Setting Forth God’s Justice and Grace
An Ordained Prophet
“Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5).
Prior to the fall of the Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, God sent a prophet to His people. He was an emotional man by nature and has come to be known as Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet. His ministry would begin during the reign of the good king Josiah in 639 BC and end with Zedekiah in 586 BC with the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
The content of Jeremiah’s prophetic message was that the people had broken covenant with God.
The idea of God as a covenant making, and covenant keeping God is a large motif in Scripture, with an important distinction. Normally, a covenant involves an agreement between two parties in which each participant pledges something to another. The biblical covenants are not made by equal parties, of course, for God imposes His terms on individuals. Nevertheless, the Lord does “covenant” with His creatures. Theologians find distinctions among the various covenants.
God Made a Covenant with Adam. There was a Covenant of Works prior to the Fall whereby Adam was told that he could eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was not to eat “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:15-17). After the Fall, a Covenant of Grace was drafted whereby the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent, meaning that one day the Messiah would redeem the fallen seed of Adam (Gen. 3:15).
God Made a Covenant with Noah. Part of the covenant God made with Noah was that he, along with his wife and sons, and their spouses, would be preserved through the great flood that was to be unleashed on the earth (Gen. 6:18). But Noah must do his part and build an Ark according to divine design. Moved by faith, Noah obeyed the Lord. He built the Ark. Then, God kept His word to Noah. He and his family stepped on dry land once more, in due time.
Another provision of the Noahic Covenant was that God would only destroy the human race with a flood once. The Lord is still honoring that covenant to this day. While the earth remains, there will be seedtime and harvest, and cold and heart, and summer and winter, and day and night (Gen. 8:22). All the needless fears of the earth being destroyed by an Ice Age, or man-made Global Warming, are without merit. When tempted to worry, look for a rainbow in the sky, and remember the promise, and faithfulness of God.
God Made a Covenant with Abraham. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3).
There are some Bible teachers who argue that the Abrahamic Covenant is a unilateral covenant that God made with Abraham. The idea is that no matter what the other party might say and do, God will act unilaterally to fulfill the covenant provisions. As attractive as that position might sound, the language of Scripture indicates otherwise. It was because Abraham obeyed the voice of God, and observed His commandments, and honored His laws, the Covenant was confirmed (Gen. 26:5).
God Made a Covenant with Jacob. In Genesis 28, we read of the Covenant God made with Jacob. It was at Bethel that the Lord spoke to the grandson of Abraham saying: “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen. 28:13-15).
God Made a Covenant with Moses. The Mosaic Covenant was an agreement between God and the Hebrew people, led by Moses, that if they obeyed Him, He would be their God. Because the covenant was made at Mount Sinai, it is sometimes called the Sinai Covenant. The details of this covenant are established in Exodus 19 – 24.
God Made a Covenant with Israel. The Ark of the Covenant embodied and symbolized the pledge of God to dwell among the Hebrew people and guide them from the Mercy Seat on the top of the Ark.
God Made a Covenant with David. The Davidic Covenant is established in three main passages of Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Chronicles 17:11-15; Psalm 89:27-29, 34-37). In this covenant, the Lord provided for the throne of David to be established, forever. Ultimate fulfillment of this covenant is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ who is King of kings, and Lord of lords. Of His kingdom, there shall be no end (Rev. 17:14; Luke 1:33).
God Has Made a New Covenant with the Church.
While the term, “Old Covenant”, is not used in Scripture, the term “New Covenant” is used, once in the Old Testament, and three times in the New Testament.
Old Testament Reference. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31).
New Testament References. “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away… (Heb. 8:8, 13). “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24).
The provisions of the New Covenant are detailed in Scripture. God will put His laws into the minds of those who are born again, and will be a God to them (Heb. 8:10). Gospel obedience is mandatory for the believer. Every Christian is to trust and obey.
Because keeping covenant has been essential to having fellow with the Lord, the charge by Jeremiah that Israel had violated their covenant relationship was alarming. The prophet of God accurately predicted the Babylonians would be the instrument in administering divine judgment. Jerusalem was going to be destroyed, and the citizens would be taken into exile for seventy years (2 Kings 24 – 25).
The words of Jeremiah were fulfilled for the sign of a true prophet of God is that his prediction come to pass. “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follows not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:21, 22).
After twenty years of ministering to Israel, the Lord called Jeremiah to collect his oracles, sermons, poems, and essays. This was possible because his scribe, or secretary, Baruch, had faithfully recorded the words of the prophet, and some biographical material as well.
As the Book of Jeremiah is examined, it is noticed the work opens with the call of Jeremiah who is given a dual mission. He was be a prophet to Israel, and then to the nations of the earth. His words will uproot and tear down many cherished traditions and thoughts. Once this is done, God will use His prophet to encourage, to plant and build up the hopes and dreams of those in exile, and those who have known the horrors of war.
Chapters 1 – 24 sets forth the words of Jeremiah prior to the Babylonian Exile. Israel is charged with breaking covenant with God by turning to idols, offering unworthy sacrifices, and making unauthorized foreign alliances. Trust was place in military might and not the power of God.
Adopting the worship of pagan gods brought shame to Israel, and provoked the Lord to anger. Idolatrous shrines were erected throughout the land thereby draining time and treasure from true worship and helping neighbors. The sin of idolatry was analogous to spiritual adultery in the sight of God. To be unfaithful to someone for selfish personal pleasure is painful. The betrayal of ones covenant vows is painful in human relationships, and it is treacherous in the spiritual realm as well.
To press his point of the ugliness of covenant violation, Jeremiah employs the image of promiscuity, harlotry, and prostitution. Israel had played the harlot. Israel was nothing more than a prostitution seeks out one paramour, or false god, after another. Israel was insatiable in her promiscuous lust. The language is strong because sin has terrible to enslave and damn the soul.
In addition to idolatry, Jeremiah accuses the kings, priests, and national leaders of being corrupt. They have abandoned the Torah and the covenant, and encouraged others to do the same by their words, and their actions. One result was widespread social injustice. Jeremiah does not hesitate to speak truth to power. He will shame, and publicly condemn the wicked. He will stand in judgment on others.
Jeremiah had not only the right, but the responsibility to speak up for widows, orphans, and immigrants who were taken advantage of in violation of the Laws of Moses.
A collective summary of the main themes found in Jeremiah are set forth in The Temple Sermon in chapter 7. When the Israelites came to the Temple to worship God with a casual spirit, Jeremiah denounces their hypocrisy for outside the Temple, other gods are being honored with gifts and sacrifices.
One despicable form of sacrificial giving to the pagan gods involved the offering of a child who was burnt alive. An American can easily understand how children can be sacrificed for almost a million babies a year, since 1973, have been, and are being, offered to the god of Secular Humanism on the Altar of Abortion. There is rejoicing in the land when this is done just like the Hebrew people celebrated the slaughter of the innocent in the sixth century before Christ.
“The God of Israel,” cried Jeremiah, “is coming in judgment.” There is no turning back the wrath to come. God will destroy His own Temple, despite its external glory and beauty. Majestic building mean nothing to God when they are used in false worship. Religious rituals without any corresponding spiritual reality is meaningless.
An Army from the North, led by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, will come and smash the Temple, slaughter the wicked, and taken into exile the aristocrats and their children. Yes, Babylon is a pagan entity, but the nation will be used as an instrument of divine discipline.
Despite the warnings Jeremiah relentlessly gave, Israel did not repent. The people did not turn back to God. Chapter 25 becomes a transition chapter. Jeremiah tells the people that Nebuchadnezzar is on the march. The storm clouds of war have gathered and are heading to Jerusalem. God’s wrath will not be abated for seventy years.
Babylon is presented in pictorial language as a cup of wine, filled with God’s anger. The Lord will compel Israel to drink from the cup of His wrath.