PERSISTENT COVENANT BREAKING INVOKES GOD’S CURSE THAT BRINGS INESCAPABLE DISASTER
We live in a culture that has rejected God’s Word; that worships the creature rather than the Creator; that has turned to idolatry and false religion; that has become corrupted in the depths of moral and sexual depravity; that mocks and opposes the true messengers of God; that lives in the stubbornness of their own wicked ways and refuses to submit to God’s authority and commands. How did things turn out for God’s covenant-breaking people back in the days of Jeremiah? What lessons can we apply to our times today? Do we think that we will escape the judgment of the Almighty God? How long before God says we have run out of rope and He will no longer make Himself available to respond to our cries for deliverance? Do not despise the patience of God. His forbearance will not continue on forever. The day of accountability is fast approaching.
PERSISTENT COVENANT BREAKING INVOKES GOD’S CURSE THAT BRINGS INESCAPABLE DISASTER
I. (:1-8) STUBBORN REBELLION IN PERSISTENTLY BREAKING GOD’S COVENANT DESERVES GOD’S CURSE
A. (:1-3a) Call to Attention
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, ‘Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,’”
Importance of paying attention and heeding God’s Word; don’t overlook His warnings
Mackay: It is only as physical hearing is translated into obedient action that an individual or a nation finds satisfaction and self-fulfillment in living relationship with God himself.
B. (:3b-5a) Covenant Terms:
Cursing for Failure to Keep the Covenant vs. Blessing for Faithfulness
1. Cursing for Disobedience
“Cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this covenant which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace,”
Starts out by condemning disobedience in very strong terms; points back to His grace in the Exodus and the foundation of the covenant obligations
Wiersbe: The land of Egypt had been an “iron furnace” to Israel (Jer. 11:4), a place of suffering (Deut. 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; Isa. 48:10); but Canaan was “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Jer. 11:5), a place of prosperity and freedom. God described the Promised Land to Moses in this way (Ex. 3:8, 17; see 33:3), and Moses repeated this description to the people (Lev. 20:24; Deut. 6:3; 11:9; 26:9, 15; 27:3; 31:20). Sad to say, the nation preferred the fleshpots of Egypt to the milk and honey of Canaan (Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:4-5) and repeatedly wanted to go back to Egypt.
2. Blessing for Obedience
“saying, ‘Listen to My voice, and do according to all which I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God,’ in order to confirm the oath which I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day.”
Opportunity for great blessing
Thompson: Judah needed to be recalled to the historic Sinai event when God promised to supply the material and spiritual needs of his people in their infancy as a nation, in return for their undivided worship and obedience. That way lay life. The way of disobedience was the way of death (cf. Deut. 30:15-20).
C. (:5) Covenant Ratification
“Then I answered and said, ‘Amen, O LORD.’”
Quite a strong affirmation on the part of Jeremiah (speaking for the nation) regarding promised obedience to God’s covenant requirements.
D. (:6-8) Condemnation for Covenant Breaking
1. (:6) Prophetic Charge to Proclaim the Covenant
“And the LORD said to me, ‘Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear the words of this covenant and do them.’”
We cannot just be hearers of the Word of God; we must be doers as well.
2. (:7) Persistent Warnings to Heed the Covenant
“For I solemnly warned your fathers in the day that I brought them up from the land of Egypt, even to this day, warning persistently, saying, ‘Listen to My voice.’”
No lack of warnings issued by God. Cursing for breaking the covenant should not be a surprise.
3. (:8a) Perverse Rebellion
“Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart;”
What are our strategies and weapons for fighting against the stubbornness of our evil heart?
4. (:8b) Promised Judgment
“therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”
II. (:9-14) SILENT RESPONSE TO THEIR CRIES FOR HELP BECAUSE OF THEIR STUBBORN CONSPIRACY
A. (:9-11) Conspiracy to Repeat the Same Sins Will Bring Disaster
1. (:9-10) Deja Vu
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.’”
Ryken: What John Calvin said is true: The human heart is a factory for idols. Idols tend to multiply. They have short shelf lives. Worshiping a false god soon becomes tiresome or disappointing, and it is time to get another god.
The one thing all idols have in common is that they cannot offer salvation from God’s judgment. . .
Hard-heartedness, Idolatry, False worship. These were not just hairline fractures in the covenant – they were chasms.
2. (:11) Disaster Promised — Without Escape
“Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.’”
B. (:12-14) Closed Ears to Their Cries for Deliverance
1. (:12-13) No Response From Their False Gods
“Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they surely will not save them in the time of their disaster. For your gods are as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altar you have set up to the shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal.”
2. (:14) No Response From the One True God
“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster.”
III. (:15-19) SCATHING REBUKE FOR WICKEDNESS, IDOLATRY AND CONSPIRACY
A. (:15) Contradiction Between Wickedness and Claims to Spirituality
“What right has My beloved in My house when she has done many vile deeds?
Can the sacrificial flesh take away from you your disaster, so that you can rejoice?”
B. (:16-17) Contrast Between Gracious Calling of God and Spiritual Idolatry of His People
“The LORD called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form’; With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are worthless. And the LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me by offering up sacrifices to Baal.”
Constable: Even though the Lord had compared His nation to a beautiful and fruitful green olive tree (cf. Hosea 14:6; Psalm 52:8; Psalm 128:3), He would burn it up in a great tumult because it had proved worthless as far as fulfilling His purpose for it (cf. Jeremiah 21:14; Psalm 52:8; Psalm 80:16; Isaiah 27:11; Romans 11:17-24). He would destroy the nation as He might destroy a tree by striking it with lightning. Quotes Graybill: “The olive [tree] was the source of oil for light, cooking, medicine, anointing for the body, and many other uses. It became the symbol of “prosperity and divine blessing, of beauty and strength.” Thus it is here an apt picture of the Hebrew people, blessed by God, but now rejected.”
Mackay: Instead of a fruitful olive tree we are left with the image of a lightning-struck tree, that still stands where it once did, but is now a shadow of its former self.
Wiersbe: God presented two pictures of His people that reveal how futile their religious faith really was: a worshiper in the temple (11:15) and a tree in the storm (vv. 17-18).
C. (:18-19) Conspiracy Against Jeremiah Revealed
“Moreover, the LORD made it known to me and I knew it; Then Thou didst show me their deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; And I did not know that they had devised plots against me, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, And let us cut him off from the land of the living, That his name be remembered no more.’”
Parunak: Here for the first time we see a theme that becomes increasingly important as the book progresses: the personal threats to Jeremiah by the people around him because of his faithful presentation of the word of God.
Ryken: Why the conspiracy? The men of Anathoth did not like Jeremiah’s preaching. They were not happy with his homiletics. . . it is not hard to guess why. Anathoth was a town of priests, and Jeremiah had some strong opinions about the priesthood. . . Not only did he criticize the priests, but he condemned the idol worship that made up such a large part of the economy. Jeremiah’s reformation preaching threatened the whole religious, social, and economic structure of his hometown.
Mackay: The implication would be that they would cut off Jeremiah and suppress his message. He had no family, so “fruit” cannot refer to offspring. . . It was viewed as the ultimate ignominy if no one remembered your name (Isa. 56:5).
IV. (:20-23) SEVERE RETRIBUTION AGAINST THE OPPONENTS OF JEREMIAH
A. (:20) Cry for Vengeance
“But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, Who tries the feelings and the heart, Let me see Thy vengeance on them, For to Thee have I committed my cause.”
Thompson: Threats from the men of Anathoth did not silence Jeremiah any more than a night in the stocks (20:1-3), or confinement in the cistern (38:6) or in the court of the guard (38:13). The call of God and the divine assurance of help was enough (1:5-10).
B. (:21-23) Certainty of Disaster for the Men of Anathoth Seeking Jeremiah’s Death
“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, that you might not die at our hand;’ therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, I am about to punish them! The young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters will die by famine; and a remnant will not be left to them, for I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth– the year of their punishment.’”
Mackay: The men of Anathoth had rejected the prophetic warnings relayed by Jeremiah and in doing so they had revealed their hostility to the ultimate fact of human existence – that of accountability before God. The message presented to them was one which judged, and brought to an end, the religious and social consensus that prevailed at Jerusalem because it ran counter to the purposes of the Lord. When the Lord intervenes, it is more than a matter of extending protection and deliverance to his prophet. It is the vindication of the divine word that is his primary concern.