Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jeremiah 2:1-3:5


Jeremiah 2:1-3:5

First, God called Jeremiah to prophesy. Second, God told Jeremiah what would happen to Judah, using the picture of a boiling pot about to be poured out on the country.

Next, God gave Jeremiah a word to preach. In fact, God gave Jeremiah 5 messages about Israel breaking its covenant with God. The image God used is that of a wife who is unfaithful to her covenant with her husband, committing adultery. This is a common image and theme in the Bible. God is the groom or husband and Israel is the bride. God used Hosea’s marriage to demonstrate this theme.

This first message of Jeremiah runs from the first verse of chapter two through chapter three, verse 5. It is presented as a sort of law suit. The Lord told them how they violated the covenant, how he warned them and how they refused to repent and obey. Finally, he told them the consequence of disobedience. It is the kind of letter a lord writes to a vassal who is rebelling. For example, when Judah made a treaty with Assyria to be its vassal by paying tribute and obeying the Assyrian king, then rebelling, the king would send a message of warning. If that did not work, he would invade and punish the rebels.

Jeremiah 2:1-3 Remembering the Past

The first part of the message is addressed to Jerusalem. It was both the center of worship, for the temple was there, and the center of government, for the king was there. Jeremiah may have received his calling in his home town of Anathoth, just north of Jerusalem. He could have walked to town, found a prominent spot and begun to preach.

In these verses, God reflects on their relationship in the early days, as the husband of an unfaithful wife might. He remembered her devotion, love, and following. Israel was like a young bride, wanting to please her husband. The word for devotion here is “hesed” which means commitment to a covenant.

As a result of this covenant faithfulness, Israel was holy to the Lord. (3) He called them out of Egypt, He separated them from all the other peoples of the world to be his. He made a covenant only with them. While they were faithful to the covenant, God protected them and brought disaster on their enemies.

This is all in accordance with the terms of the covenant as spelled out in Deuteronomy 28. There is the description of the blessings of faithfulness and the curses of disobedience.

But notice again that God revealed his intent to relate to the whole world. He would not stop with Israel. Verse 3 says Israel was the first fruits of his harvest. This little statement foretells the coming of Christ centuries later to gather the rest of the harvest. That harvest is the calling of Gentiles into God’s kingdom. When God spoke to Jeremiah about Israel’s covenant, he was also looking forward to the day he would expand his message to the Gentiles. We are part of that group.

Jeremiah 2:4-37 The Lord’s Complaint

This long section begins the Lord’s complaint against Israel. He began with a rhetorical question in verse 5. He asked “what wrong did your fathers find in me that mean them leave me and go after worthlessness and become worthless?”

A rhetorical question is one you do not expect to be answered by the other person. Rather, you ask it to set up your argument or complaint. The answer to it is so obvious that it need not be answered.

This question is rhetorical because there is no wrong in God to be found. Psalm 100:5 says the Lord is good. Luke 18:19 says no one is good but God alone. He is holy and we are to imitate him in that. Be holy for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15)

But Israel went away from God nonetheless. He did no wrong, but they left him and went after something worthless. Why? Because they were sinful men and women.

We do the same in the church today. We have access to the Lord through our relationship with Christ. He still has no faults. Yet, we leave him and pursue worthlessness. Worthlessness is anything that substitutes for God in our life.

For Israel, worthlessness took the form of a physical idol. But the idol is really a symbol of man’s desire to find worth, wealth and happiness without submitting to the Lord. We cut to the chase today most of the time. We leave God, or reduce him in priority, and pursue wealth or fame or power or fun.

You might, however, have a physical idol. You likely are not tempted to worship Baal. But you have a house or car or boat or something that means more to you than God.

Or you might simply re-define God to be the kind of God you want. You do not believe what the Bible says about him in some areas and you choose to believe something else about him. That is idolatry.

When Israel pursued worthlessness they succeeded. They became worthless. The same is true of us. This brings up a good point. Your worth is first of all your worth to God.

When God says they did not say “where is the Lord”, he means they did not seek the Lord. The Lord refers back to the great act of redemption as he often does. He referred to his redeeming them from Egypt and guiding them to the “promised land”. They did not think of that and seek God to deliver them.

Today he would say I called you out of the world of sin to be saved, yet you do not call on me or seek me.

When they did come to God’s land, they defiled it by being as sinful as the people he displaced for them. (7) This land of Canaan was God’s land, a sacred place he devoted to himself. (Leviticus 25:23) The Canaanites defiled it by sin and he drove them out. The Israelites defiled it by sin and he drove them out.

The Lord focused on three groups of people: priests (8), shepherds (rulers) and prophets. These people were all charged with leading the people in covenant obedience. Instead, they went astray and led the people astray.

The equivalent today would be pastors, teachers and elders or deacons. God charged each with care and feeding of his people. We have seen that in Paul’s writings. Yet, today, these officials lead God’s people astray.

For example, consider Carlton Pearson. He attended Oral Roberts University, was mentored by Oral Roberts. He was licensed and ordained in the Church of God in Christ.

He started a church, the Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center. It grew to several thousand members. He was on television. He appeared with famous preachers at stadium events. Pearson had one of the most watched TV programs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Then, Pearson believed God appeared to him and spoke to him and he quit believing in hell. He became a universalist, one who believes everyone goes to heaven. He called it the gospel of inclusion. His denomination declared him a heretic. But some followed him and eventually his church joined a Unitarian Church. So, he led a group of people to reject hell, then to reject the deity of Christ and the existence of the Holy Spirit.

So, what was the outcome of Israel’s rebellion? God said he would contend with them, their children and grandchildren. (9).

God warned the Israelites before. He had already brought disaster on them to get their attention. He pointed this out in verses 14-18. Enemies laid their land to waste, destroyed their cities and took away their land and people. Yet they did not repent

He sent them prophets, but they killed them. (30) In Matthew 23:37, Jesus called Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets.

In addition to idolatry, Israel was guilty of injustice to the poor. (34) When our relationship to God is broken, we break our relationships with people.

Since they did not repent, God determined to bring judgment upon them. (35) He determined to punish them and neither Egypt nor Assyria could keep them safe from the Babylonians. This is the final curse for disobedience. Deuteronomy 28:49 says “The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth…until you are destroyed.”

Here are some points to consider from this passage:

 God keeps his covenants

 Man cannot satisfy God’s requirements on his own

 Man needs God’s grace

 Man needs a savior

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