18th Sunday after Pentecost
September 23, 2018
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the First Lesson from Jeremiah 11 previously read.
My dear friends,
Ah, yes…football season is here. And I just LOVE watching Nebraska lose each week. Growing up in Nebraska, where football is “king,” being a football fan is not optional. I have seen so many football games at every level I couldn’t even begin to list them all. And I’ve seen just about every football play imaginable. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the QB drop back, mere seconds to find the open receiver while defensive linemen and linebackers are closing fast. A quarterback can see the rush in front of him, but he can’t see behind. They call this area the “blind side” of the quarterback. This is why, to go with a right-handed quarterback, the left tackle is one of the highest-paid players on an NFL team—to protect the quarterback’s blind side.
One famous NFL player who played left tackle is Michael Oher, who grew up homeless in Tennessee. After being rescued by the Tuohy family, he entered a Christian school where he learned to play football and ultimately received a scholarship to play for the University of Mississippi. His NFL career included playing for the Ravens, the Titans, and the Panthers. You may remember the 2009 movie The Blind Side about Oher and the Christian family that changed his life. Oher would do just about anything humanly possible to protect his quarterback’s blind side, including sacrificing himself. As a result of doing so, Oher can no longer play in the NFL due to reoccurring concussion issues. If only the prophet Jeremiah had had a giant left tackle to protect his blind side!
Today we learn that while Jeremiah loves his native state, his hometown of Judah, the people of Judah don’t necessarily love him back. Jeremiah experienced perhaps one of the biggest blindsides in all of the Old Testament. In these three verses (an aside from the prophecy), we learn about a plot against Jeremiah and how he once was almost killed. We also learn that God was watching out for his high-value prophet.
Why were they plotting against Jeremiah? Jeremiah was proclaiming God’s Word, but his listeners didn’t like it. They were working behind the scenes to silence him. This is not just any Tonya-Harding-amateur hour knee-cap attack, for Jeremiah describes his attackers as wanting to “destroy the tree with its fruit…cut him off from the land of the living that his name be remembered no more” (v 19b). This isn’t just death; they wanted to wipe out his very existence. It’s total annihilation! The odd thing is that somehow Jeremiah, by his own admission, didn’t see it coming. It wasn’t until God revealed the plot that Jeremiah was even aware. He was like “a gentle lamb” without a clue as to the slaughter that was about to happen. He was blindsided.
Where were the blockers? Oh yeah…this is 7th century BC in Israel. Football won’t be invented for another 2600 years. Still, why did Jeremiah get caught with a blind side? Maybe it was because he was from the same hometown as his listeners and probably felt a sense of camaraderie with them. Maybe he was blindsided because he believed they would understand he was only the messenger and you’re not supposed to shoot the messenger! In any event, he didn’t see it coming. This is the horrible danger of a blind side. If we could go into the future and look back in time, what we call, “hindsight,” it would be easy to see where we missed the signals. But that’s the problem with a blind side. We don’t see the signs or signals. We simply don’t see it coming. Not much has changed in 2700 years.
Why are we constantly unaware of our own blind side? It’s likely because we rely on our abilities, instincts, and our judgment rather than trusting God’s plan, protection, and provision. We hang on to every cent as if it’s our last. We are racked by anxiety assuming the absolute worst until the test result comes back. We refuse to love and forgive and then wonder why we are not shown love and forgiveness by others. We hear there is a hurricane coming and everyone goes into full-blown panic mode instead of starting with full-blown prayer mode.
We should know from experience and from Scripture that the human condition is full of sin and can’t be trusted (deny yourself = ignore that voice!). Even though we are trusting in our own minds and hearts, we are trusting in minds and hearts that are in a fallen condition. It’s like counting on a play to work when you KNOW it won’t. C. S. Lewis once said that no one knows how truly bad they are until they try to be very good. How true. The sinful self cannot see beyond itself, and we tend to get blind sided as a result.
You see, God is NEVER blindsided. When he looks at us, he sees the parts of us that none of us can see. He sees the dangers long before we ever do. He sees and knows the temporal and eternal punishment we deserve. We may think that we know everything about ourselves, but the theological word for that is bologna. God knows everything. And when God looked at our lives, he saw our complete and utter failure to see our own weaknesses…our blind sides.
It is for that reason that he sent us a Savior. He sent Jesus into the world to redeem us from all the times that by trusting in our own sinful nature we’ve walked into the consequences of our blind side.
There are some interesting parallels between Jeremiah and Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was a hometown boy; he had great compassion for those around him, and he spoke God’s truth to them. Like Jeremiah, Jesus’ listeners plotted to kill him, too. God spared Jeremiah; He did not spare His only Son. The plan to kill Jesus succeeded because Jesus allowed it, nailing Him to a cross. But ultimately this plot was foiled as well, as Jesus broke through the chains of death and the seal of the tomb, rising from the grave, to set us free and if the Son sets us free, we will be free indeed! (John 8:36).
Wouldn’t it be great to have our own Michael Oher? Sure…but we don’t. By ourselves, we don’t have our own personal giant left tackle to protect our blind side, but we have Someone infinitely better. We will be constantly plagued by the fact that we cannot see our unknown unknowns. But these will not hurt or harm us because we have One who walks near to us…beside us…behind us every step of the way. Jesus has your blind side. His righteousness has been given to us and that makes you holy, righteous, and redeemed in the sight of God. And God’s righteousness in Christ protects us despite our sinful blind sides.
Oh yeah, before I forget. Go big red! Sorry…old habits die hard.