I was reading Jeremiah 34 the other day; how the people of Israel made a promise before God to free their slaves. They freed them, but later decided to take them back as their slaves again. God, seeing this, tells the people through the Prophet Jeremiah that, since they have not provided freedom to their slaves as they proclaimed, He is giving them freedom to “fall by the sword…” I guess if we’re looking for a terrific accountability verse, this is it!
In Jeremiah 34, I see proof that there is free will: we are free to chose to either be in God’s will or our own or someone else’s will. God promises to guide and lead us if we let Him, but ultimately, we act on that guidance and leading or we don’t. And when the folks in Jeremiah 34 decide to initially obey God, but then change their minds, He holds them accountable. Just as God gives them liberty to live in His blessing, He also gives them liberty to break promises and live outside of His blessing.
Many people today focus on a forgiving God only and miss this point completely. God is a forgiving God, as the Old Testament proves over and over again. But He also lets people skin their knees a few times. To allow us to “fall by the sword” doesn’t mean God isn’t forgiving. It means there are consequences to our disobedience. Those consequences can be in the form of broken relationships, poor health, lost jobs, inner guilt, or just a lackluster and unfruitful faith life.
God puts such a high priority on covenant in His Word, we are foolish if we think He is going to take any promise we make lightly, or not hold us to it. That is why Jesus tells us to count the cost before we follow Him: because He will hold us accountable to the Christian life we profess (Luke 14:28). He will forgive us every time we repent, but forgiveness is not the same as accountability.
Our nation celebrates many freedoms on July 4th. But every day is a day of liberty with God: the liberty to follow Him seriously, or the liberty to seriously deny Him and pay the consequences. And as much as it can sting to be held accountable by God, it always leads to more freedom from the bondage to sin.
“Therefore, this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine.” Jeremiah 34:17
“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’“ Luke 14:27-30