So Be It, Lord
Jeremiah 11:1-17 reminds us that we need to say, “Amen, so be it, Lord” to the truth about ourselves and Jesus.
Have you ever agreed to the terms and conditions of software or a website without reading them? You know what I’m talking about. We click the button saying we agree with every word, but we really have no idea what we just agreed to. For all we know, we just agreed to give them every last dime we own. Probably not... but maybe.
In the case of the Israelites, the terms and conditions of the covenant were well-known, though. They knew what they’d agreed to and the consequences for disobedience.
Jeremiah 11:1–3 says,
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant.
The word “hear” in the ESV doesn’t mean to just listen. It means to obey. Which words were they to obey? Jeremiah 11:4 says the words of this covenant…
That I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God,
The words God commanded them to obey are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. They include the Ten Commandments and all that’s written in the law. Altogether there were 613 laws.
Complete obedience was what the Israelites were to give God. They were to do all that the Lord commanded them to do—90% wasn’t good enough. God expected them to do 100% of what he asked them to do. That was Israel’s part.
God’s part of the covenant was giving the Israelites himself. The Israelites gave God their complete obedience and God gave them an intimate relationship with himself.
Intimacy with God
The end of verse 4 says, “So shall you be my people, and I will be your God.” This is the greatest promise in all of Scripture, because there’s nothing greater than belonging to God. Aletha and I attended a church many years ago with the motto “a place to belong” and that’s a good motto, because belonging to a group of people at church is one of the best things we can do, but the greatest thing is belonging to God and that’s what God promised to give them.
God also promised...
In verse 5, he says,
[I will be your God] that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.”
“A land flowing with milk and honey” is a way of saying we shall want for nothing. It signifies a rich and prosperous life. It’s a land of complete blessing and freedom for everyone.
But to receive this complete, unrestrained blessing from God, the covenant required complete obedience on Israel’s part. And if Israel didn’t keep their part of the covenant instead of blessings, there would be curses.
This was no secret. All the people agreed and said, "So be it, Lord.” Jeremiah wasn’t just speaking for himself, but for all of God’s people. In verse 2 and 6, God said to him,
Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…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.
Really, Jeremiah was just reminding them of what they had already agreed to. King Josiah, who was king while Jeremiah prophesied, rediscovered the Book of the Law and read the covenant aloud to all the people and reminded them of their oath. In 2 Kings 23:3 we’re told that “all the people joined in the covenant.”
Going back further in time, Deuteronomy 27 lists the specific things they’d be cursed for:
Cursed is the person who makes an idol.
Cursed is the person who dishonors his father or mother.
Cursed is the person who treats the refugee, the fatherless, or the widow unkindly.
Cursed is the person who commits sexual sin.
Cursed is person who murders his neighbor.
And after being told about each one of these curses, the people always said “Amen, so be it, Lord.” For example, Deuteronomy 27:26 says,
Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
So the people had been warned. They knew what they were agreeing to and they still said, Amen. So be it, Lord. What else could they say? God has every right to demand our obedience and to punish us when we disobey, because God has given us life. He’s our Creator and we owe him our obedience, so there really is only one right response to God’s covenant with us. “So be it, Lord.”
But how did it work out for Israel? Did they keep the terms of the covenant? Not hardly.
No, they didn’t keep it. Instead, they became hardhearted, idolatrous, and false worshipers.
Jeremiah 11:7-8 says,
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.
Walking in the stubbornness of our evil hearts doesn’t take any great effort. It’s what comes naturally and everyone by nature has a stubborn, evil heart (see Jeremiah 17:9).
In addition to being hardhearted, Jeremiah 11:9-10 says the people were idolatrous.
Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 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.”
The conspiracy mentioned in verse 9 is defined as a secret agreement between two or more people. It implies that the people knew God wouldn’t approve of what they were doing, so they tried to keep it hidden.
That’s what idolatry is like. On the surface, idolaters appear to be in agreement with God, but secretly they conspire to chasing after false gods and serve them instead.
Idols are literally everywhere and we are all guilty of conspiring. Tim Keller says it so well, “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning, then I'll know I have value, then I'll feel significant and secure.’”
Idols are things that make life feel worthwhile. They replace the significance we should only get from trusting God with the significance we get from trusting in things and other people. So the next time we’re tempted to believe a conspiracy theory, remember, the oldest conspiracy of all is the one of idolatry and it’s one we are all guilty of believing.
Idolatry is worshiping the wrong god, but false worship is worshiping the right God in the wrong way. The Israelites were guilty of both.
Jeremiah 11:15 says,
What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult?
Sometimes the Israelites were in the right place at the right time, worshiping the right God, but God still wasn’t pleased because of their hypocrisy.
Their vile deeds, and especially their lack of concern about them, made their worship hypocritical and unacceptable. What vile deeds? The things we’ve already mentioned, like dishonoring parents, sexual sins, and lack of love towards those in need.
Since God’s people don’t seem to care, they keep committing the same sins over and over again, thinking they can just come before God in his house and everything will be OK. But God rejects their false worship because of their vile deeds.
In other words, they’re cursed.
A Curse For Them
Jeremiah 11:11 says,
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.”
God is so resolute in his determination to punish them for their wickedness, it won’t do any good for Jeremiah to pray for them. This thought gets repeated in verse 14.
“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.
This sounds harsh, but it’s also just and God is just when he punishes sinners. There’s more to despair about in verses 12-13, but let’s skip down to verse 16. Here’s what the curse looks like, in summary:
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.
With the roar of a violent storm, God is going to set fire to what was once a beautiful green olive tree. The curse will be like a lightning strike that leaves nothing behind except a bunch of ashes.
The last verse in this section, verse 17, says it this way:
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.”
So the Israelites have broken the covenant. They’re hard-hearted. They’re idolatrous. And when they do worship the true God, they do so falsely because of their vile deeds. They’re getting what they deserve because they’ve broken the covenant they agreed to.
But what about us?
A Curse For Us
The curse isn’t just for them, because everyone is bound to perfectly obey God’s law, yet none of us do.
Romans 1 says that all of humanity is guilty of idolatry. Verse 25 says, “[we’ve] exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Romans 2:1 continues, “Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”
Hypocrisy is the sin of seeing what’s wrong with others, but not in ourselves. It’s human nature to point the finger at others to make ourselves feel better, but we are all sinners, deserving God’s judgment.
Paul, in Galatians 3:10 takes the idea a step further, using covenant language:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Everyone, without exception, is cursed if we don’t do everything in the Book of the Law as written. If we have a hard heart, we’re cursed. If we have any idols, we’re cursed. If we worship God falsely, even a little bit, we’re cursed. We are all cursed.
Now the solution to our problem isn’t to deny this truth about ourselves but to accept it. With Jeremiah, we need to say, “Amen. So be it, Lord.” We need to accept the truth about ourselves to be saved, but we also need to accept the truth about Jesus.
Galatians 3:13 continues,
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
The night before Jesus was hung on a tree, he also said, “So be it, Lord” or “You’re will be done.” And in doing so, he agreed to take the curse we deserve upon himself.
Christ on the cross was cursed for our idolatry, and for the times we haven’t honored our father and mother, or loved the poor and disadvantaged. He was cursed on a tree for our sexual sins, for our lack of love for our neighbors, and for every sin we have ever committed.
Christ hung from a cross, made from a tree by nails driven through his hands, so that his people could be released from the curse. Christ took upon himself what the covenant required for sinners:
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says,
“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, for a hanged man is cursed by God.”
Jesus was cursed, even though he was completely innocent. God the Father poured out his wrath on his Son, who willingly accepted the punishment we deserve.
When Christ was cursed, the terms of the covenant were fully met. Sin was atoned for and the Father was free to give his blessings, not based on our obedience, but on his son’s obedience.
Amen, so be it, Lord!
A Blessing for Us
So the old covenant becomes a new covenant—a covenant not based on our obedience, but on Jesus’ obedience. A new covenant that makes sure God’s people will receive blessings but not the curse.
What are some of the blessings of the covenant that those who trust in Christ enjoy? As we’ve already mentioned, the greatest blessing we receive is intimacy with God.
Jeremiah 11:4 says, “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” So be it, Lord. Joshua 1:5 says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So be it, Lord. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
These are the sure promises of God and because of what Christ has done, we are receiving these blessings now. So be it, Lord. And all God’s people said…Amen!