The prophet Jeremiah was used by YHWH to warn the southern kingdom of Judah of coming judgment. In one sense, Judah was even worse than Israel. Israel had defiled themselves faster, but Judah followed the same path in spite of the example of Israel’s punishment staring them in the face. We come to Jeremiah 3 where God describes Judah as His immoral, unfaithful wife. God divorced Israel for her unfaithful, immoral, adulterous ways.
By all rights, God could/should have done the same to Judah because her behavior was identical to Israel’s even if it were slightly slower. However, in His long-suffering patience, God instead called His adulterous “wife” to return and be restored. Few humans would do the same, but our God does.
Jeremiah 3:1-3 tells the story in shocking and lurid detail, God says, "If a husband divorces his wife And she goes from him And belongs to another man, Will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me," declares the Lord. 2 "Lift up your eyes to the bare heights and see; Where have you not been violated? By the roads you have sat for them Like an Arab in the desert, And you have polluted a land With your harlotry and with your wickedness. 3 "Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no spring rain. Yet you had a harlot's forehead; You refused to be ashamed. (NASU) Divorce is an ugly thing that wreaks havoc in all directions. An unfaithful wife or husband is a despicable thing. God describes His “wife”, Judah, as a harlot but not just a harlot, instead a harlot with many lovers. The description gets worse. Judah was like a harlot who laid in wait everywhere for unsuspecting victims. Judah was so rotten, she refused to even blush in her shame.
Verses 4-5 records God’s unanswerable questions. "Have you not just now called to Me, 'My Father, You are the friend of my youth? 5 'Will He be angry forever? Will He be indignant to the end?' Behold, you have spoken And have done evil things, And you have had your way." (NASU) God reveals that He has noted their false hope and bogus questions. They have mistaken God’s long-suffering patience to mean that He will not pour out judgment and punishment on them; or if He does, it will not be for long. God pointed out that their hypocrisy and deceit will necessitate judgment and punishment. They can use affectionate names for Him if they want, but their evil deeds will drown out the sound of that. They can rest on His merciful nature if they want, but their evil deeds will render judgment the only reasonable response.
The concluding phrase rings in my ears. Clearly, the last part of verse 5, though variously translated, means in the main, that Judah’s calls to God for mercy and forgiveness mean nothing because their acts of evil have not been restrained in the least. “And you have had your way”, is the equivalent of a strong gut punch, at least to me. Have I expected God to withhold judgment and chastisement from me, all the while continuing to seek my own way? I must admit, I really like to have my own way. Have my continuing evil deeds meant that nothing besides judgment and discipline will be a help to me? Have I expected God’s mercy to overrule His judgment, even when only judgment would benefit me? Have I expected to be evaluated by my cheap words rather than my actions?