When God called to backsliding Israel to return (Jer. 3:22) they immediately answered, Lord, we return; now God here takes notice of their answer, and, by way of reply to it,
I. He directs them how to pursue their good resolutions: “Dost thou say, I will return?” 1. “Then thou must return unto me; make a thorough work of it. Do not only turn from thy idolatries, but return to the instituted worship of the God of Israel.” Or, “Thou must return speedily and not delay (as Isa. 21:12; If you will enquire, enquire you); if you will return unto me, return you: do not talk of it, but do it.” 2. “Thou must utterly abandon all sin, and not retain any of the relics of idolatry: Put away thy abominations out of my sight,” that is, out of all places (for every place is under the eye of God), especially out of the temple, the house which he had in a particular manner his eye upon, to see that it was kept clean. It intimates that their idolatries were not only obvious, but offensive, to the eye of God. They were abominations which he could not endure the sight of; therefore they must be put away out of his sight, because they were a provocation to the pure eyes of God’s glory. Sin must be put away out of the heart, else it is not put away out of God’s sight, for the heart and all that is in it lie open before his eye. 3. They must not return to sin again; so some understand that, Thou shalt not remove, reading it, Thou shalt not, or must not, wander. “If thou wilt put away thy abominations, and wilt not wander after them again, as thou hast done, all shall be well.” 4. They must give unto God the glory due unto his name (Jer. 4:2): “Thou shalt sear, The Lord liveth. His existence shall be with thee the most sacred fact, than which nothing can be more sure, and his judgment the supreme court to which thou shalt appeal, than which nothing can be more awful.” Swearing is an act of religious worship, in which we are to give honour to God three ways:—(1.) We must swear by the true God only, and not by creatures, or any false gods,—by the God that liveth, not by the gods that are deaf and dumb and dead,—by him only, and not by the Lord and by Malcham, as Zech. 1:5. (2.) We must swear that only which is true, in truth and in righteousness, not daring to assert that which is false, or which we do not know to be true, nor to assert that as certain which is doubtful, nor to promise that which we mean not to perform, nor to violate the promise we have made. To say that which is untrue, or to do that which is unrighteous, is bad, but to back either with an oath is much worse. (3.) We must do it solemnly, swear in judgment, that is, when judicially called to it, and not in common conversation. Rash swearing is as great a profanation of God’s name as solemn swearing is an honour to it. See Deut. 10:20; Matt. 5:34, 37.
II. He encourages them to keep in this good mind and adhere to their resolutions. If the scattered Israelites will thus return to God, 1. They shall be blessed themselves; for to that sense the first words may be read: “If thou wilt return to me, then thou shalt return, that is, thou shalt be brought back out of thy captivity into thy own land again, as was of old promised,” Deut. 4:29; 30:2. Or, “Then thou shalt rest in me, shalt return to me as they rest, even while thou art in the land of thy captivity.” 2. They shall be blessings to others; for their returning to God again will be a means of others turning to him who never new him. If thou wilt own the living Lord, thou wilt thereby influence the nations among whom thou art to bless themselves in him, to place their happiness in his favour and to think themselves happy in being brought to the fear of him. See Isa. 65:16. They shall bless themselves in the God of truth, and not in false gods, shall do themselves the honour, and give themselves the satisfaction, to join themselves to him; and then in him shall they glory; they shall make him their glory, and shall please, nay, shall pride, themselves in the blessed change they have made. Those that part with their sins to return to God, however they scrupled at the bargain at first, when they go away, then they boast.