Painful emotions usually cut deeply into the soul of the husband or wife whose spouse turns to another lover. The anger, hurt, bewilderment, betrayal, and numbing shock tend to overwhelm the senses. The betrayed spouse needs the freedom to ventilate their hurt and anger in a nonretaliatory way. The unfaithful spouse must be brought to the point of recognizing fully what they have done and the consequences to the marriage and themselves if they fail to repent.
Our Lord models this approach to His bride, Israel, who had turned away from Him to other lovers. “God often calls the corrupt religious practices of His people prostitution or adultery (Hosea; Jeremiah 23:9-14). If God got angry at those who went a-whoring after other gods, a spouse has every right to be angry at the infidel who has gone a-whoring after another partner.”
The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah of her end as a nation because of her unfaithfulness to the Lord. Yet hope is the overruling message of the Book of Jeremiah. God reveals His overriding grace to those who turn in repentance to Him. The LORD will replant His people in the land after uprooting them in judgment (Jer 1:10; 12:14-17; 18:7, 9; 24:6; 31:28, 40; 45:4). The two halves of the book reflect the movement from God’s judgment (chaps 1-25) to salvation (chaps 26-52).
In Jeremiah 2:2-4:4 the LORD charges Israel/Judah with becoming His unfaithful “wife,” and that she must return to Him, her “husband.” Jeremiah substantiates this accusation in the remainder of the book. He describes the punishment of the unfaithful wife, calls for the wife to change her ways, and promises restoration of her relationship with the LORD.
Can it be true? Would the God who made a covenant with His people, Israel, end His marriage to His own people? Jeremiah makes clear that He would. “‘Therefore I bring charges against you again,’ declares the Lord” (Jer 2:9 NIV). The honeymoon is over. God is taking His people to divorce court. Jeremiah 2 serves as God’s legal testimony.
God recounts what the honeymoon was like. He pages through the photos in His wedding album with an ache in His heart. He recalls how His bride adored Him when they were first married. “I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to me in your early years. I remember how you loved me like a new bride” (Jer 2:2a NET). Israel proved her love by following the LORD wherever He led. “You followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted” (Jer 2:2b NET). This bride submitted to the guidance of her husband. Israel was young and in love, and all she wanted was to be close to her husband. Barren wilderness was not much of a bridal suite, but that didn’t matter! Israel followed God out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land (Jer 2:6-7).
Jeremiah pictures God as a faithful husband. God had passion for his bride (Jer 2:3a). He loved and cherished her, treating her with honor and respect. She was God’s best and most valuable possession, the apple of His eye, dedicated to Him alone.
God protected His bride (Jer 2:3b). God saved His wife and kept her safe. God also provided for His wife (Jer 2:7). He gave her a beautiful home with plenty of food in the fridge—mostly milk and honey—along with many the other comforts of home.
But that was then. Now comes the time to wake up and smell the burnt toast. The honeymoon was over. How could this be happening? God stands on the witness stand in divorce court asking the same question: “What fault could your ancestors have possibly found in me that they strayed so far from me? They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to me” (Jer 2:5 NET; cf. 2:31). Like physical adultery in the New Testament (cf. Matt 5:32), so Israel’s spiritual adultery serves as a legitimate ground for God to divorce Israel (cf. Jer 3:1-11).
So the marriage is dying of neglect. God’s people no longer seek after God. They no longer say “Where is the LORD who delivered us out of Egypt?” (Jer 2:6 NET). They have forgotten the love that saved them. They suffer from self-induced spiritual amnesia.
How important for us, as Christians, to ponder often the wonder of our Savior’s love for us! Recount and recite the saving acts of God in history. Remember what God has done in your life. Why? When we stop reveling in the love of God we soon find ourselves on the road to spiritual adultery. “Few Christians plan to fall into grievous sin. It is only after falling that they realize they have drifted away from the love of God.” So keep before you the wonder of God’s love for you! And, if married, keep treasuring the one whom God has given as a gift for you to share life, with its joys and struggles together.
References available upon request