A Crushed CovenantThursday 03 September 2015
A summary of David Parker’s address on Wednesday night of the Bible Week.
In the Bible, “covenant” is the foundation for all critical relationships, an agreed upon basis for relating that, when pursued mutually, will bring life. Throughout the book of Jeremiah the prophet attaches the brokenness of people, and their coming judgment, to the broken foundation of their relationship with God.
There are many ways to break covenant. In marriage, in family, in faith, we can destroy the foundation of our relationships with betrayal, complacency, deceit, abuse, ignorance, inattention and abandonment. The people of Judah were guilty of all these things and more in the lead up to the Bablylonian conquest of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. They are like a train hurtling off the tracks, but they were off the rails long before the crash came
In our search for how you repair such brokenness of heart, there are four essential things we must re–embrace: fidelity, knowledge, accountability and destiny.
Fidelity: The Hebrew word ‘hesed’ is used meaning faithfulness, loyalty and determined commitment and this is what has gone absent in their relationship with God. The people of Israel and the people of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me,”declares the Lord. (Jer 5:11). ‘Hesed’ has to be present in our lives for the things that are broken or crushed to be restored.
In our relationship with God, amidst our distraction and prosperity the big challenge is to avoid Jesus becoming the add–on to our lives and all our ‘stuff’. That’s not what’s on offer! What God wants is our hearts and everything in our lives to come under Jesus. God wants to cultivate a loyalty in the hearts of his people. ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’. (Matt 6:33). The gospel shows us loyalty and faithfulness in that even while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Our hearts need to be linked to him in that loyal faithful way.
Knowledge: The people, rich and poor, do not know the way of the Lord. In fact they are so far off the tracks they don’t even know where they are any longer! They think that what God wants from them is religious activity but he thumbs his nose at their sacrifices. ‘Is that what you think God really cares about?’ says Jeremiah. The whole sacrificial system was set up to instruct them in a visceral way that sin brings death. It was supposed to make them long for a saviour. You don’t have a clue! Jeremiah says. The way of the Lord has to be recovered and it doesn’t lie in religious deal–making. Reading your Bible every day, going to go to church every Sunday, tithing – checking religious activity off a list as an end in itself is not God’s way. He’s after your heart, your life, your way in this world lining up with his way.
Are we rumbling along thinking everything is going smoothly and we’ve lost the knowledge of the way of the Lord? God is seeking to lead your life. He’s leading you towards his promise for your life. Not religion but relationship. You don’t know the way because you don’t know him. May God give us a hunger to really know.
Accountability: The people push off the consequences of their behaviour. Seek relationships of accountability but also realise that we have a ‘built–in’ accountability partner in the Holy Spirit. He is present with us always. Heed his voice.
Destiny: The end of chapter 5 shows a frightening contrast between the people who use and abuse others and those who plead the case of the fatherless and defend the rights of the poor. The former have not only rejected covenant relationship but the direction the covenant puts upon their lives. They were completely consumed with themselves.
To plead the case of the fatherless and defend the rights of the poor is what we do in gospel ministry with those we know who are disconnected from the father. God has done these things not just for you but so that you might turn yourselves outwards and engage with our world in a way that’s redemptive rather than exploitive. Those are the tracks on which the train run.
Key texts: Jeremiah 5: 19–29 and Micah 6:7b–8