A Bible study that I’ve been apart of recently on the Book of Jeremiah was finishing up last night and the teacher threw out this question for feedback, “What are some of the overall theological trajectories of the book of Jeremiah?” Some very pointed answers were given such as the sovereignty of God, the problem of sin, and hope in the future. However, one answer was given that really caught my attention and has made me think. The answer for an overall theological trajectory was, “God’s justice and that he is faithful to both his covenant blessings and covenant curses.” I really think the comment is correct. Jeremiah is adamant over and over again that the people of Judah are going to go into exile because they have not been faithful to the covenant and so God is going to punish them. God is not sending Judah into exile because he necessarily wants to, and he’s not sending them into exile because Babylon is a powerful force that can not be stopped. God is sending Judah into exile because they have been unfaithful to the covenant. While giving the Law Moses twice highlights the covenant blessings and curses for Israel. In Leviticus 26 Moses tells the people at Sinai and in Deuteronomy 28 Moses commands the next generation before they enter the promised land what God has promised to do. If they follow God and keep his commandments he will bless them beyond measure and they will lack nothing. If they disobey God, God will punish them in the hopes of bringing them to repentance. These blessings and curses were very clear for Israel, so clear that when Jeremiah speaks he is really just reminding them of what they should already know. They are going to be punished because they have been unfaithful to the covenant. God is faithful to what he has promised
What has made me think so much though about the comment is not whether it is correct or not, because I think it is. What has made me think is do I want it to be correct? Do I really want God to be faithful in both blessings and curses? Do we really want God to punish us when we fall away from the covenant?
We want God to be faithful when it benefits us. We want God to be faithful in forgiving sins, in controlling the world, in blessing us when we get things right. But if God is faithful God has to be faithful in everything, which includes God’s justice. God will forgive us when we ask for it. God will take care of us when we are following him. God will provide everything we need. But God also must punish sin. If he doesn’t punish sin, he’s not being faithful to what he has promised to do. And I have to ask myself, do I want God to punish me when I mess up? Do I want God to be faithful, even to the point of holding me accountable for my sins?
Sometimes I fear we want to domesticate God to the point that we water down who he really is. We want him to be our little Santa Clause that brings us toys when we want them and then gets out of the way the rest of the time. But that’s not really God. God is not really just if he only gives us what we want. God is not really righteous if he always turns his head when we sin. For God to be God he must be just, which means he must be faithful to both covenant blessings and curses.
I don’t want to serve a God who is easy to control, like a genie in a lamp. I want a God who is bigger than me, more righteous than me, more powerful than me. I want a God who can control the world and who will ultimately make everything right. I want a God I can depend on, which ultimately means I want a God who is faithful, even when I need to be gently (or forcibly) pushed in the right direction. I may not always like it, but I’m glad I can depend on God because just like Moses said, covenant curses are always given with the goal of bringing us back to God.