With the revelation of the pretensious treachery of Judah God again extends mercy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Though they had departed from God and since the departure from the Southern Kingdom, had never really had much worship and care for God they were not pretentious in their behavior. You will not find one righteous king among the people of Israel. Jereboam, the first king of Israel, it is said of Him, “Jereboam did not turn from his evil way…” (1 Kings 13:33). And, that is of all the kings of Israel.
One clear thing that we can see from this invitation from God through the prophet Jeremiah is that God hates pretention, hypocrisy, and He extends mercy to all.
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and have not obeyed My voice,’ says the LORD.” Jeremiah 3:11-13 (NKJV).
It is amazing to me the number of people who have told me, and some I have heard of from others who do not believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same. Right here is clear evidence of it. God is merciful, gracious, and loving in the New Testament. He has always longed for His backsliding people to return to Him.
The Northern Kingdom got off in a backsliding agenda. their first king, Jereboam set up two idols for them to worship, and keep the people from returning to Jerusalem. He set up a golden calf in Dan, and at Bethel. None of the following kings had a heart for God and hated His prophets. They sacrificed their children in the fire. Worshipped many false gods, and were perverse in their behavior. Now God pleads with them to repent.
My, how God’s heart grieves for His people. He calls for repentance. Though it is not immediately seen God will accomplish His Word, and His people will return to Him. Hosea, the prophet had a wife who turned from him to pagan, idolatrous, prostitution, and worship of pleasure rather than the God of glory. Hosea pursues his wife, and this is the picture of God pursuing His nation of people to bring them back to Himself.
This was accomplished. The people who came back from the captivity of Babylon were a mixed people. People of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms returned together, and they have been one nation since that time. They were one nation in the time of Jesus. They will be one nation through all time.
When God calls for His people to repent He is calling for us to turn from going the wrong direction, ie., away from Him, and turn around and go with Him. No matter what we have done; no matter how evil and vile; no matter our guilt, or our associations; God’s call to return is still powerful and valid. If you have gotten out of His will; if you are still in your sins; if your life is in a real mess; and if your worship has grown cold; then His call to return to Him is for you. He asks only that you acknowledge your iniquity – that you had turned from Him to sin. He is merciful, will hear your cry, and will receive you back to a walk with Him.
We have all sinned. We all fall short of His glory, and yet He calls us to Himself. Repentance is Returning to God. Returning to God is Repentance.
-by Tim A. Blankenship