Sometimes a detail in a Bible passage really hits home. I was reading Jeremiah 3 and was struck by the fatherly feeling expressed in verse 19. It’s easy to forget that our God who is inestimably powerful, who rules the heavens and the earth with splendour and majesty, has the heart — the very real heart — of a father. He loves as a father and he is not beyond feeling.
19“I myself said,
“‘How gladly would I treat you like sons
and give you a desirable land,
the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’
I thought you would call me ‘Father’
and not turn away from following me.
20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,”
declares the Lord.
21 A cry is heard on the barren heights,
the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel,
because they have perverted their ways
and have forgotten the Lord their God.
22 “Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding.”
“Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.
23 Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills
and mountains is a deception;
surely in the Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
The Father genuinely does feel the pain of his people turning away. “I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.” Here is a father reeling from the reality that those he has loved, blessed, provided for, have shunned him in the most callous, cold-hearted way. The rejection cuts him to the heart.
Surely the God of justice, glory, power and might would have every right to give up on this unfaithful people, to cut them off from his fatherly love? Surely he owes them nothing, having given so much already? Yet …
“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.”
No. He still gives; he still loves, at great cost to himself, in order to win back wandering hearts. The promise given here has nothing to do with the worthiness of the people and everything to do with the fatherly, self-giving heart of their Lord. But what we’re seeing here is not weakness — a push-over father at the mercy of his ungrateful children. Nor is it neediness in a lonely father. No our God has no need for us and no need for our worship. The Father lives in perfect joy and oneness with God the Son and God the Spirit. What we’re seeing here is a glimpse of the glorious heart of God — of the fatherly heart of God.