Pentecost 18b

Preached: September 27, 2009

O Lord, Stop All Those Who Oppose the Truth
Jeremiah 11:18-20

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit increases our love for God's truth in Christ is Jeremiah 11

The Lord revealed to me so I know. Then he showed me their actions. As for me, like a pet lamb led to the slaughter, I did not know that they had devised a plot against me, [saying,] “Let's ruin the tree with its fruit and cut him off from the land of the living. So his name won't be remembered anymore.”

O Lord of hosts, righteous Judge, Tester of heart and mind, show me your vengeance against them, for I have laid bare my case to you. (Jeremiah 11:18-20)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Get 'em, God. Just get 'em.” That doesn't sound like too Christian of a prayer, does it? Is that what Jeremiah was praying as he prays in the text, “Let me see your vengeance upon them” (Jeremiah 11:20 NIV)? Or what about the theme today: “O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth”? Is that theme just a fancy way of saying, “Get 'em, God. Get 'em”?

Let's dig deeper into God's Word this morning and discriminate between the right and the wrong reason and motive for such a prayer. Through his Word may the Holy Spirit work in us the right heart that in humble faith prays, “O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth.”

A. They work against God's truth from within

1. Describe Jeremiah's times.

To begin with, let's try to put ourselves in Jeremiah's place around 600 B.C. It has been over three hundred years since David and Solomon had sat on the throne in Jerusalem. Good kings and bad had risen and fallen. As Jeremiah grows older, Judah is in rapid spiritual decline.

The people had seen how God punished their northern brothers for turning away from him. About a century earlier, the northern tribes of Israel had been carried away by the Assyrians and scattered among the peoples. But Judah figured as long as they had Solomon's temple they were safe. They could do as they pleased. Would the Lord let his temple be destroyed by heathens?

So the Lord called Jeremiah to proclaim a strong message of judgment against the people to turn them from their evil ways before it was too late. Yes, even the temple would be destroyed. Verse 17 right before the text sums up much of Jeremiah's preaching: “The Lord Almighty, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you, because the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done evil and provoked me to anger by burning incense to Baal” (Jeremiah 11:17 NIV).

But the people didn't like that message. Who was Jeremiah to say such things to them? People from his home town of Anathoth must have thought, “This boy's gotten to big for his britches!” Many of those home-town people served in the priesthood. They should've been leading the people back to the Lord but instead were plotting against the Lord's prophet. “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” (Jeremiah 11:19 NIV).

They hated God's truth. They didn't want Jeremiah feeding the people with the fruit of his teachings. They wanted to cut him down, so that the truth he taught would be remembered no more.

Now although they want to take his life, it appears that they outwardly acted civil toward Jeremiah. He had no idea of their evil plot until the Lord showed him. “I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me” (Jeremiah 11:19 NIV), Jeremiah writes. So it seems that he hasn't yet suffered a series of personal insults or injuries from them.

You see, for Jeremiah his prayer calling on God to take action against them, was not a matter of a personal hurt or revenge or getting-even for some affront against him. It was matter about God's truth. That was his first concern. How would the truth go out, if evil people silenced God's messengers? This was personal for Jeremiah in this sense: Not that they attacked him but that they attacked his God. When he prays, “Let me see your vengeance upon them” (Jeremiah 11:20 NIV), he's not saying, “get 'em because of what they wanted to do to me.” Rather, he's praying, “Stop them because they oppose the truth, your truth, O Lord.”

2. How does Christian love treat those who wrong us?

Now Jeremiah was a sinner like us. No doubt, sinful thoughts lingered in his heart, thoughts he had to fight against, selfish thoughts wanting to think about himself before God's truth. Yet I can't look into Jeremiah's heart to judge him, but I can look into my heart. And you can examine your own heart. What causes us to get angry with others, what gets us upset to the point we want to get back at them, maybe even take them to court or sue them if we could, maybe even calling out “Get 'em, God. Get 'em good”? How often don't those feelings flow from a personal harm or injury we suffer from them. Or they come from an insult against us or our family or friends. Or they come because someone slighted us or took advantage of us or embarrassed us in front of our peers.

How sinful that anger for personal vengeance is! For you see, when it comes to our own person, then Christian love puts others first. It serves others, as Jesus told us in Mark 9 today. Christian love suffers all. It turns the other check and walks the extra mile, as Jesus described in Matthew 5. Why? Because Jesus placed you and me before himself. He didn't just turn a check for you, but gave his entire self into the death we deserve. He walked not a mile but all the way to hell carrying our guilt in our place on the cross. He did it for you, dear friend, for you. He takes away your sins, even that sin that make you feel so ashamed as it lingers in your heart though you fight so hard against it. He has saved you. So when others hurt us, what is that but an opportunity to show how great a Savior we have whose love shines out to them through us!

3. What justly incites righteous anger in us?

Now on the other hand, how do we feel when others don't hurt us or our family and friends but insult our God instead? For example, when others abuse his name or make fun of his ways, do we just keep watching as if that were entertainment? How about when others insult him by changing or denying his truth, by claiming this is what God says, when it isn't? Do we feel righteous anger or do we try to dismiss it as a difference of interpretation as if the Bible were so unclear that we can't be sure what our God wants us to believe?

Such attacks against our God don't just come from those outside the church. It was God's own people, even the priests, that opposed the truth in Jeremiah's day. So also be on guard, for many who today hold respected positions in visible churches oppose God's truth. That's why were not in fellowship with them. Do we feel righteous anger that under the guise of being spiritual leaders they are dishonoring our God, misleading his flock, endangering souls, even leading some to hell? When they twist Scripture, they attack our God, but do we take it personally as Jeremiah did, or do we brush it off because we're not as close to our God as we imagine ourselves to be?

We're told we should turn the other check or walk a mile, or at least across the street, to compromise with those who see the Bible differently. But that's a horrible misuse of Jesus' words. For when it comes to God's truth, we dare not give an inch, much less a mile. For to compromise God's truth surrenders Jesus, and without Jesus no one is saved. Rather than compromising God's truth, we say with the Lord, “I am against the prophets [or the pastors or the teachers, to use our terminology] who wag their own tongues and yet declare, “The Lord declares'” (Jeremiah 23:31 NIV). And so we fervently pray against them, “O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth. Stop them by turning them from their error so that they proclaim your true word. And if they will not, then stop them by carrying out your vengeance against them, so that others see and note how great your truth is.” That's what Jeremiah prayed. And that, dear Christians, is our prayer.

B. Retribution belongs to the Lord

1. Why can we confidently entrust retribution into the Lord's hands?

Take note as well how that leaves it in the Lord's hands. That's the second point we note this morning. We've already noted that attacks against our God and his word, not personal insults we suffer, stir up the righteous anger that calls out to the Lord to take action. The second point is that we then leave it in his hands. Retribution belongs to the Lord.

We certainly will speak out against the false teachings hoping to correct those who err, just as Jeremiah did. We won't support the false teachers with our offerings or our membership, as God's Word makes clear elsewhere. And we won't try to get even with them. Rather we entrust justice into God's hands.

It couldn't be in any better hands than his. For notice how Jeremiah addresses the Lord, “O Lord Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind” (Jeremiah 11:20 NIV). We entrust it into the hands of the Lord of hosts, the Lord Almighty. He is certainly able to carry out his will for all is under his command. He is the righteous Judge. We trust his verdict and so lay out all our concerns before him. He is the Tester of heart and mind. He knows what is the inmost soul of that teacher or preacher. He knows whether they have hardened their heart against the truth. And he will act accordingly. Those who have rejected him and refuse correction will be condemned. Those who repent will be saved.

“O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth.” That's really not the same as “Get 'em, God,” is it? “Get 'em, God,” sounds so much like personal revenge which tries to use God to get my pound of flesh, as if he were our dog on a leash. How different Jeremiah's prayer and our prayer! It's not about personal insults but about God's truth. It's not about making sure they get what's coming, but letting God work in the way he knows is best, since he looks on the heart and judges righteously.

2. Why is this prayer so important?

And how important it is for us to pray this prayer: “O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth!” In fact, that thought flows through the opening petitions of the Lord's Prayer: “Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. They will be done.” “Heavenly Father, keep your name holy by stopping those who distort your name by twisting your Word.” “Heavenly Father, keep your kingdom coming to our hearts and others as your Word of truth goes out into the world despite those who oppose it.” “Heavenly Father, your will be done as you break and defeat every evil plan and purpose of those who oppose the truth.”

How important for us to pray: “O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth!” How important! For only the truth saves, since only the truth brings you Jesus. That's why we don't compromise even an inch, for we don't want to lose Jesus. And we don't want others to lose Jesus because they were misled by a compromise, even if you yourself knew better. Even though we may at times wonder how this or that teaching of Scripture could make that big of a difference if we just compromised a little, who knows what inch is the final inch that pushes Jesus out of our heart or out of someone else's heart? It has happened little by little throughout history and still in our days. Those who once stood up boldly for Jesus, have now lost him because they gave away his truth inch by inch.

So fervently pray, “O Lord, stop all those who oppose the truth. For you Lord Jesus, are more precious to me than anything else. I want nothing false to get between you and me. You have washed away my guilt, so that I belong to you as your dear child. O, how I love your truth! Amen.”

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313