Then the Lord said to me, “Even faithless Israel is less guilty than treacherous Judah! Therefore, go and give this message to Israel. This is what the Lord says: ‘O Israel, my faithless people, come home to me again, for I am merciful. I will not be angry with you forever.
‘Only acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God and committed adultery against him by worshiping idols under every green tree. Confess that you refused to listen to my voice. I, the Lord, have spoken!
‘Return home, you wayward children,’ says the Lord, ‘for I am your master. I will bring you back to the land of Israel—one from this town and two from that family—from wherever you are scattered. And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.’”
The northern kingdom, Israel, was in captivity, being punished for its sins. The people of Judah undoubtedly looked down on these northern neighbors for their blatant heresy and degraded morals. Even so, Jeremiah promised the remnant of Israel God’s blessings if they would turn to him. Judah, still secure in its own mind, should have turned to God after seeing the destruction of Israel. But the people of Judah refused, so Jeremiah startled them by telling about God’s promise to Israel’s remnant if they would repent.
Israel was not even trying to look as if it were obeying God. Judah, however, maintained the appearance of right faith without a true heart. Believing the right doctrines without heartfelt commitment is like offering sacrifices without true repentance. Judah’s false repentance brought Jeremiah’s words of condemnation. To live without faith is hopeless; to express sorrow without change is treacherous and unfaithful. Being sorry for sin is not enough. Repentance demands a change of mind and heart resulting in changed behavior.
God promised to give his people leaders (“shepherds” after his own heart) who would follow him, filled with knowledge (wisdom) and understanding. God saw Israel’s lack of direction, so he promised to provide the right kind of leadership.
We look to and trust our leaders for guidance and direction. But if they do not follow God, they will lead us astray. Pray for God-honoring leaders in our nations, communities, and churches—those who will be good examples and bring us God’s wisdom.