Remembering who you are amidst brokenness: Jeremiah 11 and 12

Post Picture96Can that which has been broken be made whole again? A classic children’s nursery rhyme states, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again.” In this rhyme children learn at an early age that there are some things become irrevocably broken. As adults we hear about tragic circumstances that tear apart people’s lives. A death of a loved one drives a spike through the heart of the people left to mourn in the void of life. Nebulous ideologies such as hopes and dreams are crushed long before they can see the light of day by the relentless assault of life. Brokenness is pervasive as the air we need to breathe.

The idea of brokenness is found throughout the Biblical story. Brokenness first collided with mankind when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. Ever since that moment when Eden was lost and fellowship with God was broken, mankind has been seeking to restore what was lost, to restore Eden. Surely if I work hard enough I will get there. I only need to be a little bit better than everyone else in order to relax in my very own peaceful utopia. I give money to the needy because they need it and I will make the world a place of peace and harmony. Can anything that we do, in our own strength, make a lasting impact on the course of history? Can the obtuse nature of mankind be made right by those inherently obtuse? The brokenness that pervades the world will continue in its relentless rage against man. As we encounter the story in Jeremiah chapters 11 and 12, we are given a story of the people of Israel, and how they broke God’s covenant.

“And the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

(Jeremiah 11:6-8 ESV)

What is the covenant Jeremiah speaks of? The root of this covenant is glimpsed in Deuteronomy chapter 7 where the people of Israel are reminded that they have been set apart by God. The setting apart of Israel is not based upon their stature, population, or abilities. The truth is scandalously wonderful, the people were set apart as part of God’s great mystery where He condescended to love the creation that completely rebelled against Him. The Lord, the God of Creation, loved these wandering and wayward humans. He cut this covenant because it pleased Him to do so.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

(Deuteronomy 7:9-11 ESV)

The people of Israel did not keep God’s Covenant. They chose to cling to the things of the Promised Land instead of clinging to God. They chose to do what was right in their own eyes instead of doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord. They disregarded the wisdom of the past and cut for themselves a way they chose.

They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.

(Jeremiah 11:10-13 ESV)

The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.

(Jeremiah 11:16-17 ESV)

Disaster is approaching Israel. They have forgotten God. The wares of this world and the desire of the corrupt world have entrapped the people. Surely God will relent, right? He won’t really do it, will He? God let the people fully run to the gods of the world that they had sought after. God desired to purge Israel of this wanton lust and have them remember that it is He alone that allowed the people of Israel to prosper. Were all the people within Israel completely wicked? Were there none that sought to keep God’s commandments? There was at least one man, Jeremiah the prophet, who still desired to do God’s will. How would you act if you were in Jeremiah’s situation if all around you the people disregarded God? The love of God was not expressed by the people around him. Everyone did what was best and right in their own eyes.

 I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies.

(Jeremiah 12:7 ESV)

Have we hit rock bottom yet? Is there hope in the midst of such disregard for God? What can be done? Is the story irrevocably broken? Can anything be done to restore the people? It is in the midst of life’s crucible that we often are reminded of who we are and to whom we belong. The times in my life when I went trough enormous struggles were the moments when I could see my relationship with God with a heightened clarity because all I had to cling to was God and His faithfulness. When the Israelites were uprooted from their homes and sent off to the lands they did not know it was a catalyst to remind them who they were and who God was. The frivolity of life would no longer hold the allure it once did. In God’s time he would act to renew, restore, and rebuild. It would only be from without that change would come to the lives of the Israelites. By God’s great grace and faithfulness the people would one day be restored.

What is the take away for us? What wisdom can be imparted into our lives? Simply put, do not forget God. We are wholly unable to do anything apart from Him. When you get up and go to work, remember God. As you take time to exercise in the evening, remember God. In the midst of relaxing with friends, remember God. We will never be set apart from this world until God calls us to be with Him. Until that moment we need to keep pressing on. We must not be consumed by the things of the world. The only thing that truly matters is Jesus Christ and what he did for mankind. Will you remember that He died for you? Will you remember that He died for your neighbor? Will you remember that He died for your co-workers? Everyone must hear that Jesus Christ died for them. Will you remember that Jesus Christ makes the irrevocably broken whole again?

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