The Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity October 10, 2004
18, 395(4-8), 528, 655
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now the LORD gave me knowledge of it, and I know it; for You showed me their doings. But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more.” But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, testing the mind and the heart, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have revealed my cause.
In the name of Jesus the dispenser of true justice, dear fellow redeemed:
You may remember the bench-clearing brawl that took place in a Red Sox and Yankees playoff game last year. The animosity between the two teams had been escalating during the game until it finally erupted. One player was evidently taunting the other team and threw a pitch that knocked a player down. Things got so far out of control that a 72 year old bench coach ended up charging the mound to fight the Red Sox pitcher.
We’ve all experienced such instances in our own lives, that is to say when the idea of revenge and getting even clouded sound judgment and common sense. We can get so fired up that we become completely unhinged and unreasonable.
We learn in our text today that the Christian is going to face opposition in this world. There will always be those who take a stand against the Lord and all those who are on His side. What is the proper Christian reaction? How do we deal with those who strive against God and His followers? We find the answer and rest our hope upon the One who sees all and knows all. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message this morning.
When a pastor or teacher receives a call there is a standard form and a cover letter that explains what is expected of him as a called servant. Along with the call there is usually an accompanying letter which gives some details about the work in that particular congregation. I have received a number of calls, but none that had the words that the Lord gave to Jeremiah when He called him: “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:17).
There is comfort in the words that the Lord would be with Jeremiah to deliver him. However, there is the direct implication that he would need to be delivered! There would be reasons that he would be afraid of the people to whom he would minister. I have never received a call which said from the outset that people would attempt to make me afraid. It would be very difficult to go knowingly into such a call.
In Jeremiah’s case there were reasons to be afraid. The people did not want to hear the Word of the Lord. In our text we hear of an early plot by the people of his hometown to end his life. He was harassed his entire ministry, and later on Jeremiah did end up getting thrown into an old cistern (and later was rescued). His charge from God was to prophesy His judgment against that nation and they did not want to hear that they needed to repent.
The opposition to God and His Word still exists today and that opposition will be taken out on those who proclaim it. This is not limited to those in the public ministry, but is true for all who take a stand for the Lord. Just imagine if you would suggest that the terrorist attacks on the twin towers should move us to repentance. If you would suggest that God could allow supporters of Islam to bring down the United States just as He allowed Assyria and Babylon and a host of other nations as a scourge against Israel, you would be labeled as anti-American.
What has been the reaction when you have taken someone aside to condemn the fact that they are living together outside of marriage? Or that there is only one way to heaven? Or that their language is shameful to hear, that their lack of involvement with God’s Word reflects a faith that is being extinguished, or that the way they are dressing is lewd and not appropriate for a Christian? It is not pleasant to do so, and more often than not you will be opposed.
Such opposition should really not be surprising. We find the height of opposition against Jesus Himself. In fact, any opposition shown to us as Christians is really aimed at Christ. It is His Word, after all, that we are proclaiming.
Jeremiah found opposition. He called himself a lamb brought to the slaughter. He was unaware of the plots and schemes that were laid out against him. They wanted to destroy him in his prime (“a tree with its fruit”). They wanted to cut him off from the land of the living, and he didn’t see it coming.
If the words of verse 18 sound familiar, they should. They are words that were prophesied about Jesus in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isaiah 53:7-8).
There were many plots and schemes against Jesus. The difference between Jesus and Jeremiah is that Jesus knew about them all. He even told Judas to go out and do quickly what he was going to do. Nothing was hidden from His sight. Yet, He walked into the trap set for Him with eyes wide open. He let the hatred and venom of the very people He had come to save overflow on Him. They had rejected Him and that rejection was so deep and profound that they murdered the very Messiah whom they had looked forward to for generations.
You and I have also shown hatred and animosity toward our Savior, opposing Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). What does that say of us when we do not keep His commandments? Many times we have seen what God wants, and yet opposed our Lord. That is no different than shouting out, “Crucify Him!” because it was sin in all of its various forms that put Jesus on the cross.
Our sinful nature rebels against Jesus even though He came for our good. Our sinful nature lashes out against the will of God even though it is perfect, holy, and true. It is not time for us to pridefully view ourselves as radically different from the nation of Judah or any others who have rebelled against God. There is a part of us that does the very same thing.
Thank God that Jesus’ reaction to the opposition was to continue on with His work. He went the distance in the work of redemption. Thank God that Jeremiah and other prophets continued to prophesy despite the opposition to their work. Thank God that you have had your fellow Christians—pastors, teachers, parents, or friends—who reached out to you even in the face of your own opposition.
Like Jesus, Jeremiah, and others we also should want to continue the work of God. Encouragement to do so is found in verse 20, “But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, testing the mind and the heart, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have revealed my cause.” It may sound unusual to hear a prophet of God calling for vengeance, but note that He is putting it all in God’s hands. Jeremiah did not seek to get even by himself.
Jeremiah acknowledged that it is the LORD who judges righteously. We are bombarded with what we feel to be unjust court verdicts. A woman spills coffee on her lap in the drive-through lane at a fast-food restaurant and is awarded millions of dollars. Celebrities who can afford attorneys of great skill find themselves getting off with little or no punishment, even for murder. God makes no such mistakes.
He examines minds and hearts. He knows thoughts and emotions and is able to make a perfect judgment. That might be scary to consider when you look at the blackness of your own thoughts and emotions. Yet know well that in Christ you have a “not guilty” verdict already determined because you are clothed in His righteousness. To those who do not have Christ, there will be a guilty verdict and condemnation waiting on the Last Day. That is in God’s hands.
Revenge on this earth is up to God as well. It is not up to us to even things out. We cannot search minds and hearts. We truly have not been wronged as much as God Himself has been. Many times when we are wronged it is for the sake of our Lord.
Coming into the Reformation season we think of men such as John Huss who was burned at the stake as a heretic. Martin Luther was declared to be outside the protection of the law, and an unbeliever. God is certainly aware of all of these things, and worked them out for the good of His Kingdom. Our nation is rapidly declining to where opposition and violence will once again become the norm rather than the exception to the rule.
We don’t need to cross over the line to bitterness, anger, and revenge. Take your cause to God. Plead your case before the Heavenly Judge. Are there family members or even fellow Christians that have wronged you? Take your cause to God and work on reconciliation. If you can commune with a person, which is closer than any bond on this earth, then most certainly the consideration can be there to release anger and bitterness. Leave all of that at the cross of Christ.
Be confident in the righteousness of God knowing that Jesus who was led like a lamb to the slaughter knows the facts. He died for the sins of others against you. Since that is the case, strive to let the attacks against you for Christ’s sake roll off of you. Reveal your cause to the Lord who examines everyone’s mind and heart. Plead for forgiveness for your sin and opposition to Him, and like Jeremiah keep on working in your calling on this earth. Whether the Word of God is received or not, our role is to keep on proclaiming that Word. We leave the rest in God’s capable hands. Amen.
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