I hate going to the doctor or the dentist! It is not some much being poked, prodded or pricked, but being subjected to daytime TV! I don’t really want to hear the sordid details of relationships in meltdown. One of these shows is a show entitled “Divorce Court.” As the title suggest, this show parades the tragic breaking of the most intimate union two people can experience--marriage.
While it may lack the drama of these shows, the prophetic books of the Old Testament tell a simpler story. The story of a marriage in meltdown. The book of Jeremiah opens with God and Judah in divorce court. Let us hear God’s Word...
Read Jeremiah 2:1-13.
As in any court, the first thing that must be presented are the charges.
God begins his case by recalling the honeymoon years of his marriage to Israel. At that time Israel was fully devoted to God. It was literally...
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the LORD.”
As we will be discovering throughout this series from the book of Jeremiah, the book of Deuteronomy played a prominent role in Jeremiah's theology and preaching. The book of Deuteronomy had recently been rediscovered during the renovations of the temple. Second Kings 22 describes what happened:
And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.
King Josiah tore his clothes because he realized that Judah was under God's curse--they had broken their covenantal vows. Deuteronomy was a sermon preached by Moses at the end of his life and at the end of Israel's 40 years in the desert. The generation that had rebelled against God had died and now a new faithful generation was about to begin the conquest of the Promised Land. Before they begin this epic quest and before Moses turned the reigns of leadership over to Joshua, Moses wanted to renew the covenant between God and Israel. Here are Israel's vows:
You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice.
Here are God's vows:
And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”
God was faithful to his vows. In fact...
God asks this very pointed question.
Thus says the LORD: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
Of course, there was no fault with God. He brought them into the land just as he had promised (Jer 2:7) and he was with them (Jer 2:8). The problems in this relationship, lay wholly in the lap of Israel and Judah.
“Therefore I still contend with you, declares the LORD, and with your children’s children I will contend. For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Even by the standards of the pagan nations, Israel and Judah's actions were unheard of! No other nation had exchanged their gods for new ones. Israel and Judah had exchanged the living God for "worthlessness".
Having laid out the charges a verdict must now be reached.
“If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? declares the LORD.
People imagine that God can just overlook sin, but to do so would make God unrighteous, this in turn would “pollute” the whole of creation. God would become a devil and heaven would become hell!
In the book of Jeremiah, God divorces Judah and Israel, but in this book God also promises to take her back. How can this be?The answer to this question is hinted at in the prophets, but it is not made clear until the coming of Christ. At the cross, Jesus made it possible for reconciliation to happen between God and sinners.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Can't you see how masterfully God tells us the story of redemption? In the Old Testament, the conflict between our sin and God's love and justice is set up, in the New Testament this conflict is resolved at the cross of Christ! The drama of God's divorce court has what no sordid daytime T.V. show ever has--A Reconciliation! This is why the Lord's Supper is so important to our Christian life. It is a Wedding Feast!
The Lord’s Supper is a wedding feast at which the Lord invites us to remember his vows to us. No husband has every loved his bride more than Christ has loved his church. His love forever changes our love. There is no way for a person to truly believe and not be changed by the love of Christ. As you hold the bread in your hand, see the body of Jesus hanging on the cross for you. As you hold the cup in your hand, see the blood of Jesus flowing down for you. But don’t just look at it, take it! By eating and drinking we are relying by faith on Christ for life itself!
As we prepare to come to the Lord's Table, let us sing of Christ's amazing love for us by singing Hymn #203 "And Can It Be?"