Based on: Jeremiah 11:18-20
If you find yourself in Indonesia someday you might see a man holding a bag at a busy intersection looking for donations. He is not raising money to cure a disease; he is collecting money to fund a war against Christians in Indonesia. In Canada now there is a law against “hate speech.” In certain cases using portions of Scripture that call homosexuality a sin violates this law and could be punished by a fine or imprisonment. In this country if you follow Christ’s command to “preach the good news to all creation” and you tell a coworker about his or her Savior while at work you could be guilty of religious harassment.
The people who live around us go to a lot of trouble to make our lives difficult because of our faith in Jesus. And don’t ever think that the efforts are completely spontaneous. Just think of these advertising slogans promoted by atheist organizations: “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?” or “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” They work at putting the Christian message down. They conspire with one another to silence the voices of Christians. They actually plot to make life so difficult that Christians will finally keep quiet.
That’s exactly what happened to the prophet Jeremiah in our First Lesson today. The people who opposed him worked hard to silence Jeremiah’s voice. But Jeremiah discovered that nothing and no one was going to stop the message God wanted the people to hear. They could conspire and plan and work overtime, but when it came to their plots against him, Jeremiah discovered this truth: The People Plot for Nothing. (1) God knows theirs plans and (2) God achieves his plan.
Should we be surprised that people plot against us? No, in fact Jesus promised that we would be persecuted. He told his disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Their hatred is not only focused on us but they also hate the message we bring. The world does not want to hear God’s standards of right and wrong. When they hear what God condemns and look at their own lives they become aware that God will condemn them for their lifestyle. No, they would rather create their own standards. And when they want to be right with God the world will decide how to do it. They certainly don’t want to hear that God did it all through Jesus – after all, they wouldn’t get any of the glory. They couldn’t take credit for saving themselves. The world hates the Christian and his message.
The prophet Jeremiah experienced this hatred. It was Jeremiah’s job to tell the people of Judah they were not being faithful to the Lord. He was calling them to repent and to return to the Lord and receive the Lord’s blessing. Jeremiah was trying to help the people of Judah, but the people of Judah would not have it. Some men from Jeremiah’s home town plotted his murder. Jeremiah reports that his enemies 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.” They wanted no trace left of Jeremiah or his message.
Perhaps you will not be the target of a murder plot or imprisoned for what you say, but still the people of this world plot against you. Maybe at work you leave the room when the joking becomes coarse or immoral and you find that your presence in the lunch room is not as desirable as it once was. They don’t like the non-verbal message you send about their jokes. The people have plotted against you. Perhaps you tell others about your Savior, but the anti-Christian idea of evolution has been promoted so heavily by the world that your confession often meets with ridicule. The people have plotted against you
This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? Our desire to tell others about Christ drains from our body and like Jeremiah we feel betrayed – “like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.” We are tempted to ask, “Where is God? If Jesus won the victory over sin death and the devil why do I suffer so much defeat?” With growing doubt comes growing uncertainty at the next opportunity we have to proclaim God’s word. Instead of proclaiming God’s truth we are tempted to just go along with the coarse jokes or we decide to keep our mouths shut when we have the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus.
There is no reason for our doubt. As much as they might try to harm us or intimidate us the people plot for nothing. God knows their plan just as he knew the plan to take Jeremiah’s life. As Jeremiah said, “Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing.” God knew their plan and stopped them.
Consider how God also knew and overturned Satan’s plans to keep you from heaven. Satan wanted you in hell, but God sent his Son to suffer hell in our place and tells us about it in his Word. Satan tries to convince you that God is a stern judge, not a loving Father, so God gave you baptism to make you his child and by the baptismal font you are reminded, “I am God’s child, he is my loving Father.” Satan tries to push you to despair over your sin, so God gave you the Lord’s Supper where he forgives your sin as he gives you the very body and blood that purchased your forgiveness.
Now there is comfort for this life. If God knew Satan’s plans he also knows the plans of Satan’s allies. Not only does our Lord know their plans but he is willing and able to do something about them. He may reveal those plans to us, as he did with Jeremiah. He may choose to stop our enemy without us ever knowing that there was a plan against us. He may use the plans of the enemy to bless us instead of causing us harm as our enemy intends.
Just look at the plans the Pharisees had to kill Jesus. They plotted for months to get rid of a political and spiritual rival, but God planned from the very beginning to get rid of sin, Satan, and death. The Pharisees thought they were successful, but the success belonged to God. It was God’s plan to send Jesus to live a perfect life for us on this earth even though the people around him were constantly plotting against him. And it was God’s plan that Jesus die on the cross and suffer hell in our place.
If God, in his plan to save us from Satan’s plot, subjected his Son to the pain of hell in our place, will he then leave us without hope in the hands of people of this world? No, the people of this world will plot and plan, but their plans will not succeed. God’s plan will succeed. The people plot for nothing, but God achieves his plan.
While on this earth we will not be able to avoid persecution yet we can be confident and comforted that God will achieve his plan. The people plot for nothing because God will use the plotting of the people for our benefit.
Just as the Pharisees plotted against Christ, people will plot against those who follow Christ. The man in Indonesia will collect money to persecute Christians; lawmakers in Canada will call portions of Scripture “hate speech”; and in the United States laws will limit how we share the Gospel. Yet, we can still proclaim the Gospel boldly because the people plot for nothing. God knows their plan and God achieves his plan.