Jeremiah 3:6-18 Go on, Admit It!

Sun, 12/10/2014 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

Most people today, if they believe in God at all, think that they are alright with God. He approves of them. They’re in his good books.

That extends to most of us as well.

The trouble is, if you think that way about God, you stand to miss out on an awful lot. If you don’t have a right view of yourself, you lose in the long run.

This was the mistake that the people were making in Jeremiah’ day. Jeremiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah. When chapter 3 was written, the northern kingdom of Israel had been exiled 100 years before. And the people of Judah were feeling rather pleased with themselves. “We’re alright, lad. We escaped. We weren’t sent off into exile. God must think we’re OK.”

The trouble is, they definitely weren’t “OK”. If only they could see that, God would be able to bless them beyond their wildest dreams. But first, they have to come back to reality.

Verse 13 starts: Only acknowledge your guilt. That’s what they had to do. A few of us are so aware of our guilt before God that we don’t need our noses rubbing in it. Most of us are slightly self-deluded that we’re not so bad, so God needs to bring us to a point where we see ourselves more clearly. Acknowledge your guilt. Do that, and the richest blessings open up to us.

We have two small a view of God’s love. Once we realise that we’re more flawed than we ever imagined, the love we’re going to hear about is even more amazing than we ever dreamed.

God wants his people to see reality bigger than they do at the moment. To do that, he says three things through Jeremiah. Let’s go with them, deeper down, then back up much higher.

We’re more sinful than we realise – it goes to our heart

First, we’re more sinful than we realise – it goes to our heart. We’re more sinful than we realise – it goes to our heart.

The people of Judah had done so many things right, that they’d lost sight of what really mattered. Their king Josiah had just restored the ramshackle temple to the most glorious it had ever been. He’d put the worshipping life of the nation right back at its heart.

If we put this into its modern-day equivalent, we’d say that people throughout the village were pouring into church on Sunday, we’re attending midweek events as well, the building was gleaming, and Kemsing had the reputation of being a village full of upstanding Christians.

But their hearts were not in it. On Sunday, or rather Saturday for them, they worshipped God. On Monday to Friday they lived for a different set of goals, gods, priorities.

I’m told there’s just been a programme on TV about baking. A program like that comes on, and everyone has a go. Then for the other 10 months of the year, the tins go to the back of the cupboard. The Tour de France comes to London, and everyone starts cycling. The winter rain begins, and we give up just as soon.

The people of Judah were like that with God, and if we’re honest we often are as well. Sunday comes round, we go to church, we’re Christians, we do our bit. Monday follows on its heels, and nobody would ever know the difference.

In the Bible, the heart refers to who we are deep down, the real me.

We’re more sinful than we realise – it goes to our heart.

God is more forgiving than we realise – it goes beyond our rebellion

Once God’s burst the bubble that we’re not all wonderful, we’re ready to hear the other two things he wants to say.

Second, God is more forgiving than we realise – it goes beyond our rebellion. God is more forgiving than we realise – it goes beyond our rebellion. By “beyond our rebellion” I mean out the other side. Let me explain.

Verse 12 is a most wonderful verse. Just listen to this: Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord, I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful, declares the Lord, I will not be angry for ever.

God promises the most amazing forgiveness. When he looks at them they see his scowl, his frown, his anger. All they have to do is two things. Admit their guilt. And return to God. That means turn around and face the other way.

You go on a long walk up a mountain. It’s not a circular walk. You’ll be going back down the way you came. After the initial burst of energy wears off, every step is hard work. Finally you reach the top. You have your lunch. And then you turn around and walk back down the mountain. You’re no longer going away from your car, but towards it. Every step is a step nearer to a hot shower and dinner.

We human beings are walking away from God. We may not always admit it, but sometimes every step away is hard work. And God says, “turn”. Turn around. Walk in the opposite direction. Stop running away from me, and walk towards me.

And when we do that, God says he’ll stop frowning and start smiling. He’ll be angry no longer. Because Jesus died on the cross to absorb the anger of God on our behalf, so that God can be so wonderfully kind and forgiving to us.

If you think you’re basically alright, you’ll never think God’s forgiveness is that big a deal. Surely God’s big enough to let go of the past. Once you realise that your sin goes right to your heart, and you can’t patch it up by going to church and being a decent person, you see that God doesn’t need to forgive you at all. Which makes God’s forgiveness all the more wonderful. Even though we’re so rebellious, Jesus died for us. I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful, declares the Lord.

The apostle Paul says this in Romans chapter 5: Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God is more forgiving than we realise – it goes beyond our rebellion.

God has planned more blessing than we realised – it spans our world

The third thing God wants to say to his people is this: God has planned more blessing than we realised – it spans our world. God has planned more blessing than we realised – it spans our world.

In verses 15 to 18, God says what will happen if the people return to God. Great blessings will come.

God will give them good leaders who look after them.

The ark of the covenant was the golden box that used to symbolise God living among them. But in the future, there will no longer be one box where God symbolically lives. Instead he’ll live and rule in the hearts of his people. The whole city will become his throne. And all the nations will flock to the city, to be in the new world where God lives and rules.

It’s a wonderful picture, and it came true at Pentecost. You remember, 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven, all the believers were in Jerusalem, and then the risen Jesus poured his Spirit into the hearts of each and every one of them. Because this was a major religious festival, there were people there from every nation, there to hear what God had just done in Jesus.

Then filled with the Spirit, the church went out into all the world to take that good news to the nations. Now there are churches in nearly every country, and God’s blessing is spreading and growing around the world.

And God says to his people through Jeremiah: If you turn back to me, you can be part of my marvellous plan to bless the whole world. How much they stand to gain if they turn back. How much they stand to lose if they don’t.

God has planned more blessing than we realised – it spans our world.


All of this leaves the people, leaves us, with two choices.

We either stick with the impression that we’re basically alright. Or we admit our guilt.

Some of us have admitted before God that we’re guilty. We might say it in a prayer of confession on Sunday morning, but we’ve never sat down, in the quiet, and said to God that this really is true of us. It’s not just people in general who need God’s forgiveness. It’s me.

If you’ve never done that, you’re missing out on the amazing fresh start that God offers. Missing out on the forgiveness that Jesus purchased when he died on the cross. Missing out on his plan to bless the world.

Others of us, most of us perhaps, have done that. We’ve admitted our heart failings before God. We’ve known his love and forgiveness.

But it’s possible to do that, and then to slide backwards. That’s what people of Judah did in Jeremiah’s day. It’s what people do in every age. If our religion, our following God, has become an external thing, and our hearts are going away from God on Monday to Friday, we need to come back to that place again. The place where we turn back to God with all our heart.

And once we’ve done that, we can enjoy the blessing of being forgiven. Forgiven even for things we thought were unforgivable. And we can enjoy knowing we’re part of God’s blessing that already spans the world, and will one day fill the world.

Website Section: 
Sermon Series: 
Additional Terms