Sermon series: Covenant Faithfulness
Connection to unit theme
God loves His people. While He does not tolerate their disobedience, He remains faithful to His covenant to love, establish, and bless them. The history of the nation of Judah is a painful, yet glorious reminder of God's faithfulness to His people.
Celebrities Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey have both publicly communicated their displeasure with the idea of God commanding that people praise and glorify Him alone. This issue, among others, was pivotal to their decisions to abandon the church and Christianity altogether. But for those who know and love the God of the Bible, His jealousy for His own name is the foundation of our faith. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful because "He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). He is covenantally committed to His people. He loves us with what author Sally Lloyd-Jones calls "His Never-Stopping, Never-Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love."
The nation of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, is a prime example of God's love and faithfulness. After the Assyrians wiped out the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C., only Judah remained. Would they learn from the devastation of Israel to forsake their idols, do justice in the land, and trust fully in Yahweh (Ezekiel 16:44-52)? Unfortunately they would not. However, God remained faithful to them. We see that in how He warned them, judged them, and then promised to make a new covenant with them.
I. God warned Judah of the consequences of idolatry (Isa. 6:8-13)
Isaiah's commission must have sounded strange to him. God was sending him to proclaim His word to a people who would not listen, would not see, and would not respond. In fact, the message would further harden their hearts against God. Isaiah's voice would be a sign both of God's faithfulness to call His people back to Himself and of His eventual judgment. The Apostle John used these same words of the Jews who refused to believe in Jesus despite His many miracles and signs (John 12:37-41). Both Isaiah' and Jesus' hearers were left without excuse.
Application: God's warning of idolatry's consequences is an act of grace. The New Testament writers used similar language to warn the church. They wrote as confidently about the certainty of our final salvation as they did about the dangers of disobedience (Romans 8:28-39, Hebrews 12:14). Furthermore, the Gospel message continues going out to thousands who will never believe. We must therefore be quick to hear God's word and respond with faith, hope, and obedience.
II. God judges Judah through the Exile (2 Chron. 36:15-21)
This is one of the most heart-wrenching passages in all of Scripture. Imagine the pain of seeing your beloved city in flames, the Temple collapsed, and God's people taken to a foreign nation. The words "there was no remedy" (v.16) describe how desperately wicked the nation had become in God's sight. The nation that had celebrated the Exodus was now in exile. The people that once experienced the glory of God were now dwelling in a land of idols.
Yet this is consistent with what Paul described in Romans 1. God gives people over to their lusts and idols (Romans 1:24-25). Judah wanted other gods. They refused to trust fully in Yahweh. Therefore God gave them what they asked for. Because they served other gods, to other gods they would go. Judah refused to learn from Israel's divorce sentence (Jeremiah 3:8) and thereby fell under God's just wrath. God will not let His people continue in rebellion. He will respond.
Application: Christians have much to learn from Judah's exile. God takes sin seriously. He will respond to it. While God will not condemn us (Romans 8:1), He will display His fatherly displeasure toward our actions. C. S. Lewis' Aslan wasn't a safe lion, though he was good. This is true of our God as well.
III. God promised a new covenant with Judah (Jer. 31:31-34)
God would not abandon His people. His jealousy for His own Name and glory moves Him to be merciful to His people in their plight. He promised them, in exile, that He had plans to prosper and bless them (Jeremiah 29:11). How would God do this? He would establish a new covenant with them. But this covenant would be unique. He would write His laws on their hearts and they would forever know and obey Him. God would eventually send His Son, the True Bridegroom, to establish this covenant through His own blood (Luke 22:20, Ephesians 5:26).
Application: God never finally forsakes His people. The cross of Jesus Christ is proof (Romans 8:31). No matter how far you have strayed, how hard you have fallen, how guilty and shameful you feel, there is always grace. Though God will not tolerate idolatry and disobedience, He will remember His covenant with you. Do you believe this?
The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a wonderful reminder of God's faithfulness to His people. While we cannot press the details of the parable too far, we can see the heart of God when we look at the actions of the father. His rebellious and wayward son decided to come home. The law said he should be stoned at the gate. But Jesus surprises us by saying, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him" (v.20). These words echo what Jeremiah promised centuries before: "For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin" (Jeremiah 31:34).