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The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.” (Jer 3:11, NIV)

By the time in salvation history when Jeremiah spoke these words, Israel had gone into exile in Assyria. God had already stated to the writing prophets that He gave Israel a certificate of divorce and sent her away. It must have jarred Judah’s sensibilities to hear Jeremiah elevate Israel’s righteousness above that of his own people.

Israel is described here as “faithless,” which is translated from the word meshubah — an adjective whose root is the Hebrew verb “to repent” (shuwb). Whereas shuwb is frequently used to connote a 180-degree turn from doing evil to following God, meshubah is the opposite. It is to turn from faith to apostasy. Judah, on the other hand, is described as “unfaithful.” The key to understanding the difference between “faithless” and “unfaithful” is Jer 3:10, which states that Judah returned to God in pretense, and not with her whole heart. Thus the Hebrew word for “unfaithful,” bagowd, carries with it the sense of being false, duplicitous, playing both sides against the middle.

From God’s perspective, Judah was having an affair. She was courting false gods and idols while at the same time maintaining Yahweh worship. To Him, this was even more detestable than Israel’s willful and outright rebellion. Would that you were hot or cold, says God, but since you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth. Could it be that when a Christian plays footsie with the world under the table, it is more reprehensible in God’s sight than the blasphemies of a committed atheist?

Friendship with the world is enmity with God. When people of faith attempt to cuddle up to both God and the world, in reality we’re only betraying the One who loved and died for us.


aka The MonT-SteR