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 merciful,’ 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.
Israel walked away from God completely. They didn’t pretend. They didn’t sort of follow God. They walked headlong into pagan worship of false gods and idols. And God says that is more righteous than Judah. Judah, who says they still follow the LORD, but also worship other gods, false gods. Jeremiah compares Judah to a prostitute, a whore, sharing herself with anyone without remorse, and still pretending to be a good wife. Israel, the wife that left and divorced, is better off/more righteous.
This reminds me of a parable of Jesus:
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 ” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
In the passage from Jeremiah, Judah reminds me of the son who won’t go even though he says he will. And God is calling Israel to be the other son. Just like the tax collectors and prostitutes — who were considered some of the worst sinners in Israel — God calls to Israel, “come back and be with me.” It is better to be the one who was completely against God, and come to him (the son who works even though he says he won’t) than to be the one who fakes it, talks the talk, but there’s no follow-through.
If all I do is talk, but I don’t live like a Christian, I am like a cheating spouse. It would be like talking about how much I love Mandy, but sleeping around all the time with different women. I have to live what I preach. I have to be who I say I am. Or, even better, just be who God made me to be, and let that speak for me.
Don’t be the person who is at church saying, “yeah, I’m all about this, I love Jesus and I live for him,” but you leave and don’t do any of this. Don’t be a hypocrite. Be the one who lives it. Repent from a life away from God, enter the garden and join us in the work. Don’t just talk about it.
Will I be the prostitute who turns from that life and comes to God with thanksgiving, or the bad wife who secretly sleeps around? Will I be the tax collector who goes honest and gets right with the LORD, or will I be a Pharisee who talks a lot of good but cheats people in secret?
Lord, I need you. I need you to make me more like you and less like me. Make me a man of service and action. Make me a person who lives for you and also shares what you are doing in my life, not the guy who talks about how to do it while he fakes it. May I be like the prostitutes and tax collectors who honestly praise you for the forgiveness of sin and life change. May I be a shining light, not just an instruction booklet for a flashlight. In Jesus’ name. Amen.