JEREMIAH 11 – THE BROKEN COVENANT
In this chapter, the Lord makes plain the problem. He entered into a covenant with Israel and Israel broke that covenant. God told Jeremiah to tell that message to Judah and Jerusalem.
God Made A Covenant With Israel
The Lord told Jeremiah to repeat the covenant to the people. (2) He wanted to covenant spoken to them and he wanted them to listen. He was so serious about it, he said any who does not hear the words of the covenant is cursed. (3) The NIV reads “terms” instead of “words”. Every other version reads “words”.
As he almost always did, the Lord first reminded them of his great work of redemption. Before he made a covenant with them, he brought them out of Egypt.(4) He brought them out of the “iron furnace”, the slavery they endured there with its hard work. “Iron furnace” is a metaphor for their bitter affliction. This is what we read about in the book of Exodus.
Next, the Lord reminded them, through Jeremiah, that he brought them to himself and told them they must obey all of his commandments and, if they did, he would be their God and they would be his people.(4-5) Additionally, if they obeyed him, he would give them a prosperous land. That is what he means by a land flowing with milk and honey. This is recorded in Exodus 19. This blessing was conditional. The blessing of the land was conditioned upon obedience to the covenant law.
And Jeremiah said “so be it, Lord”. He obeyed the Lord’s command to speak the terms of the covenant to the people. But he also obeyed the covenant itself.
One thing you might note here is that the Lord did not enter into the covenant with the people he was addressing through Jeremiah. Rather, he made that covenant with the Israelites that lived years before. And that covenant was a partial fulfillment of an even older covenant, the one the Lord made with Abraham in Genesis 15. (Genesis 15:18)
So the Lord kept his covenant with successive generations of Hebrews after making that covenant with their ancestors. Likewise, the successive generations of Hebrews were bound to obey the covenant laws and ordinances even though they were not parties to the original transaction.
Side Note – God is a God of Covenant
One thing we have done in this study of Jeremiah is to note when God reveals something about himself. That is because we want to know God. To know God, we must know his character and how he relates to us.
The Bible shows us that God relates to mankind through covenants. Each of these covenants are between a sovereign and a vassal. The sovereign tells the vassal what he has done for him, tells him what he must do, sets out the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. God has made several covenants with men that are recorded in the Bible. Let’s take a quick look at these.
God made a covenant with Adam. Some argue this was not a covenant. Hosea 6:7 seems to say it was. The terms of the covenant were that Adam would take care of the Garden, have children, find his food there, but not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The blessing is that he gets to stay in the Garden, live in God’s presence and not die. The curse for disobedience is death. This death includes physical death and spiritual death, shown by Adam’s expulsion from the Garden. This is set out in Genesis 2:15-17. Romans 5 shows us that Adam was the representative of all mankind in this covenant. We are all sinners, estranged from God. We all die.
God made a covenant with Noah after the flood. This is in Genesis 8 and 9. Noah was to be fruitful and multiply. God would not curse the ground again or destroy everything by flood.
God made a covenant with Abraham. God took Abraham out of a wilderness of idolatry and brought him to Canaan. This is in Genesis 12-15. He promised to give the land to his descendants, to make him a great nation and to bless all the peoples of the earth through him. Abraham and his descendants were to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice. (Genesis 18:19)
God made a covenant with Israel. We see this in Exodus 19-20. Additionally, the books of Exodus and Leviticus spell out the covenant ordinances. Deuteronomy restates the covenant for Israel before the go into Canaan. God brought Israel out of Egypt and gave them a place to live in his presence. They had to obey his ordinances to stay in the land and prosper. This is the covenant Jeremiah is preaching in this chapter. This is what we often call the Old Covenant.
God made a New Covenant with believers to provide salvation and eternal life to those who believe in Christ and obey him. He also made a covenant with his Son, Jesus, that Jesus would die to pay the penalty for sin, and the Father would give him a people who believe and follow him. Then he would exalt him above all.
The Covenant Curses
In these verses, the Lord told Jeremiah to remind the people of the covenant curses. When he brought Israel out of Egypt, he warned the people of the penalty for disobedience.
Certainly you could infer the penalty from the promise. If the promise is conditioned upon obedience, you could infer that disobedience would negate the promise. In other words, if you do not obey, you will not have a land flowing with milk and honey.
But the Lord did not leave it to inference. He spelled it out in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. And in Deuteronomy 8:19 he said it very plainly and succinctly: “And if you forget the Lord your god and go after other gods and serve them and worship them I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”
But the Israelites did not heed the warnings. The Lord said they walked in stubbornness of an evil heart. (8)
Because they broke the covenant, God said he would bring “all the words” or curses of the covenant upon them. Again we see that God is faithful. He does what he says he will do, for good or for ill.
The Lord said there was a conspiracy. All the people agreed to return to the idolatry of their forefathers. Israel and Judah both broke the covenant through idol worship. They had other gods before the Lord in violation of the first commandment.
In verse 13, the Lord said Judah had as many gods as cities. There is a great word of warning for the church today in this. We are assailed on all sides by other religions and cults. We must not pollute the Biblically based worship of our Lord with their practices and concepts and gods.
No Intercession Was Available
The Lord told Jeremiah not to pray for Judah. He would allow no intercession. They had gone too far. Even their sacrifices could not remove their sin. (15) Psalm 15 tells us who can got to the temple and live in God’s presence. The Lord demands exclusive worship. He takes the violation of this demand very seriously.
The Plot Against Jeremiah
Jeremiah did not know his own family of priests plotted against him. The Lord revealed it to him to protect him. They intended to kill him and his family (19). But Jeremiah trusted God to take vengeance on them.
And the Lord said he would. He forbid them to prophesy. He said they would die by the sword and famine. None of the priests of Anathoth would survive.
God knows the hearts of men and women. He knows when evil people plot against the church. He is not surprised by that.