Broken Covenant

Friday, March 15, 2013, 7:44 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Full Release” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read Jeremiah 11:1-17 (NIV):

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. Tell them that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant— the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.”

I answered, “Amen, Lord.”

The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’

“Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.

“What is my beloved doing in my temple
as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes?
Can consecrated meat avert your punishment?
When you engage in your wickedness,
then you rejoice.”

The Lord called you a thriving olive tree
with fruit beautiful in form.
But with the roar of a mighty storm
he will set it on fire,
and its branches will be broken.

The Lord Almighty, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you, because the people of both Israel and Judah have done evil and aroused my anger by burning incense to Baal.

The Covenant

God established a covenant relationship with his people of old, and then later he established a new covenant relationship with his people via Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for our sins, and via the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews goes into great detail in describing the two covenants – both their similarities and their dissimilarities. They are different from each other in many respects, yet they have common elements to them, as well. The main common element discussed in this passage of scripture is obedience to God’s commands, i.e. the necessity of keeping to the terms (stipulations) of the covenant relationship that God established with his people.

So, what stipulations (commands) has God established with the New Covenant? The first one is the requirement of repentance as part of genuine believing faith that leads to salvation (see Mk. 1:15; Lk. 5:32; Lk 13:3; Lk. 24:47; Ac. 3:19; Ac. 5:31; Ac. 8:22; Ac. 11:18; Ac. 17:30; Ac. 20:21; Ac. 26:20; Ro. 2:4; 2 Co. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 3:6-9; 5:18; Rev. 2-3; Luke 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 6; Gal. 2:20, et al).

The second stipulation (command) God has established with the New Covenant is that of obedience to his commands, also as a requirement of genuine believing faith that leads to salvation (see Mtt. 28:19-20; Lk. 11:28; John 8:51; 14:23-24; Ac. 5:32; Ro. 6:17; 15:17-18; Heb. 4:2; 5:9; 11:8; 1 Pet. 4:17; 1 John 2:5; Ro. 1:5; 6:16; 16:26; 2 John 1:6; et al).

Yet, it must be noted here that it is by grace we have been saved, through faith – it is a gift of God, not of works lest any of us should boast that we gained salvation through human effort (see Eph. 2:8-9). So, even the ability to repent, to believe and to obey is a gift from God, yet they must be appropriated to our lives through our cooperation with the Spirit of God in transforming our lives (see Luke 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6; 1 John, Gal. 2:20; Php. 2:12). In other words, it is the Spirit within us which gives us the ability to repent, to believe and to obey. If we try to do these things in our own flesh, we will only fail. It is only by God’s grace and in his strength and power working within us that we are able to obey.

God also summarized the Ten Commandments into two commands: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40; cf. 1 John 2:5, 10, 15; 3:10-11, 14, 16-18, 23; 4:8-12, 16, 19-21; 5:1-3, et al). And, repentance and obedience fall under these commandments, because the way we show we love God is by obeying him and by turning from our sins (see 1 John).

The Conspiracy

The conspiracy that was under way in Jeremiah’s day was to return to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to God’s words, and to follow after other gods to serve them, thus breaking the covenant relationship with God. And, the same or a very similar conspiracy exists within the church today. It teaches that we don’t have to repent of our sins, we don’t have to obey Christ and his commands, and that God is pleased with us no matter what we do. It therefore leaves the door wide open for us to continue in willful sin and rebellion, believing that God’s grace covers it all, but that is a false understanding of God’s grace which does not liberate the sinner to continue sinning, but sets the sinner free of slavery to sin.

This conspiracy also focuses much on the teachings, philosophies and marketing schemes of men (mankind), even to the exclusion of the teachings of scripture, yet including the watering down (diluting) of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of slaying the sinner, it entertains him (see Tozer: “The Old Cross and the New”).

The Comeback

The people’s response to the stipulations (commands) of God’s covenant relationship with them was to do what their ancestors did – to not listen and to not obey, but to keep following their own ways and to follow after other gods, thus breaking covenant with God. And, many within the church today are doing exactly the same, because many of them have bought into the lies of the conspirators who would teach that repentance and obedience to God’s (Christ’s) commands are no longer required under grace. They are! The scriptures prove it! And yet so many act as though there are no longer any requirements of us, but there are!

2 Tim. 2:3-5 says: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (cf. 1 Co. 9:23-25)

God told his people then that there were curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience. The same is true today. When we choose to walk in disobedience to our Lord we face natural consequences for our decisions, and we lack the peace and joy of knowing that we are walking in faithfulness to our Lord. As well, we miss out on many of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus because we fail to honor him and his commands. As well, we might face divine discipline and correction in our lives because we have refused to obey our Lord and to follow his ways (see Rev. 2-3; 1 Co. 11:31-32; Heb. 12:4-12).

The encouragement here, I believe, is to listen to the words of Christ, to obey them, and to turn from our sins, and then we will experience the blessings of a close, intimate relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ. Stop following the ways of this world, the ways of mankind and that of our own fleshly desires, but die daily to sin and self and follow Jesus Christ in humility and surrender to his will for our lives. Then we will know the joy of the freedom that truly comes by God’s grace, through faith, and not of our own making.

Full Release / An Original Work / April 15, 2012

Walking daily with my Savior brings me joy.
Loving Father; precious Jesus;
He’s my Savior and my Lord.
Gently leads me; follow Him.
I’ve invited Him within.
Now abiding in His presence, oh, what peace.
From my self-life He has brought me,
By His mercy, full release.

Hope and comfort, peace and safety Jesus brings
When I daily bow before Him;
Obey freely; do His will.
Follow Him where’er He leads.
Listen to Him; His words heed.
Now obeying his words fully, oh, what love
That He gives me through salvation,
By His Spirit, from above.

Loving Father; precious Jesus, He’s my friend.
With my Savior, by His Spirit,
I will endure to the end.
Share the gospel, tell what’s true.
Witness daily; His will do.
Tell the world of how their Savior bled and died.
On a cruel cross He suffered
So that we might be alive.