Sermon on Jeremiah 11:18-20
Text: Because the LORD revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” 20 But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.
In 1992, there was a Gatorade commercial with the tag line, “I want to be like Mike.” The “Mike” that was being referred to was Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of the era. The commercial showed people of various ages playing basketball, interspersed with some of the highlight of Michael Jordan’s career. The hope was that, one day, the various players would be as successful as Michael Jordan. The truth of the matter was, no matter how much Gatorade you drank, you would never be as good as he was. However, it was someone that you could look up to and try your hardest to emulate him. This morning, we have another person who is held up in front of us as an example to follow. He is the prophet Jeremiah. We are encouraged to BE LIKE GOD’S SERVANT, JEREMIAH 1. As He Remains Faithful To His Calling and 2. As He Put Himself Entirely In The Lord’s Hands.
Jeremiah was called by God to prophesy to his people, Judah. His message was one of severe warning for the people. The Lord pleaded with them to turn back to him, but they would not. As a result, there would be an invasion from the north. The judgment was so severe that we are told that Jeremiah writhed with pain (Jeremiah 4:18,19). In spite of all of this, the people didn’t believe that God would actually destroy them. Their rejection brought profound grief to Jeremiah’s heart. Because they had broken the covenant with God, there was no hope for the people. Jeremiah was even told not to pray for these people. In spite of all of the words of warning, the people saw Jeremiah as the problem, not themselves. As a result, the people plotted to take Jeremiah’s life.
Jeremiah said that God told him about the plot on his life. “Because the LORD revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.’” (Verses 18-19) The people refused to listen to Jeremiah’s message. As a result, they were going to end his life. Jeremiah uses some very colorful language to describe his situation. First of all, he said that he was “Like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.” The Hebrew word for “gentle lamb,” is the word that is used in the Old Testament for a lamb that had been set aside for sacrificial purposes. It, also, carries the idea of a pampered, domesticated pet. The lamb, secure and among those it trusted, was led to the slaughter.
So, thorough was their hatred of Jeremiah that they said, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” (Verse 19) Obviously, if you cut down a tree, there will be no fruit. Their thought was, if they killed Jeremiah, they wouldn’t have to listen to his voice any longer. No one will remember that he even existed. Such was their hatred for Jeremiah.
What makes this situation even more amazing was that Jeremiah was completely unaware of the plot against his life, until the Lord revealed it to him. After all, he was preaching in his own village, a place where one would think that there would be, if not acceptance, at least tolerance of what he said. Also, the people who were leading the plot against Jeremiah were the priests. One would not expect that the religious leaders would be a part of such a plot. Most importantly, you would not expect this type of reaction to Jeremiah’s preaching, since it was, after all, a direct revelation from God. If what he said were his own ideas, perhaps, one might expect some resistance. However, since this was the Word of God, you would not expect this type of reaction. Yet, Jeremiah faced this opposition, even though, especially because he was faithful to his calling as a prophet of the Lord.
This might remind us of the opposition that Jesus faced while he was on the earth. Why was Jesus so hated? Was it because he was such a bad person? Obviously, this is not the case, because he was perfect. He was without sin. In addition, he showed love to people in so many different ways, whether it was through the miracles that he performed or as he reached out to people to needed his words of love and concern. No, the reason that Jesus was hated was the fact that he faithfully proclaimed the Word of God. He told the people that they were not saved by what they did. They would be saved if they believed in him. This is not what so many of the people wanted to hear. They wanted to think that they were saved if they did what God said in the law. What makes this so amazing was the fact that he was hated by his own people. They had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries. Each generation hoped that they would see him in their lifetime. When he finally came, they rejected him. He didn’t fit their idea of what the Messiah would do. He exposed their sinful ideas of how a person is saved. Rather than being welcomed by his own, they rejected him. They, not only, plotted to take his life; they actually carried it out. This all took place because Jesus was faithful to his calling as the Savior of the world.
Perhaps, we might even get a sense of this sort of thing in our own lives. Generally speaking, how do people react when we tell them that something that they are doing or saying, or an attitude that they are displaying is contrary to God’s will for our lives? Do they welcome this message with open arms? It would be wonderful if that were the case. However, more often than not, the message is met with resistance, if not outright hostility. No one likes to be told that what they are doing is wrong. As a result, you might face anger for what you have said to them. You might hear them say to you, “You’re not perfect, either,” and then they go on to list some of your sins. That can be shocking for us. After all, you are reaching out to someone you care about. You don’t want them to face the consequences of their actions. Also, you are not coming to them with your own set of moral standards. You are acting as a messenger of God. Since these are some of the ways that people react, it is tempting to say nothing. However, remember the reason you are doing this. You are not doing this because you think that you are better than they are. You are doing this because you care for them and you want them to see where this will lead if they continue on this path. My dear friends, let us follow the example of God’s servant, Jeremiah and remain faithful to the calling that God has given us.
In spite of all of this opposition, Jeremiah is not dismayed. Rather, he says in verse 20, “But you, LORD Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.” Jeremiah pleads his case before the Lord. He calls upon God as one who tests the heart and the mind. The Lord searches the inner self, the whole range of feelings and emotions to find the truth about the person. Jeremiah was confident that, when the Lord did so, he would see the genuineness of Jeremiah and the evil intentions of the one who had plotted to take his life. Jeremiah had nothing to hide. As a result, he bids the Lord to put him to the test and approve him.
Jeremiah was confident that the Lord would act in his defense. So, he prays that he might see the Lord’s actions with his own eyes. Please note that this was not spoken because he wanted to get back at those who plotted to take his life. Rather, he knew that this plot on his life was not so much an attack on him, but an attack on God and his Word. He wanted the name of the Lord to be praised. So, Jeremiah will wait in patience for what would happen. He had made the problem the Lord’s. Because God had promised him earlier, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you” (Jeremiah 1:8), he put himself entirely in the Lord’s hands.
We, also, think of Jesus, as the leaders of his day opposed him. As the Son of God, he could easily have defended himself. He could have wiped them out entirely with a single word. However, he didn’t, because he knew that it was all a part of the plan that his Father had laid out for the salvation of all before the world was created. The leaders’ opposition had been prophesied again and again throughout the Old Testament. However, it all had the purpose of saving all people from their sins. It was always the Father’s plan that Jesus would come to this earth to do everything necessary for our salvation. It started with a perfect life lived for us. Jesus stayed the course, even by showing proper respect to the leaders who were opposing him, even when they spoke falsely against him, even when they sought his death. In his love for those who were putting him to death, he even asked that his Father forgive them. Because it was his Father’s will to rescue us from our sins, even though it meant suffering and dying on the cross, he placed himself entirely in his Father’s hands. Even as he died, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) He knew that this trust was not misplaced. He knew that he would rise on the third day in triumph. This all happened so that you and I would be free from our sins and spend our eternity with him in heaven,
May God help us to follow Jeremiah’s example and place ourselves entirely in his hands. The truth of the matter is we will face opposition when we speak God’s Word to others. There will be those who are offended that we call sin “sin.” There will be those who will be offended at the simple gospel message that says that Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation and we contribute absolutely nothing. There will even be those who are offended at any talk about God, because they have convinced themselves that he doesn’t exist. As a result, we may be tempted to keep quiet. After all, who needs the trouble that this might bring?
Brothers and sisters, when we face the opportunity to tell someone else God’s Word, may we place ourselves entirely in his hands. If we are rejected or attacked in any way, remember it is not us that they are attacking. It is God. We know that ultimately God will be glorified and all human opposition will be destroyed. However, this possible outcome need not dissuade us from continuing to reach out to that individual with God’s Word. God calls upon us to be lights in this dark world. It may even happen that after many rebuffs to the message that we are sharing that that person might be brought to faith. Wouldn’t it be worth all of the difficulties that we went through, if at the end of time that person was side by side with us in heaven. So, as we go forth with the Word of God, we place ourselves entirely in his hands, knowing he is always with us and that his Word will always have the effect that God desires for it.
So, no, you probably will never be like Mike. You will never win six championships. You will never have your own shoe line. That’s OK. After all, it won’t be too many years before people won’t even know whom he was. This morning, we have an example to follow of someone who lived some 2,600 years ago, and people are still talking about him and know whom he was. My dear friends, as we have studied this portion of his prophecy, may God help us to follow the example of his servant, Jeremiah, by faithfully carrying out God’s calling to be his messengers and by willingly placing all things into his hands. May God help us to carry this out for our good and for his glory. Amen.
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