Reminder of the Covenant
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 10:1-25, Jeremiah 11:1-23, Proverbs 1:1-7, Hebrews 12:5-11
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It is my happiest place, but every once in a while my culinary ambitions do not match the contents of my cupboards, and I have to make substitutions. A little of this substituted for a little of that is usually no big deal in the world of spices and splashes, but when it comes to baking (my very favorite thing to do), substitutions can mean utter disaster.
Chemical reactions between ingredients are the key to successful bread, cookies, or just about any delicious baked thing. One of my favorite cake batters is made with a heavy dose of baking soda and, at the last minute, a big splash of vinegar. It bubbles into the oven, where it creates the loveliest, airiest cake you can imagine.
Natural law governs chemical reactions; they are always the same. Vinegar and baking soda will always bubble up. Living yeast and warm water will do the same. A splash of vinegar will sour milk, and oil and water won’t mix on their own. There are generally no substitutes for these reactions when it comes to baking. Figuratively, this is the underlying principle found in Jeremiah 10–11: There is no substitute for the steadfast, unchanging God. He can only be who He is and do what is in His nature to do.
The truth Jeremiah prophesies is always the same: The promise God made is steadfast, unchangeable, and true, because the one who promised it is steadfast, unchangeable, and true. “You will be my people, and I will be your God,” is found through the whole of Scripture: when God makes His covenant with Abram (Genesis 17), when God tells Moses to confront Pharaoh (Exodus 6), during the giving of the law (Leviticus 26), and multiple times here, within the book of Jeremiah. Paul repeats it in 2 Corinthians 6, and it appears in Revelation 21, with a definitive promise for all time: “They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (v.3).
This is the covenant promise that will never change. I can imagine Jeremiah weeping with desperation as he wrote the beautiful words that testify to the Lord’s sovereignty and promise:
“He made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom,
and spread out the heavens by his understanding… he is the one who formed all things.
Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the LORD of Armies is his name” (Jeremiah 10:12,16).
There is no substitute for the Lord of Armies. His reactions to the sins of His people are not separate from His steadfast, unchangeable love. He’d called them to obey Him and follow His commands, which were a kindness to them, part of the covenant promise (Jeremiah 11:4). But that’s not necessarily how the Israelites saw things. When Jeremiah writes of the stiff-necked Israelites who have repeatedly turned away from God, he writes confidently of how the Lord will act “because they had not done what [He] commanded them to do” (v.8).
The book of Jeremiah shows God’s justice and love: how His perfect character demands perfect righteousness, and how His love for His people is unfailing. Jeremiah didn’t know how that promise would culminate hundreds of years later on the cross where Jesus died, taking on every ounce of God’s just anger and every molecule of God’s perfect love. It is a gift to cling to the steadfast promises of our unchanging God, who is always, perfectly, unchangingly good.