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Covenant of Liberty and Friendship


Lesson #34

  • Memory Verse: Song of Solomon 5:16
  • This chapter occurs in the last days of Israel’s existence. The final pieces of Jeremiah’s prophecies are in place. The year 586 BC has arrived.
    • The last king of Israel, Zedekiah, is on the throne.
    • The offending king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, is ruling with great power.
    • The people have not repented of their sins.
    • The people have not turned to God in fear of what might be coming.
    • Instead of listening to God’s messages through the prophet Jeremiah, they have persecuted him and shut him up in prison.
  • Read Jer 34:1-5 A message to King Zedekiah
    • God has given the city of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
    • The city will be burned by fire.
    • King Zedekiah will not die in the final battle but will be taken captive to Babylon.
    • King Zedekiah will stand before King Nebuchadnezzar in defeat.
    • King Zedekiah will die peacefully.
  • Read Jer 34:6-17 King Zedekiah’s covenant with the people
    • King Zedekiah’s made a covenant with the people. Why?
      • The Bible does not tell us why the king did this.
      • However, the nature of this covenant gives us some indication of the King’s thinking.
    • This covenant is called the covenant of liberty.
      • What was the covenant of liberty?
      • The covenant of liberty was based on the Old Testament Law of the Love Slave
      • Read Exo 21:1-6 The Law of the Love Slave
        • The purpose of the Law of the Love Slave:
          • During the period of Law (from the time of Moses to the time of Christ), the Law of the love slave was supposed to be in operation in Israeli society. Jeremiah was living in this period of Law.
          • This Law of the love slave was God’s plan for Israel’s economy so that no one would go hungry and be without a roof over his head.
          • It was also to prevent the existence of a permanent condition of poverty or a permanent condition of slavery. That was God’s benevolent mercy for His people.
        • How the law worked:
          • If you suddenly fell on hard times in Israel and had no relatives that could help you get back on your feet, you could sell yourself as a bond slave for seven years. (God intended that slavery be temporary.)
          • In that seven years you would work for your master while he provided for your basic needs.
          • At the end of the seventh year, your master was to send you out free with a certain provision for you to start your life as a free person.
        • God wanted people to be free, trusting in Him for their provision.
          • Through the book of Jeremiah we have learned that Israel did not trust God as God desired. Now they were going to lose their freedom totally for 70 years.
          • They would be slaves in Babylon ten times longer than God’s planned provision in Exo 21. In other words, if they had obediently followed God’s plan no one would be a slave longer than 7 years.
    • The prophet Jeremiah declared liberty to the people. He told them that to have liberty they must free all the slaves that they had according to this law in Exodus 21.
      • King Zedekiah was persuaded by Jeremiah to make a national decree to follow this Old Testament law.
      • At first, the people did it in obedience to God and king, but soon the king and the people permitted permanent slavery to return to Israel because of man’s greed and rebellion against God.
      • Then God told them that the punishment of this disobedience is the slavery for all the people of Israel in Babylon for 70 years.
        • We have already learned in this book of Jeremiah that the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity was due:
          • … to their idolatry.
          • … to their rebellion against God’s Law to let the land lie fallow every seventh year.
          • … and now we learn that captivity occurred because they could not keep the Law of the love slave.
        • The lesson is this: Every violation of God’s Law has a direct consequence that must be paid.
    • What important message does God want to tell us through this Old Testament law, the Covenant of Liberty?
      • The Message is this. This Old Testament law is in some ways similar to a parable:
        • Jesus Christ is the slave in this law, and God, the Father, is the owner.
        • Jesus Christ submitted himself to the will of His heavenly Father to be poor in this world.
        • Jesus Christ served God in this world and did all the things that God told him to do.
        • God gave Jesus Christ a bride, the church. We are the Bride of Jesus Christ today.
        • In the garden before the crucifixion, Jesus had a decision to make. He could have personal liberty to return to heaven without the crucifixion. But he loved His bride that God gave him. Because of that Jesus chose love over personal liberty and died on the cross for His bride.
        • In the Old Testament Law, if a slave chose his wife that he loved instead of liberty, he was pierced with a piece of wood to be a slave forever.
        • Jesus Christ was pierced on the cross of wood for us, His bride, and He serves God now in heaven as our High Priest. He is the ultimate Love slave.
      • Now, because Jesus is the model for our lives, that we should become more and more like Him. We must be the love slave like him. We must choose love over personal liberty. We must serve God the way God wanted the Israelites to serve Him.
  • Read Jer 34:18-22 The Friendship Covenant
    • To understand this passage and the friendship covenant, we need to see how and when this covenant was made.
    • Read Gen 15:7-18 Cutting a Deal
      • This seems like a very strange ceremony. It is called the cutting of the friendship covenant. Abraham is called the friend of God because of this covenant. (Jam 2:23)
      • In Biblical times all legal agreements were made in this way.
      • The making of a legal covenant.
        • Animals were cut apart and placed in 2 rows. The two people making the agreement would walk toward each other between the 2 rows of divided animals. The dead animals had the underlying meaning of: “May the fate of these animals happen to you if you break your part of this agreement.”
        • The significance of the items mentioned in the ceremony:
          • A heifer = cleansing from sin (Num 19)
          • A female goat = Christ our substitute (Lev 1:10)
          • A ram = Christ our peace (Lev 9:4)
          • 3 years old = in the prime of life as was Christ when he was crucified.
          • Dove or pigeon = Christ, the innocent one (Lev 1:14)
          • Fowls = evil birds of prey representing Satan and his demons
          • The smoking furnace and the burning lamp:

They represent God walking through the divided animals. (Jer 11:3,4 2Sam 22:29 Psa 119:105 Isa 62:1 Heb 12:29)

Of what significance is it that Abraham fell asleep during this ceremony?

“deep sleep” and ” horror of great darkness” (12) :

It is symbolic of spiritual death that many Jews would suffer if they did not accept God’s promise of a coming Messiah.

God wanted Abraham asleep to indicate to him that the covenant was an unconditional one. No matter how many times Abraham’s faith failed him, no matter how many times Abraham failed, God would fulfill His side of the covenant and keep His promises.

God makes the same kind of deal with us. We receive Jesus Christ as our savior and our sins are forgiven. But we still sin and have doubts. We still fail him. However, God is faithful and always willing to forgive our failures if we but repent and ask for forgiveness. (1John 1:9)

      • According to Jewish tradition, this day was the 14th of Nisan which became the day of Passover in Exodus, and later in the New Testament, this was the day Christ died on the cross.
        • That is significant because of the prophecy God gives in Gen 15:13-16 regarding the Jewish nation.
        • The inheritance of the land will only come through suffering.
        • The seven-fold prophecy:
          • =1= The descendants of Abraham (the Jews) will live in a land not theirs (Egypt).
          • =2= They will serve the Egyptians.
          • =3= They will be persecuted for 400 years.

The Jews were in Egypt exactly 215 years but persecuted for 400 years.

From Abraham’s entrance in the Promised Land until the Passover when God brought them out of Egypt with Moses was 430 years. (Gal 3:17)

          • =4= God would judge Egypt.
          • =5= Abraham’s offspring would come out of Egypt.
          • =6= Abraham would be spared this affliction.
          • =7=In the fourth generation his descendants would again return to the Promise Land. (Exo 6:16-26)
    • What does the friendship covenant in Genesis have to do with the situation in Jeremiah’s day?
      • King Zedekiah and the priests made the covenant of liberty with the people in the same way as the friendship covenant was made with Abraham.
        • However, with the covenant of liberty, the king, the priests, and representatives of the people walked through the divided parts of the animals. It was a conditional covenant that both sides were to keep the conditions of the covenant.
        • Remember that the friendship covenant between God and Abraham was unconditional. Abraham did not walk through the parts of the animals.
      • When the king and the people broke this covenant, the consequences of a broken covenant was death in the same way as the slaughtered animals they walked by.
        • The destruction and slaughter that occurred with the attack of Babylon in 586AD were the consequences of their broken covenant of liberty. They demonstrated through their disobedience that they were not friends with God.
        • In contrast, God’s friendship covenant with Abraham is still in force today.
          • Through Jesus Christ we can be friends with God.
          • Jesus suffered the piercing of His flesh to pay for our part in the friendship covenant.
          • Still today, God desires our obedience as an expression of our love for Him.
  • Summary:
    • We have discussed 2 covenants in this chapter:
      • =1= The conditional covenant of liberty that the king and the people broke.
      • =2= The unconditional friendship covenant between God and Abraham that is still in force today through Jesus Christ.
    • What do we learn from these covenants?
      • God expects obedience to the agreements that we make. (Mat 5:33-37)
      • Broken agreements bring serious consequences to our lives.
        • The Babylonian captivity for Israel is the prime example.
        • The slaughter and death of the nation in 586 BC for Israel are the examples we learn in Jeremiah 34.

Jeremiah 35

  • Application of Jer 34
    • Consider your own promises and commitments. How would you grade your faithfulness to obedience in keeping your word on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being perfect)?
    • How can you do better in keeping your word and commitments?
  • Preparation for Jer 35
    • Read Jer 35:1-19
      • Read Num 6:1-12
      • What were the three prohibitions of the Nazarite vow?
  • Memory Verse: Rom 6:16
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About Joyce

I came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in 1963 giving my heart to Jesus in a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles, CA. I have been teaching the Word of God since 1964, Usually two to three adult classes a week.

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