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Daily Devotional • March 8

David Baumann
Loved Forever
A Reading from Jeremiah 3:6-18

6 During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. 9 Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. 10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord.

11 The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:
“‘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 forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
    you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
    under every spreading tree,
    and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.

14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you — one from a town and two from a clan — and bring you to Zion. 15 Then I will give you shepherdsafter my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. 16 In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the Lord, “people will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. 18 In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.”

Many years ago there was a young couple in my parish who had been married only a short time. Problems arose early in the marriage, and the woman developed a relationship with another man. After fuming for a short time, her husband decided he had had enough. He went to the other man’s apartment, banged on the door, and demanded that his wife come home with him. She did. Their marriage became strong and remains so to this day. This is today’s lesson from Jeremiah. 

“Return, faithless people, for I am your husband.” “Husband” is an unusual title for God. We think of “Lord” and even “Father” often enough, but, I suspect, rarely do the faithful picture God as their “husband.” We should. It is a title used in Jeremiah, Hosea, and other prophets. The use of the title developed in the worst years of the apostasies of the chosen people. Today’s lesson recounts the infidelity of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel and how God had written them off after they had ignored repeated calls to repentance. 

The southern kingdom had also been unfaithful but then returned, though their return was only a pretense. The worthy king Josiah in whose time Jeremiah began his prophesying had done his best to return the land to fidelity to God, but the people had mostly just gone through the motions. This kind of infidelity is more corrosive than outright apostasy. God’s call and promise are like the abandoned husband’s bang on the door: “I will not give you up. I love you. Come back to me.” Such love is unbreakable, proven, reliable, ever-present. Such love is that which God has for all of us.

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Remo – The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Academy, Cocoa, Florida
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