Beyond the Point of No Return

Jeremiah 11-15

Tom J. Nettles

I                      The Covenant and its  Provisions

A      God’s sovereign imposition of covenant  11:2-5; 13:11

1        The paradigm is with mankind through Adam by creation and sovereign arrangement of life Gen 2:15-17; Romans 5:12-21 – Man was not a cooperative partner in the decision to be an image bearer or to have a test of obedience placed on him. It was a sovereign disposition fully consistent with the nature of things—God as creator thus primary in both purpose and power,  all other things as creatures thus the results of purpose and power. God does not entertain any notion that his is unfair but merely announces the moral reality of man’s necessary submission and of punishment for disobedience.

2        The covenant with Noah for all humanity and the entire earth in light of the universality of sin and in light of the final judgment Gen 9:8-17; cf. 2 Peter 3:3-13 – God demonstrated that he was fully able to bring universal judgment and fully just in doing so while he saved a remnant by grace. The next universal judgment will be the final one. In the meantime, many judgments of a temporal character occur periodically.

3        Abraham for the forming of the Messianic people Gen 12:1-3; Gen 15; 17

4        Moses Exodus 20:1-21; 24:3; Deut 4:9-14; 5:1-3; 7:7-12

B      Motives for obeying it  11:4 ‘brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace” compare with Christian motivation in Romans 12:1; If the rescue of Israel from captivity in Egypt was set forth as motive for obedience, how much more should Christians see their receiving the redemptive mercies of God as reason for a complete renewal of mind for a life consumed in love for God and his glory and filled with service to him [“a living sacrifice”]. Among the variety of motives given in Scripture Four are prominent:

1        Threat of punishment – Exodus 20:5, 7 “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the3 children to the third and fourth generation  of those who hate me.” [5] “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” [7] 2 Timothy 4:1 – “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead etc” Even if we have confidence before God, the reality that others without such confidence will face this judge should spur us to warning; “reprove, rebuke, and exhort.

2        Fear of the divine majesty Exodus 20:18 Lightning, trumpets, smoke, thick darkness, people trembling; “Do not let God speak to us, lest we die,” “God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

3        For mercy shown – Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

4        For future hope – We should seek to emulate in the present that condition of perfect freedom from sin that will be the reality of the future – 1 John 3:1-3 “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure:’ cf. also Philippians 3:10-16; also 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24.

5        A compelling view of the glory of God – Philippians 1:9-11 “filed with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

C      The promises connected with obedience -  11:4; Deut 30:15-20  - that is the inestimable status of having God as our God and being his people. This is the enduring conceived purpose of covenantal arrangements. Look back to Jeremiah 7:22, 23; Look at Leviticus 26:3, 12 for the summary and culmination of all God’s care for the people if they “walk in my statutes and observe my commandments” All the temporal blessings are theirs as a nation chosen by God while his being their God transcends all temporal arrangements and signifies eternal blessings. Look at Revelation 21:3, 7. [See “F” below]

D      The punishment connected with disobedience – “cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this covenant” Jeremiah 11:3b From the beginning this was the threat of failure to abide in the provisions of the covenant as arranged and revealed by God –Go back to Genesis 3:14, 17, 23; See Deuteronomy 27::9, 10, 26; Last verse cited by Paul in Galatians 3:10

E       God made the covenant to establish his glory in the earth – 13:11,16  Through this people God designed to established the knowledge of his power, wisdom, and excellence throughout the earth. Though they failed to live in accordance with his principles and commandments, He will not be frustrated in his purpose. Look at the prophecy of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79 and also the words of Simeon in Luke 2:29-32.  Through Israel, God still established his glory through the sending of Jesus with a true prophet before him to prepare the way. In order to get a broader canonical orientation to this mystery see Paul’s argument in Romans 9:1-8; 11:11-12; 28-36.

F       God made the covenant that there would be an extension of his glory outside of himself to be manifest in a created and redeemed people: 11:4 You shall be my people, and I will be your God; Rev. 21:3  they shall be my people and God himself will be among them.” Titus 2:14; 2 Thes 1:10

II                  Disobedience:  its source and the means of promoting it

A      Though the provisions and threats are clear the evil heart refuses to conform – 11:8; 13:10, 23; This again indicates the sinful intransigence of the human heart. It must be changed, and we should change it, but so ingrained is our love of sin and self that only divine intervention can grant the nature that sees and savors divine holiness with a resultant yearning for righteousness.

B      Prophets, priests, and kings all consort in their disobedience 13:13; 14:18

1        Prophets prophecy peace and safety – 14:13-16. Though God has given a message through Jeremiah of severe and certain judgment, the false prophets provide only messages of comfort, sustaining the people in their idolatry and sensuality. Compare Peter’s descriptions of false prophets in 2 Peter 2. These prophets that Jeremiah confronted simply were blowhards “waterless springs and mists driven by the storm.”

2        Priests offer sacrifices though the worship is perverse [“you are near to their lips but far from their mind” 12:2; offering not acceptable 14:12]

3        Kings pursue personal wealth and pleasure with no desire for the honor of God 13:18; 15:4

C      The Love Sinners have for all that promotes their personal advantage allows disobedience to reign and even brings about a threat on the life of the true prophet. 11:21

1        They love gods that condone their pleasure  11:9-13; 13:25-27

2        They approve officials that encourage their criminality  cf. Romans 1:32

3        They hate the prophet that threatens their pleasure – 12:5,6

D      The Hatred Sinners have for truth and the certainty of judgment

1        The clarity of Jeremiah’s word of truth to the people 15:15-18

2        Their plot to kill Jeremiah  11:19, 21; 12:6

3        Jeremiah sees their wickedness but not the depth of it 12:1-6; 13:15-17; He even seeks to simulate repentance for them and appeal to the covenant as a means of getting the Lord to relent from his determined punishment, 14:19-22. Some passages seem to contain a soliloquy of Jeremiah’s eventual knowledge of their utter destitution of any moral or spiritual integrity. 11:18-20

4        The necessity of God’s sustaining Jeremiah for his ministry of judgment 15:19-21

III               When sinners despise God’s patience and warning, there remains nothing but wrath 12:7, 8;15:5, 6

A      God will refuse to listen  11:7, 11; 15:1; cf. Proverbs 1:24-33

B      He forbids Jeremiah to pray for their deliverance  11:14; 14:11

C      Devises many manifestations of punishment – 13:12-14; 14:16-18 15:2, 3, 7-13

1        Drought and famine– 11:22 14:1-9

2        Sword – 11:22; 12:12

3        Captivity – 13:20, 21

IV               Hope is in God alone but he is the one bringing punishment- 12:15-17; 14:19-22

A      Their return from captivity did not produce a changed heart cf. Deut 30:6

B      They have not grasped the moral significance of the exclusivity of Yahweh as creator, ruler, sustainer, and redeemer. They felt that they could maintain a façade of worship of God and engage the rituals provoked by Baal worship also. Edward R. Murrow wrote about the great singer Marian Anderson, “Marian Anderson is a Christian, but she is as much at home in a Buddhist meditation temple as she is in an Israeli synagogue or a Moslem mosque.” Pluralism  is irrational as well as antithetical to the biblical revelation. The triune God will suffer no rivals.

C      Dependence on grace does not diminish culpability for sin or the legitimacy of punishment 12:1-4