Covenant Breakers.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.”

And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.

“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.” Jeremiah 11:1-17 ESV

God had made a covenant with the people of Israel. It had been a bi-lateral, binding covenant that promised blessings if they kept it and curses if they didn’t. This covenant required obedience on their part. But it came with incredible benefits, backed by the personal guarantee of God.

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:

Your towns and your fields
    will be blessed.
Your children and your crops
    will be blessed.
The offspring of your herds and flocks
    will be blessed.
Your fruit baskets and breadboards
    will be blessed.
Wherever you go and whatever you do,
    you will be blessed.” – Deuteronomy 28:1-6 NLT

But this covenant had a downside. There were curses associated with it that would go into effect if they chose to break their end of the agreement.

“But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you:

Your towns and your fields
    will be cursed.
Your fruit baskets and breadboards
    will be cursed.
Your children and your crops
    will be cursed.
The offspring of your herds and flocks
    will be cursed.
Wherever you go and whatever you do,
    you will be cursed.

“The Lord himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me.” – Deuteronomy 28:15-20 NLT

There was no question that the people had broken the covenant. They had willingly and blatantly disobeyed God and made a habit out of pursuing false gods. Which led God to proclaim:

“They have returned to the sins of their ancestors. They have refused to listen to me and are worshiping other gods. Israel and Judah have both broken the covenant I made with their ancestors.” – Jeremiah 11:10 NLT

So, God was obligated, by His very nature, to keep His Word and do what He had said He would do if they proved unfaithful to keep His covenant. The curses were coming. The people of Judah were going to be evicted from the very land He had promised to Abraham and given to Joshua and the second generation of Israelites who had survived the years of wandering in the wilderness. They had gone from paupers in Egypt to private land owners in Canaan. They had enjoyed all the benefits of a rich and fruitful land. They had experienced the protective hand of God and benefited greatly from His provision for all of their needs. But, in spite of all that God had done for them, they had proved unfaithful to Him. God had been the one to plant them in the land, like an olive tree. They thrived, bore fruit and were beautiful to look at. But eventually, they became barren and useless, unable to bear fruit and incapable of living up to God’s expectations of them. So He would be forced to destroy them. And no amount of prayers for mercy was going to help. Their sacrifices and vows would prove useless, because God knew their hearts and was well aware that their remorse was a sham.

“What right do my beloved people have to come to my Temple,
    when they have done so many immoral things?
Can their vows and sacrifices prevent their destruction?
    They actually rejoice in doing evil!” – Jeremiah 11:15 NLT

They loved sinning too much to give it up. They weren’t willing to change their ways. They just wanted God to call off the dogs and cancel His plan to destroy them. But all the while they were calling out to God for mercy, they were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their litany of gods, in the hopes that one of them might step in and rescue them. And if you think about it, they were asking their false gods to defeat the revealed will of the one true God. Unwilling to accept the ramifications of their disobedience to the covenant, they were demanding that their false gods deliver them from the divine justice of Yahweh. But God breaks the new to them that “the idols will not save them when disaster strikes!” (Jeremiah 11:12 NLT).

God was going to fulfill the covenant He had made with Israel. He was the one who had planted them in the land. He had made them fruitful. He had blessed them beyond measure. But they had proven to be unfaithful and unwilling to remain obedient to the covenant they had made with Him. And, as a result, God would keep His word and do to them exactly what He had said He would do.

“I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who planted this olive tree, have ordered it destroyed. For the people of Israel and Judah have done evil, arousing my anger by burning incense to Baal.” – Jeremiah 11:17 NLT

And God let’s them know that the blessings they once enjoyed would be a thing of the past. The abundance and affluence they had known in the land of Canaan would not follow them to Babylon.

“You will plant much but harvest little, for locusts will eat your crops. You will plant vineyards and care for them, but you will not drink the wine or eat the grapes, for worms will destroy the vines. You will grow olive trees throughout your land, but you will never use the olive oil, for the fruit will drop before it ripens. You will have sons and daughters, but you will lose them, for they will be led away into captivity. Swarms of insects will destroy your trees and crops.” – Deuteronomy 29:38-42 NLT

God had blessed them beyond belief. He had given them a land they did not deserve. He had provided them with victories over their enemies they could have never accomplished without Him. He had made them fruitful and powerful. He had repeatedly forgiven their sins and provided them with atonement through His sacrificial system. But they had taken all the blessings of God and responded in unfaithfulness. They had treated the God of the universe with contempt. And all God had really asked of them was that they respond to His love with love. He wanted them to show gratitude and affection for His many blessings. And He had warned them that failure to do so would have deadly consequences.

“If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything.” – Deuteronomy 28:47-48 NLT

The people of Judah loved sin more than they loved God. They found it easier to rejoice in doing evil than to find joy in loving and obeying of God. They took His blessings for granted. They saw His forgiveness as a foregone conclusion. He had always forgiven them of their sins. All they had to do was offer a few sacrifices and tell Him they were sorry. But God was looking for heart change. He wanted love, not sacrifice. He desired obedience motivated by faithfulness and true affection.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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