In Jeremiah 3 God illustrates the sin of Israel and Judah using an example of marital infidelity. Israel pursuing idolatry with many gods is compared to a wife becoming a harlot with many lovers (Jeremiah 3:1). God expresses dismay that Israel did not “return to me” (Jeremiah 3:7).
Judah had seen Israel’s unfaithful example, but Judah did not take heed and was also unfaithful to God (Jeremiah 3:8). God says that Judah also did not “return to me with all her heart,” though she did make a pretense of returning, trying to deceive God (Jeremiah 3:10). God urges Israel to return, with the promise that He will show her grace (Jeremiah 3:12).
In Jeremiah 3:14 God urges His faithless people to return to Him. God would provide for them shepherds who would feed them on knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15).
God promises that, one day, the people of Israel and Judah will return, and in those days the united nation would be multiplied and increase in the land (Jeremiah 3:16, 18). At that time, they will no longer miss the ark of the covenant (Jeremiah 3:16). God’s throne will be in Jerusalem, the nations will gather there to worship, and no longer will Israel walk in stubbornness of heart (Jeremiah 3:17). Israel and Judah would both recognize God as their Father and would follow Him (Jeremiah 3:19). But those days have not yet arrived, and God reminds Israel and Judah that they have been faithless, like an unfaithful wife (Jeremiah 3:20). He calls on them to return to Him, and He would heal their faithlessness (Jeremiah 3:22). For it is in Him that their salvation is found (Jeremiah 3:23).
This chapter is emblematic of how God was so patient with Israel and Judah. In His grace, He promised them a future of restoration even after they were unfaithful. God demonstrates His love and grace, having patience and mercy on His people as He urges them to “return to Me.” One day the nation will return to Him, and they will be delivered from their sin. They will be replanted in the land and given the knowledge of Him.
In a similar fashion, God offers that same kind of love and grace to all who will believe in the Messiah and Savior—Jesus. Israel and Judah were not the only ones to be unfaithful to God. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The only way any of us can have life is if God has mercy. He has provided that mercy in Jesus Christ.
God has made promises specifically to Israel and Judah (e.g., the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31), and He will one day fulfill literally His promises to them. He has also made promises that all the peoples of the world will be blessed through the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), and God has fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ, through whom He has provided salvation to all who believe in Him (Romans 5). God calls Israel and Judah to “return to Me.” In that same mercy and grace, He also urges all of us to come to Him by belief in Jesus Christ.