Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CCLII - Jeremiah 11:1 - 15:9

In the last post we covered chapters 7-10, but I focused mainly on Jeremiah’s Temple sermon and its impact on him as God’s chosen prophet for this time in Judah’s History.  This post will cover Chapters 11-15 and again I will focus on a main topic, this time being “the broken covenant”.

You probably have noticed by now that Jeremiah uses a variety of writing styles, many of which are in these five chapters.  His sermons seem to portray a powerful preaching style, displaying much emotion.  His writings at times are in the form of poetry.  And when he is merely speaking of thoughts or events, his words are of a remorseful tone.  Additionally, he speaks using symbolism such as his reference to a speckled bird, a linen waist cloth, and a wine jar.  One may reflect on these different speaking and writing styles, but I wouldn’t over-think it too much.  I submit that Jeremiah is trying everything in his speaking arsenal to make these stubborn Israelites understand what he is trying to warn them against.

Chapter 11:1-17  –  The Covenant Has Been Broken

He begins chapter 11 with the phrase, “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord”.  He says this a number of times in this book, and it always means he is starting another subject.  Jeremiah is telling what God said to him.  God is upset with Judah for breaking the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It is the covenant as written in the book of Deuteronomy.  We know this because of the timing of Jeremiah’s ministry.  Remember, King Josiah made Godly reforms in Judah and Jerusalem, especially dealing with the Temple.  When he had the Temple cleaned up, the book of Deuteronomy was found in it, after having been forgotten about for centuries.  Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jeremiah, and all of the Temple priests and scribes have made all of Judah aware of the covenant as written in Deuteronomy.  Judah could not claim ignorance as an excuse for disregarding God’s commandments and statutes.  If one looks at the Old Testament as a whole, he would conclude that the covenants were the predominant theme.  There were two main covenants:  The covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant God made with David.
{Briefly, about covenants:  A covenant is a binding agreement (contract) between two or more parties.  A covenant basically says “if you do this, I will do that”.  In the Scriptures there are two kinds of covenants mentioned.  One was between two parties of equal rank or authority, as in a business contract.  The other was between two parties that were not of the same rank and authority, such as between the victor and the defeated.  This second one is commonly referred to as a “unilateral covenant”.  The breaking of a covenant always resulted in punishment.  God was always careful when He spoke of His covenant with Israel, making certain that the people were made aware in no uncertain terms what the punishment would be if they did not abide by the statutes of the covenant.  God has throughout the Old Testament exercised patience and mercy with Abraham’s descendants, but we see in these chapters that His patience has finally run out.}

Now, back to the Scripture.  God told Jeremiah (verse 7-8) “I’ve warned them again and again, saying, ‘obey me’.  But they did not listen or pay attention”.  God goes on to speak harsh words concerning the Israelites worshiping other gods.  Then in verse 14 He instructs Jeremiah not to pray for these people, because He will not listen.

Chapter 11:18-12:17 – The People Plot Against Jeremiah

Verse 17 is the end of God speaking about the covenant being disrespected.  Now, in verse 18 of chapter 11, Jeremiah speaks and he is fearful because there is a plot against him by the people of Anathoth (Jeremiah’s home town).  They actually want to kill him and Jeremiah is fearful for his life, therefore appeals to God.  Jeremiah is frustrated with life’s circumstances and asks for understanding from God.  God responds somewhat indirectly as the verses 12:17 are written in poetic form.  God assures Jeremiah that punishment will be certain to come against all of the ungodly, including those who have plotted against His spokesman.

Chapter 13  -  The Linen Waist Cloth and Symbolism

God instructs Jeremiah in these verses so as to further make the point to Judah about their ungodliness, knowing it will not make any difference.  God knows their hearts and He realizes nothing will make this generation of Israelites repent.  He instructs Jeremiah to buy a waist cloth (a white undergarment).  He was to wear it and take it to the Euphrates River, a very long distance, where he was to hide it.  Later, God told Jeremiah to retrieve the waist cloth.  When he did, it was ragged and useless.  God told him that it represents the people of Judah, filthy and useless since they would not repent. The people had been so sinful and so ungodly for so long that they were incapable of repenting because they preferred sin as a way of life.  God further indicated the hopelessness of the people when He said in verse 23,”Can an Ethiopian (Dark African) change his skin or a leopard his spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil”.

14:1-15:9 - The Hopelessness of Israel and Judah

Jeremiah waxes poetic again as he writes chapters 14 and 15.  It is written much like a dark psalm.  He poetically laments and mourns for his brethren, as he now is certain of their fate.  If God says they will not save themselves, then Jeremiah is convinced of it also.  He says in verse 11 that God told him not to waste his time praying for these people, as their fate is sealed.  Let’s look at the first verse of chapter 15.  It says that even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before God in behalf of these people, it would do no good.  (Remember, these two men interceded for the people many times, and with a great deal of success.)  God goes on to say in verse three of chapter 15 that He will send four kinds of destroyers against the people of Judah:  The sword to kill, dogs to drag the carcasses away, and birds and other wild animals to devour and destroy their bodies.

Next Post:  Jeremiah’s Personal Struggles

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