Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. — Jeremiah 3:22
Don Danner was a man who spoke passionately of the wonderful power of God to restore the backslider. He would often begin his testimony in our church services by saying, “It was a happy day when Jesus washed my sins away!” His face would shine as he would tell how grateful he was that God had reached out to him in his backslidden state.
“I had experienced this old-time salvation when I was a boy,” he would relate, “but the insidious ways of Satan and the bright lights of the world had taken their toll. I wasn’t down deep in sin, not in any tragic circumstance by any means. I had everything the world could lay at my feet to make me happy — but I was not happy. From the outside, it looked as if I were having a good time. My friends and associates thought I was a good person, but they didn’t know the struggle that was going on in my heart: Satan battling for my soul and Jesus wooing me, ‘Oh, backslider, why don’t you come Home?’
“That October day was lovely — it was a scenic day, bright and sunny. The flowers in front of the tabernacle were beautiful, the birds were out: all the things I ordinarily would like to be focusing my camera on. But I wasn’t noticing the beauties of nature that day. God’s focus was on my soul. I realized I must stop and listen to the Voice of Jesus.
“Thank God, He heard my prayer from out in that wilderness of sin. He lifted me out of all the misery and set my feet on the Rock Christ Jesus. It took only a few minutes down at the altar of prayer. When I cried out to Him, the answer came and God’s salvation was restored in my heart. I knew it! My name was written down in Glory. I cannot enumerate all the blessings the Lord has given me over the years. This is a wonderful way to live! How I thank God for victory over sin.”
Don Danner had more than two decades to experience that joy of restoration before God called him home to Heaven. He was living proof of the power behind God’s promise to Israel in our focus verse, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” God’s people, like Don Danner, had turned away from their spiritual heritage. Yet, in spite of their rebellion against Him, God graciously encouraged them to return to Him in true repentance, and promised healing for the pain and shame that their backsliding had brought them.
Still today, God’s mercy reaches out to those who have turned away from their commitment to Him and gone back into sin. There is hope for the backslider! Let us be alert to opportunities to offer that hope to those who have turned away from God. And let us cherish the mercy God has extended to us and value the privilege that we have to be His children!
This passage begins Jeremiah’s second sermon, and is a continuation of the condemnation found in the first. God’s message to the people of Judah was that in spite of their idolatry and blatant rejection of Him, His mercy would continue to be extended if they would sincerely repent and turn from their evil ways.
In verses 6-11, God reminded Judah of the judgment that had befallen the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of its idolatry. Except for a brief period, the Northern Kingdom had continually engaged in the idolatry that was originally endorsed by its first king, Jeroboam. God’s pleas for Israel to turn back to Him had gone unheeded, and around one hundred years before this passage was written, the Northern Kingdom was conquered and taken captive by the Assyrians. God told the people of Judah that what had happened to Israel should have deterred them from following the same path. Instead, they were actually more at fault than the people of Israel because they claimed to serve God, but their hearts were far from Him.
In verses 12-13, God addressed the few remaining Jews in the occupied Northern Kingdom. He told the people that if they would honestly acknowledge their sin and repent, He would show them mercy and would spare them from additional judgment. In verses 14-18, God pointed to a future time when a remnant of both Israel and Judah (“one of a city, and two of a family”) will return from exile to Zion, and He will give them leaders after His own heart. The Ark of the Covenant will no longer be needed for worship because the Lord Himself will reign in Jerusalem, and all the nations of the earth will come to Jerusalem to worship Him. In verse 19, God questioned how this could be accomplished when their hearts were so far from following Him, but He reconciled it by saying the time will come (in the millennial kingdom) when they will call Him their Father, and they will no longer turn away from Him.
In verses 20-25, Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel and Judah to realize that their only hope was in God and the salvation He would provide if they would repent and turn from their sin. Chapter 3 ends with Jeremiah’s prayer of confession.
Verses 1-4 of chapter 4 conclude the message. Once again, God calls His people to return to Him in repentance. The Hebrew word translated return has a meaning of “return from exile,” but also has the deeper meaning of repentance from sin and turning back to God.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
2. The second sermon: Repentance or retribution
a. The comparison of Israel and Judah (3:6-11)
b. The consolation of restoration (3:12 — 4:4)
(1) Repentance brings blessing (3:12-16)
(2) Repentance brings place of honor (3:17-20)
(3) Repentance brings healing (3:21-25)
(4) Repentance brings good works (4:1-4)
God offers healing and restoration to those who have turned away from Him. How grateful we should be for the wonderful mercy of God!