One of the jobs of the prophets was to announce God’s determination that the hardened disobedience of His chosen people would lead to exile. In Jeremiah 11 the prophet makes this case with particular reference to the biblical idea of “covenant.”
During the days of the Old Testament the Word of God was especially spoken to the people of Israel and Judah. This message first came to them, at least in written form, in the Ten Commandments. This famous moral code was the ethical heart of what we call the Sinai Covenant—the arrangement that God made with His people through Moses when they were in the wilderness of Sinai on the way to the Promised Land.
A covenant is a deal. In the Bible, the covenants that God made with His people were of two kinds. The first is a promissory covenant such as the promise God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12 when He said, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” A promise rests on the foundation that God will provide the obedience necessary in order to keep the deal in force. The second type of covenant is a law covenant like the one God made through Moses at Sinai. Laws draw our attention to the obedience or disobedience of the people of God.
When the Sinai Covenant came, it did not overrule the promise given to Abraham. God would still keep His Word to bring great blessing upon His elect people, but if His nation refused to obey His moral demands, then they would have to face the sanctions that were a part of the Sinai Covenant. The ultimate consequence would be the loss of the land, with the people being sent into exile.
There was a day when the “olive tree” of the nation of Israel was green and full of life. The Lord heard the cries of His people for help, and He accepted their offerings to Him. But in the days of Jeremiah they had been offering the blood of animals to false gods. Judgment would soon come.
Even Jeremiah’s neighbors opposed God’s prophet with secret plots. The Lord revealed these dangers to Jeremiah. The residents of his town wanted the prophet’s name to be forgotten forever, but God would not allow that to happen.
When our final prophet came, the Lord of the New Covenant was put to death on the cross. Jesus was cut off from the land of the living. We deserved the ultimate exile, cast out of any right to the kingdom of heaven because of our violation of the Law of God. Yet He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that the promise of God to Abraham could be fulfilled.
According to the Law, we are dead men, but by God’s promise we have eternal life. Shall we then continue in sin? By no means! We will hear the Word of the Lord who loved us. We will believe in Jesus, and follow after Him by the provision of His holy presence with us. This is the only way for us to express our sincere appreciation for the riches of His grace.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of the Prophets, You have spoken to us in the words of Your covenant. Your people have known the truth of Your provision and Your Law. Yet they have not been willing to truly hear Your Word. You brought upon them words of trouble in the sanctions that came against them. We thank You for the sacrifice appointed for us in Christ, our Lord. We confess to You that we have not had hearts ready to obey You. How could this be? Surely our prayers are hindered and our usefulness in Your Kingdom is limited when we have not humbled ourselves before Your Word. Our deeds testify against us. We have devised schemes against You and Your servants, even though we are a part of Your church. How we wander, O Lord! Have mercy on us, on our towns, and on our families.