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Lowell Brueckner

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The Broken Covenant



Jeremiah 11

1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 

 2. "Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 

 3. and say to them, 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant 

 4. which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, 'Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so shall you be My people, and I will be your God,' 

 5. that I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them 'a land flowing with milk and honey,' as it is this day." ' " And I answered and said, "So be it, LORD." 

 6. Then 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. 

 7.  For I earnestly exhorted your fathers in the day I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, until this day, rising early and exhorting, saying, "Obey My voice." 

  Mankind’s responsibility

 We observed from the introduction of this book, that Jeremiah was concerned with the message that the Lord gave to him, rather than the chronology. That would cause us to think that his message was applicable to his people at all times. I think that we have tried to see how it applies to us many centuries later under the New Covenant.

 It seems that the Lord gave this portion to Jeremiah early in his ministry, when he was very young. Jeremiah was still among the citizens of Anathoth, his native town, where already he was drawing opposition from them. Anathoth is in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin and God is sending him to Judah and, particularly, to the streets of Jerusalem (6). Also, in agreement to his calling and message, Jeremiah says, “Amen”.

 The message has to do with the Covenant, which God established with His people at Mount Sinai. They agreed then to obey His Covenant with them (Ex.24:3). Recently the Book of the Law was rediscovered at the repair of the temple and had been made public by the good king, Josiah. King Josiah showed deep remorse and attempted to guide his people in repentance. To the best of his ability, he destroyed idolatry, even in the high places, and restored the temple and the Passover, but apparently the people did not follow with their whole heart. 


 The people assumed that God would be faithful to the Covenant, without paying much attention to their part in it. The Jews manifested the same assumption up to the time of John Baptist and Jesus. They counted heavily on the fact that they were Abraham’s seed, chosen by God. In chapter 7, we studied their loyalty to the ceremonial customs without repenting of their immoral ways of oppression, theft, adultery, swearing falsely, idolatry and even murder.

 The Lord repeats now the conditions that He gave them, when He brought them out of Egypt: Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God (4, 7, Ex.15:26). The iron furnace reminds them of the nature of their slavery. They constructed Pharaoh’s buildings with brick, baked in the iron furnace. He also reminds them of the consequences of their unfaithfulness to the Covenant: Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant (3).

Because Israel was not obedient to the Covenant, God cancelled it and brought it to an end. After the Passover supper, Jesus took the cup and said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt.26:28). Under the New Covenant through the sacrifice of Christ, “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Ro.6:4). These are the conditions of the New Covenant. Not only is the death of Christ effective in the forgiveness of sin, but in His resurrection power there is a new life. 

 The writer of Hebrews teaches that Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant (He.8:6). Through the law of a new nature, rooted and grounded in love, the one who has entered into covenant with God, serves Him willingly. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (Jn.14:23). The apostle John declared, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous” (1 Jn.3:7), faithful to the New Covenant from the heart. Unfortunately, in this time of the New Covenant, as under the Old Covenant, there are a deceived people, who think God will keep His part of the Covenant, even if they do not keep their part. As the Jew was sadly mistaken, so are they: “He who sins is of the devil” (1 Jn.3:8, Whoever makes a practice of sinning… ESV).

 The verb speak or tell in verse 2 is plural. It was the same word given to all the prophets, and it is His word to all those who are called to preach and teach the gospel. The one, who hears, is called to obey the gospel and cursed if he does not (Ro.2:8; 2 Th.1:8). Jeremiah responds to the calling and the message, using the unique Hebrew word of agreement and personal confirmation of absolute truth… Amen! (5) The English Standard Version very accurately translates 2 Corinthians 1:20: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (Christ). That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” Let us try to grasp the powerful importance of giving our amen to His word. Saying amen is not to become customary. It is no light thing to give our heart’s consent to God’s word and there is no adequate way to express it with any other word. When Jesus wanted to doubly assure His listeners of the truth that He was speaking, He would say, “Amen, amen!” (Jn.1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25 and many other places).

 Can we see the astounding significance of God, who cannot lie, giving an oath­? The One, who is absolute Truth need never swear. But He does, first of all because He is a God of confirmation, speaking everything by two or three witness (2 Co.13:1). Secondly, in His mercy, He wants to give us total assurance, because we are so easily given to unbelief and doubting.


 Turning a deaf ear

 8.  Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart; therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but which they have not done.' " 

 9.  And the LORD said to me, "A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 

 10.  They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers 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." 

 11. Therefore thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them. 

 12.  Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they offer incense, but they will not save them at all in the time of their trouble. 

 13. For according to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. 

 14.  "So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble. 

 15.  "What has My beloved to do in My house, Having done lewd deeds with many? And the holy flesh has passed from you. When you do evil, then you rejoice. 

 16.  The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit. With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are broken. 

 17.  "For the LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced doom against you for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger in offering incense to Baal." 

  When I went to an appointment with my doctor’s nurse this week, I “inclined my ear”. I wanted to catch every word of her instructions for my own good and for that reason, I had every desire to obey. The value of our Lord’s exhortation is beyond our comprehension and no advice from human beings can be compared to it. With loving intentions, He comes to us at the earliest possible opportunity. Can He have any motivation other than love, if He is rising early and exhorting? Disobedience to His will stems from the stubbornness of an evil, human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer.17:9). Jeremiah knows the self-destructive nature at the core of man’s personality, above all things, which insists on having its own way at any cost (8).

The consequences of turning a deaf ear to the Lord’s commands are incalculable. As in the case of human law, every mandate is connected to a punishment for disobedience and divine sentence is extremely harsh. God has arranged a negative response from nature itself for breaking His laws and, therefore, it is to our own benefit that we submit to them. Mankind actually conducts a conspiracy against his Maker. The inhabitants of Judah, principally Jerusalem, have risen up in a conscious, mutinous rebellion, turning away from their own God (9).

 The Lord, we notice, is warning them through His prophet, and still gives a possibility for repentance. Enmity is deeply engrained within, having passed from father to son over generations, causing them to follow and serve rival gods, deviating from the covenant that God made with their patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (10). The Lord promises that calamity will result, without an escape. Even the God, Who has covenanted to be their help, will turn away from them when they cry to Him (11).

 The extremely sad case of King Saul, whom the Lord would no longer hear, provides an example (1 S.28:5-19). Saul turned to a witch, a demonic medium, desperately looking for comfort and guidance, but there was no relief. Within hours, he met his fate and lost his life. My soul shakes at the horrendous spiritual shipwreck, which he experienced. A healthy fear of God prevents such disaster and teaches divine wisdom. Without it, there is ignorance of God’s ways, which even leads to insanity.

 The unreasonable confidence in false gods will prove totally ineffective (12). Idols cannot save them from trouble, even though they are numerous. The Bible teaches that it is always a mistake to have faith in numbers or to look to them as a sign of success (13). That faith manifests a fleshly mentality, rather than an understanding of God’s ways. In this case, there is no use to pray, for only severe consequences will awake the sleeping spirit, dreaming under a demonic delusion  (14).

 God’s message stems from a heart of love… He calls His people My beloved. But their whole being has been turned upside down. Rather than their spirits dominating the body and soul, physical lusts of the body control them, and their soul finds joy in fleshly satisfaction. They are like unfaithful wives, doing multiple adulterous deeds, and yet want to remain in the house of their Husband. Paul wrote to Titus, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (Tit.1:15). Every semblance of holiness has disappeared (15).

 The Lord’s purposes in naming a people a Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit has been altered. Its branches have been broken and fire is consuming it. He, Who planted them, now pronounces a curse upon them, for they have turned away from the reason for their existence (16). Rather than finding joy in them, they provoke Him to anger, giving their love and devotion to heathen Baal.

Fruitlessness is evil and sinful. Do you remember the Lord’s parable of the fruitless fig tree? “For three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” (Lk.13:7). A similar parable is the one of the useless servant, who hid his Master’s talent safely in the ground. His Master responded: “You wicked and lazy servant… cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt.25:14-30). The Lord has no tolerance for that, which does not accomplish His purpose. Unprofitableness is evil and sinful; hell is a huge garbage pit for everyone who is useless to God (17).


Knowledge of God

 18.  Now the LORD gave me knowledge of it, and I know it; for You showed me their doings. 

 19.  But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes 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 may be remembered no more." 

 20.  But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, Testing the mind and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them, For to You I have revealed my cause. 

 21.  "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, 'Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand'— 

 22.  therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 

 23.  and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.' " 

A true prophet is given understanding of God’s people (18). The Psalmist writes of Moses: “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Ps.103:7). This knowledge is absolutely essential to a Christian leader; he must not guide through the wisdom and ways of men. He must see his people through God’s eyes. I remember Tozer commenting to his congregation: “I never met nicer people. But even though you are nice, it doesn’t mean that you are spiritual!”

Jeremiah follows the Lord’s example in meekness. He is innocent concerning evil. Jeremiah’s friend, Gedaliah, the governor of Judah, had this quality. He refused to listen to the evil concerning Ishmael, his murderer. It was actually true and the governor was killed as a result. Still, there is something commendable about refusing to listen to bad rumors, because a person always sees good in others. At any rate, this principle is something worth mulling over; perhaps it is worth dying, having this characteristic. I think, however, that even with this quality, it is necessary for us to listen to a true report (Jer.40:13-41:2).

Jeremiah, himself, didn’t recognize the plot against him, but he did receive the bad news (19). He saw the justice from God in taking vengeance against the men of Anathoth, who wanted to kill him (20). It was not the person of Jeremiah that angered them; it was his message from the Lord. Men are in rebellion against God. The enemy is not angry with the believer, because of their own attributes, but he is furious because they are the Lord’s people, who are sharing His word (21). It’s good to keep that fact in mind.

Without going into detail concerning a principle that we have already considered, I will simply repeat the truth that it is totally righteous for the Lord to take revenge. Vengeance is similar to a judge’s sentence against a criminal, who breaks the law. That is exactly what God is doing, when he takes vengeance. He is vengeful because people ignore and break His righteous laws. He also takes revenge on those, who persecute the ones, who have made the right choice in loving and honoring God and His Christ. That quality of revenge, defined in this way, is perfectly legitimate. He declares that He will annihilate the men of Anathoth. Even their offspring, their sons and daughters, who have learned the ways of their fathers, will die by the sword and through famine. They will be victims of a catastrophic punishment.



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