Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

The Lord Alone Worth Following (Jeremiah 2:4-13)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Phil Hollstein, (Guest preacher)

Our scripture today comes from the book of Jeremiah. We're going to be looking at near the beginning of this book, in Chapter Two, versus for through thirteen. Here know it comes word here, the word of the Lord the House of Jacob and all the clans of the House of Israel. Thus says the Lord. What wrong do your father's find any that they went far from me and went after worthlessness and became worthless. They did not say, where's the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who let us in the Wilderness and a land of deserts and pits and a land of drought in deep darkness and a land of none passes through, where no man's wells, and I brought you into a plentiful lands, who enjoy his fruits and it's good at things. But when he came in, you defile my land and may my heritage and abomination, but the priest and not say where's The Lord? Those who had able law did not know me. The shepherds transgress against me, the prophets prophesied by bail and went after things that do not prophet. Therefore, I still contend with you to Clare's Lord and with your children's children. I will contend for a cross of these the Cyperus and see or sends hey are an examine with care, see if there has been such a thing. Has An Asian changed? It's God's even though they are no gods. But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be Appalled. Has It this be shocked the utterly desolate? It clears the Lord, for my people have committed to evils. They have forsaken need, the found in a living waters and hut out cisterns from themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. That's our reading God's word. Confrontation is never a fun thing. When I think about my life, going all the way backs kindergartens, sitting in the principal's office, this is kind of a hypothetical question when you think about the history of Israel, when you think about how well the Lord treated the Israelites, how much he lavished his blessings upon them. The question here is what wrong or in Hebrew, what injustice or unrighteousness did your father's find in me? That's they had to go far away from me to other gods. Now, if you see somebody who's in an abusive relationship, a relationship where they're being harmed or perhaps even their life is at stake, you want them to get free from that relationship if the abuser does not have their heart changed. And even in the meantime, while we're waiting for that change to happen, you want that person who is the victim to be safe, you want them to be out of a dangerous environment and you take joy that a person may break free from a situation where they are...

...being horribly abused or even their life maybe at stake. And so God is basically asking them, what is it that I did to you? What abuse were you suffering that you felt you had to leave and escape from being faithful to me? We see even in the verses six and seven, the history of how God had lavishly blessed Israel, how he had taken them out of slavery from Egypt, how he had powerfully worked in the midst and before Pharaoh to convinced Pharaoh to let the people go. In such a dread and an awe fell upon the Egyptian people that they were giving their jewelry as Israel left, when they were escaping, they they were giving their their possessions to the Israelites, so that the Israelites left rich even when they left Egypt. And after that, God powerfully saved them from Pharaoh's army when Pharaoh changed his mind and came after the Israelites, and Israel saw what their own eyes the deliverance of God as he crushed the armies of Pharaoh. Israel itself to not have to do anything. They did not have to fight that battle, but God fought for them and crushed those Egyptians. And as Israel wandered about in the Wilderness, God took care of them every step of the way. He Fed them, he gave them water, He protected them from their enemies, even down to the details of miraculously causing their clothing not to wear out. When they wandered for forty years in the Wilderness, their clothing never wore out. That level of care, down to the details, is what God provided for Israel. And then when they were brought into the land, he again did their fighting for them. They just had to march around Jericho for seven days in the walls came down. God, so often in the past, had fought for them. He had lavished His grace upon them. And then when they got into the land, he he gave them a land that even they described as one that was flowing with milk and honey, that one that was blessed, that at all the riches and all the the pleasures that you could once in a promised land. And God had promised them, in the covenant that he made with them during the time of Moses, that that if they obeyed the stipulations of that covenant, they would have even more blessings and that they would have those indefinitely, that they would have life, that they would have protection against whatever enemies came upon them. He said, your enemies will come against you one way, but they will flee from you seven ways. There will be chaos if anyone tries to oppose you. He promised them health, he promised them wealth, that they would have reign upon their land, that they would have crops, that they would have children, that they would be spared of the diseases in the plagues that they had seen other people suffer. God lavished his blessings upon them and promised them even more. And the law that he commanded them to keep was not a wicked law. He was not commanding them to degrade themselves or do anything wicked or unseemly. He was...

...commanding them to love him and to love their neighbor. He was commanding them to be holy. There really was no reason for them to try to escape, to get away from his authority. If there was any injustice on the part of God, it was that he gave them more grace than they deserved. He gave them more riches than what justice demanded. That was the injustice. He was so merciful to them. But yet they injured is is his reputation and wronged him by a going after other gods. And to add insult to injury, what he says and the end of verse five is that they win not simply after other gods but after worthlessness. In the Hebrew this this word means a breath or vanity, something that's here one minute and gone the next, and is often a word that is used to describe the other gods, because other gods simply do not exist. And so not only did the people abandoned God, but they went after things that were worthless, things that were figments of their imagination. And this is insulting. If you think about this. Imagine if you're married to someone and your spouse cheats on you, not simply with another person, but with the most ugly, detestable, poor, uneligible, whatever negative characteristic you want to describe to them, with that kind of a person, your spouse cheats. That's kind of insulting. It's kind of like saying, was I that bad that this was the improvement. You went after that person. I mean, was I that terrible of a spouse? So you had, this was your leg up, was to go after that person. That's the kind of thing God is saying here to Israel. What did I do that? You went far from me and instead, when after things that are worthless, and you yourselves became worthless. For he says in verse six, they did not say where is the Lord, even though God was in their midst, even though they had direct access to God any time they wanted. Even then, though they had the glories of the Real God, the true God, dwelling among them, which no other nation had, and they could have had the answer to anything that they'd wanted to know, even down to the details. Who Should we fight today? Where should we go today? They could have had those answers, but they simply did not seek the Lord, they stopped seeking after him. They did not say where's the Lord who brought us up from Egypt all these things that they knew God had done for them. They stopped inquiring of the true God, but rather, he says in verse seven, when you came into this plentiful land, you defiled my land and made my heritage and abomination. They set up on every high place altars and idols to the bales or the gods of...

...the peoples that have been there before, and they started worshiping them. The seductiveness of the flesh was so strong that even though God had done real things for them, even though he had given them lavish, true blessings that no one could deny, they preferred to satisfy their sensual desires by worshiping gods that they could see and touch and make and control and do all the other acts of sensuality that went along with that idol worship. That's what they preferred, rather than the true God who could give them real blessings. And sadly, this is not something that was just done by a fringe of the people, by people on the outside edges who were, you know, the Rabbel rousers of the day, but rather this sin, this apostasy, reached even even to the centers of religious life. Verse Aid. The Lord says the very same thing about the priest. The priest did not say where's The Lord? Those who ministered in the temple daily, those who saw with their own eyes the symbols of the Gospel, who pronounced atone and who pronounced cleanliness, who saw the shedding of blood, who were close to God in his presence in that temple, they, for all their closeness, did not ask where's the Lord? And he goes on. Those who handle the law did not know me. Isn't that a remarkable thing? Those who were litter at, those who could read, those who had access to the stories of God's care all the way from the beginning, those who are close to the means of grace and those who knew the law and the Covenant and exactly what God promised to them. He says they did not know me. They were strangers to God. The shepherds, the rulers, he says, transgressed against me in the prophets prophesied by bail and when after things that do not profit, imagine that they had an open cannon at the time, they were still able to receive more and more revelation if they had questions, and certain righteous leaders like Moses or David did inquire of the Lord for various things, whether it was how to apply the law or or who they should attack, or you know, questions that any nation would need to have answered. And yet, instead of going to the God within their midst, who could give them the right answers and could even fight their battles for them, these prophets started prophesying by these figments of their imagination, these bails that did not really exist, things that do not profit. Therefore, the Lord says in Verse Nine, I still contend with you and with your children's children. I will contend now recall that in verse five he started out by asking about their fathers. He said, what wrong did your father's find in me that they went far from me?...

This is a sin that Israel had been doing perennially. But the attack, the precise attack here, is against the fathers of this generation that he is writing to. Nevertheless, he says, per the Covenant, that the punishment is not just going to be for one generation, but is going to extend even to the fourth generation. And when he says this, this is nothing new. This is something that he had he had talked about even in the days of Moses, when he had entered into covenant with him in the first place. If he turned back to Exitus, Chapter Twenty, and specifically in Verse Five, which is, interestingly, the passage that talks about idolatry, he says, starting in Verse Five, you shall not bow down to them, meeting idols or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the Iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commands. Even though it was the generation before then that primarily had was bearing the brunts of this prophecy, because they were part of Israel and because the sin that they committed was so great, the punishments against that nation was going to be long enough that it was going to extend across generations. It was not simply a generation that entered into covenant with God, but it was the nation as a whole that entered into covenant with God. And so when even one generation sending against God in such a blatant way, the punishment for it would have to be great enough to be just, and therefore sometimes that punishment extended across generations. And the the key illustration of that, as we see even in this prophecy, is the exile. God exiled Israel for seventy years because of their sins, and that's that punishment on the nation necessarily extended across more than one generation. But it was the nation again, that God was punishing, and therefore it was even with the children's children that he was going to contend. Now, of course, the other side of this, as we saw also in exidus twenty, is that the love of God extends over thousands of generations. His punishment, even though it may seem severe to include several generations, is actually like considering the great awful sins that they were committing. He could have smote them out completely, he could have destroyed all future generations by destroying that nation, all of those who are then living. But as punishment, too...

...severe as it was, was tempered by grace and, as we see as we continue in this book, there's even more grace that he is going to promise to them and to lavish upon them, despite the fact of their sins. Well, in verse ten, he continues to to talk about the sin that they are involved in and to confront them for it. And if you've ever talked with somebody about sin, whether you know it's in the context of a court case or in the context of talking with their children or maybe a you know, counseling somebody professionally, there's different ways that you can talk about a sinful behavior. You can talk about it from a moral perspective, you can talk about it from a practical perspective, from a rationality perspective. You can talk about how stupid a certain act is, like when we see somebody try to rob a bank and they accidentally lock themselves in or something and get caught, you know, or something like that, we can say, well, not only was it wrong to row that bank, but it was stupid and by the way, oh, look at the consequences that that person has to suffer. Well, that's kind of like what God is doing in this passage. He is he is looking at this sin of there's for many different angles and he's talked already about the unreasonableness of them betraying him, but he talks here about just how strange it is, even in light of other nations, for them to betray their God. And so he says to them, okay, you want to be like the other nations, you want to worship the gods of foreigners. Well, let's talk about how foreigners worship. Go across the to the coast of Cyprus and see, or send to cad are and examine and see if any of these other nations have changed their gods, even though their gods are simply figments of their imagination, even though their gods are something that they created with their own hands, that they are worshiping, they are more faithful to their gods than you are to me. So, if you want to be like the other nations, why couldn't you at least be like them in terms of faithfulness? Why couldn't you at least be faithful to me and worship me only? But even the peoples of the world do not treat their gods this way. On top of that, he says, my people have it changed their glory for that which Does Not Prophet. Not only have they done something strange and scandalous and different than the other nations, but they've done something that is very tragic and very hurtful to them. They've exchanged their glory for that which does not profit. This is another way sometimes that we can look at sin. When you talk to somebody about their sinful lifestyle, of their behavior, you know sometimes there's a tragic dimension to it as well. Somebody who has their whole life ahead of them some but he was all this promise and then maybe they get involved with drugs or with the wrong crowd or something like that and they throw it all away. We don't...

...just think about the abstract moral essence of that, but we think about the tragedy of that. Look what you've thrown away. Your whole life was ahead of you and now it's gone because of these decisions, and that is well was the case with Israel. They change their glory for that which does not profit. The God who is in their midst was glorious. He was not only powerful, he was not only able, he was not only real, but he was more glorious than anything that the nations could have invented or imagined. When Solomon dedicated to Temple, the glory cloud filled it to such an extent that the priests were not even able to minister in it. They were not even even able to do their temple service because that cloud was so palpable, it was so intimidating that they had to wait until it diminished enough that they could go outside. And when Moses earlier had met with God in the tens of meeting, when he came out, his face shown with the glory of God and the people were afraid of that and they asked him to put a veil in front of his face. God revealed his glory to the people in many different ways regularly, and yet they exchange that tragically for that which does not profit. And we see the tragedy of that. For example, and easykiels prophecy where he has a vision of the glory of God coming up from the temple and slowly leaving. It goes up and he has this, you know, this huge vision and it's got wheels and Cherubim and all these other things and it goes out the east gate and it keeps on going up the Mount of Olives and it just goes. God was symbolizing there that he was leaving from within the midst of his people. He was leaving them desolate, he was leaving them abandoned because of their covenant breaking. And so he says, Be Appalled, Oh heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord Israel, and not simply sinned against another nation or against, you know people, against other people, but they had sinned against the god of the universe, something that is so appalling, something that is so unjust so unjustified, that even the heavens are called here to be appalled and to be shocked at what has happened, because God himself has been insulted to his face, after all the graciousness that they is shown to this people. He has been abandoned, he has been betrayed, and that is a wicked crime. It is a crime in the universe, not just in the land. And he says in verse thirteen, for my people have committed two evils. And here he continues with the tragedy of all of this. He says they have forsaken me, the fountain of Living Waters, and hut out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Now, if you have a fountain, a fountain as a source of water, it...

...is something that keeps giving water. The cistern is simply a container that you can put water in and, when it's empty, attempting. But this is even worse. These are not simply cisterns that they have, but broken ones. They cannot even hold water. So they've exchanged the fountain of life for something that cannot even hold any water. In this image of living waters would have been should have been poignant, especially to those in the Old Testament, as they thought back of their wanderings in the wilderness, how God literally saved their lies when they were parched, by giving them water in strange places and in strange ways. Three days after they crossed the Red Sea, they were wandering in the Wilderness and they came upon a place in maraw where there was water, but it was too bitter for them to drink, and so they complained about that and God told Moses, take this tree and throw it into the the water, and when he did, those bitter waters became sweet and the people were able to drink of it. And later on is the people were wandering around further, they came to a place that had no water and they grumbled again against Moses, and God told Moses, Take Your staff and strike the Rock and water will come out, and it did, and it was able to give drink to the nation. And this clearly was God who is doing this, who is providing this life stream for the people so that they can continue their wilderness wandering. I mean, try this in Arizona, especially this dry desert he plays. Go out and take a stick, go find a rock somewhere and hit it and see if any water comes out. or go up by seven falls or someplace and when the water gets brackish and throw a stick in the water and see if it becomes sweet and drinkable, because he threw a stick in. Clearly, God himself was working for his people. He was bringing water to them out of a place that had no business giving water, and he blessed them and he provided for them, and yet they for forsook him, and therefore he brings this charge against them. He brings the somber, unpleasant, difficult to hear charge, because they need to hear it as members of the Covenant, is those who are bonded to him, as those who have made pledges to him. He is confronting them for their sins. Yeah, we see here that even though what they did was so tragic and so unjust, considering how God lavished his graces upon them, that even as he confronts them for his sins, he does not utterly smite them and wipe them off the face of the Earth, he does not utterly destroy them from among the earth, even though he promises, as this book goes on, that he will discipline them through an exile. They will be taken away to land far from Palestine. And yet even there, even...

...in that discipline, he's still calls tenderly to Israel and remembers the earlier promises that he had made to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to bless them and through them, to bless the entire earth. Very See, God's judgment was not going to take away his love. Though Israel gave God away, though they betrayed him and were faithless to him, he was not going to be faithless to his covenants, his promises that he had made long before to their forefathers and even all the way back in the garden to Adam and Eve, when he told them that their seed would crush the serpent's head. He was not going to abandon his plans and promises, even though his people had abandoned him, but rather he was going to do something else that also could well have made the heavens shocked. That also could have made people wonder what on Earth is going on. He was going to take this people who deserve nothing but to be snuffed out, and he was going to lavish them with even more graces. Imagine that he was going to be even more merciful, he was going to give them even more than what they deserved on the good side in the future. And that also is the message that Jeremiah brings. In Jeremiah thirty one, he talks about a new covenant that he is going to make and he says behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, not like the Covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people, and no longer so. Each one teaches neighbor and each his brother, saying know the Lord, for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more. You See, when God put Israel under the law again, he was not putting them under a wicked law, he was putting them under a righteous law, and they were fully responsible for the fact that they broke his law, the fact that they were sinful. It was their own decisions to violate that covenant. Any human being who's created in the image of God is responsible to be righteous, and they certainly were. In addition to being part of this great covenant with the Lord, they had these responsibilities. But don't you see, they were still fleshly people who were spiritually dead, even though they were called to be righteous, even though they were supposed to be righteous, even though there was no reason for them to...

...be unrighteous. Like in a bad horror movie where somebody gets infected and becomes a Zombie, they had no choice. They were dead and enslaved in trespasses and sins, and no matter how glorious the works of God, no matter how powerfully God worked, they were always going to go back, like a dog to its vomit, to these idols that cannot provide for them. They were always going to go back to the seductiveness of their flesh rather than the God who had life. They were always going to reject him. And if you look back through the Old Testament, you see that cycle repeating itself again and again and again. God rescues Israel and for a little while they obey him and then they fall into sin and so God brings a nation against them in judgment. They cry out to God, he rescues them again and for a little while they are righteous and then they fall back into sin. And if you read the judges, you see that or thirteen times just in that book. The whole purpose of those judges was to rescue them when they had fallen into sin. They could not in their hearts do any differently than they had done, and that illustrates the true need that they had, which was not ultimately liberation from a pharaoh or a land with milk and honey or live ration from a military enemy, but rather their true need, like all of our true needs, was liberation from enslavement to sin and death. For without that and for without the new life, the spiritual life of the Holy Spirit, they would continue to do things which would lead to their eternal damn nation rather than their eternal glorification. But God promises them, and yet another act of grace, that he will provide what they need to be righteous. You will forgive their sins, he will send that promised son of David, but he will also send us Holy Spirit into their very hearts and write his law upon their hearts so that they obey it. Ezekiel gives and talking about the same thing, he gives a slightly different metaphor. Their God says, I will take out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to obey my statutes. What is describing there is what we in the New Testament called being born again, that through his Holy Spirit we will be made a new creation. These are the blessings of the new covenants. These are the blessings that God was promising his people way back there in Jeremiah's Day, and beloved, these are the blessings that we you and I today, this blessing we have received, this lavishness of grace, even eternal life, because God kept his promises that he may way back then, because in the fullness of time, he did send his son, that son of David, who did live a perfect life with a fully human nature. He did what no other human being had ever done. He perfectly obeyed God's law and then he offered himself as a sacrifice...

...for sins. He merited us, he earned us, he bought us and for that reason we are able to come into the inheritance that was the result of his righteousness. Beloved, when we take communion this this is illustrated even in the words of institution. Jesus said this is the blood of the new covenant. When he was instituting the Lord's supper, he was saying that New Covenant is here, it is here and and you are able to enter into it. And the promise of that is that we, even now can have the new life of the Holy Spirit that we had. Cycle of dependence and slavery to the flesh can be broken because God has sent his Holy Spirit to the whole Church and so beloved. If you were here today and you don't yet know the Lord, if you've not yet experienced being born again, let me tell you that, according to God's promises, which he has kept, he's kept all his promises. But let me tell you, according to his word, that this Gospel is full and free and available for you today. God is just as lavish as you was ever, and eternal life is even more lavish than all the blessings that he gave to Israel. And these lavish blessings of eternal life for yours today, and they come through Jesus Christ. The scripture says, if you believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. Jesus said in me you will bear much food. Apart from you can do nothing. Do not trust in the strength of your own flesh to be righteous enough, but trust in Christ, who is righteous enough for you and who can take away all of your sins. For those of us who are already born again, who are already Christians, who already confess Christ, the question maybe, well, how then shall we live? We know in this world that we are surrounded by people who are spiritually dead, who are surprised that we do not run after the same sins that they do, who have very different values, very different priorities than we do and who seek a very different kingdom than we do. They seek things that are of the world, well beloved. Our privilege, as well as our duty, is to remind ourselves constantly, with the eyes of faith, not being distracted by the things of the world, are the desires of the world, but to remember what God has done for us and in us. If you're a Christian, if you've been a Christian for any length of time, you know the experience of being a new creation. Just as Paul says, we are new creatures in Christ. You know what it means, especially if you were converted as an adult, what it means to go from being a hardhearted, rebellious God hitting person to somebody who believes in to some somebody who has changed and converted. That life did not come from yourself, it came from above.

It came from Christ through his Holy Spirit. We are calling now, as Christians, to walk after that Holy Spirit, to walk according to that new life that we have and no matter how seductive the things of the world might seem, we are called to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all the things of the world that we need, our food and our clothing, our health. Jesus said those things will be added to you, for your father in heaven already knows that you need them. But we are called to seek first those things that are that are eternal, because we've been given those things that are eternal. We are already participating an eternal life. You know, it's almost like, you know, we as Christians look forward to Christ coming back and remaking the world and remaking our bodies and the new heavens and the new Earth And the vision that John Sees and revelation twenty one. But beloved the fact that we already bear the spirit and the fact that we are already born again, it's as if we've already stepped into revelation twenty one, at least partially. We are already partaking in and tasting the next world. We are already tasting of the new creation which is already within us, and you us that will be completed and consummated when Christ returns. But you know, we already experience the power of that in our own lives, and so we are called to rejoice in that we are called to esteem that which is greater than anything that the world can offer and to follow after that work that the Lord is done within us. Let us keep that perspective, let us keep that encouragements as we face the days ahead, as we face the sins that remain in our own hearts, as we face the temptations of the world. It can be frustrating at times and it can be tempting at times to be fixated on, you know, one or another of our short failings, but let us not allow that to obscure the largeness and the lavishness of God's grace and the power that he has already worked within us through his Holy Spirit. For greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world, and our faith will overcome the world, and no sin that you can commit will separate you from the love of God, for we are under the blood. So be thankful for the Lord's work and walk in the light of that newness of life. And let us do that regardless of what the world does or what they tempt us to do or what we see with our eyes, or rather, let us look with the eyes of faith to the coming of Christ Kingdom. Let us pray.

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