declares the  Lord.

11The  Lord said to me, ‘Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12Go, proclaim this message towards the north:

‘“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the  Lord,
“I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,” declares the  Lord,
“I will not be angry for ever.
13Only acknowledge your guilt –
you have rebelled against the  Lord your God,
you have scattered your favours to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,”’
declares the  Lord.

14‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the  Lord, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you – one from a town and two from a clan – and bring you to Zion. 15Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. 16In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,’ declares the  Lord, ‘people will no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the  Lord.” It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. 17At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the  Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the  Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. 18In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.

19‘I myself said,

‘“How gladly would I treat you like my children
and give you a pleasant land,
the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.”
I thought you would call me “Father”
and not turn away from following me.
20But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,’
declares the  Lord.
21A cry is heard on the barren heights,
the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel,
because they have perverted their ways
and have forgotten the  Lord their God.
22‘Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding.’
‘Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the  Lord our God.
23Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills
and mountains is a deception;
surely in the  Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
24From our youth shameful gods have consumed
the fruits of our ancestors’ labour –
their flocks and herds,
their sons and daughters.
25Let us lie down in our shame,
and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the  Lord our God,
both we and our ancestors;
from our youth till this day
we have not obeyed the  Lord our God.’
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