All the while Ezekiel and Daniel have been doing their work in Babylon, Jeremiah has been doing his in Jerusalem. And so much of Jeremiah – at least this part – reminds me of Ezekiel. There is the identification of Israel and Judah with two promiscuous sisters and the rather raw sexual language (Ezekiel 23), the comparison of Judah’s leaders with faithless shepherds (Ezekiel 34), and Judah having only herself to blame for her punishment (Ezekiel 7).
Twice in chapter three there is some holy surprise that gives us pause. God says that He “thought” Israel would return to Him after sowing her wild oats, but she doesn’t. He “thought” that Judah would call him “Father” and return to His household, but she doesn’t.
How is it God is surprised, taken unawares at His children’s behavior? Doesn’t He know everything, our sitting and rising, our going out and coming in?
Of course. Which is why these texts should not be read as “holy surprise,” but rather “holy sadness.” It makes no sense for such a blessed people to react to God this way. It’s abominable, beyond all expectation, and it saddens the Lord.
God is never surprised by our behavior. But He is saddened by it.