Sunday, July 10, 2022

“Conspiracy” [Matt's Messages]

Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
July 10, 2022 :: Jeremiah 11:1-12:17 

They were out to get him.

They had come together in secrecy and plotted against him.

Behind closed doors, they had decided to gang on up him and lead him “like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.”

They were out to get him.

There was a conspiracy against him.

Whom I am talking about?

The key word for these two chapters is “Conspiracy.”

And there are actually two conspiracies that are recounted in these two chapters.

Both of them were real, not just theoretical. And one of them, the smaller one, was embedded within the larger one. And the story of both of these two conspiracies can teach us about how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ today.

The first conspiracy was the bigger one. And it was a conspiracy against the LORD.

Look with me at chapter 11, verse 1. 

In this chapter, the word of LORD is going to come to Jeremiah and tell him to tell the people of Judah once again why the LORD’s judgment was going to come upon them.

And that’s because they had broken their covenant with Yahweh.

Jeremiah was a broken record about a broken covenant.

Here he goes again. Look at verse 1.

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. Tell them that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Cursed is the man who does not obey the terms of this covenant–the terms I commanded your forefathers when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.' I said, 'Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey'–the land you possess today.’ I answered, ‘Amen, LORD.’”

This story should sound familiar to us,  and certainly should have been familiar to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It’s probably a short version of what King Josiah had read to them all when the Book of the Law was discovered and recovered from the Temple.

It’s just basic Exodus and Deuteronomy stuff. Deuteronomy 101. Yahweh saved them from Egypt by His grace. He brought them out of slavery. Hardship. “The iron-smelting furnace” of Egypt. And He promised to give them the fair and fruitful Land of Canaan.

They just had one job. Obey Yahweh. Be loyal to Yahweh. Follow His commandments. Fear Him alone. And walk in relationship with Him: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” Yahweh was to be the “Portion of Jacob.”

And Israel had said, “Amen! Let it be so!” And Jeremiah said it again for them here in verse 5.

But they did not actually obey. They were not actually loyal. They did not follow His commandments. They did not fear Him alone. V.6

“The LORD said to me, ‘Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: 'Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your forefathers up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, ‘Obey me.’ But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.'”

This why judgment is coming! It’s because of a conspiracy. Verse 9.

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. They have returned to the sins of their forefathers, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers.”

Jeremiah is broken record about the broken covenant.

Judah knew the terms of “the contract” and had breached them. Repeatedly. 

As you read Jeremiah, you see how many angles that Jeremiah can come from to get his point across. He has so many images and illustrations that he draws from.

A few weeks ago, he came at it from the medical side of things. Remember the “Balm in Gilead?” Is there no good medicine? Yes, there was good medicine, but the patient, Judah, had decided it wasn’t so bad and had refused the right treatment!

And early on it was like divorce proceedings. Remember that from chapters 2 and 3? This is more like that. Judah knew what they had agreed to in Exodus and Deuteronomy, but they were in flagrant violation of it.

And, in fact, they were conspiring together to rebel against it. This was mutiny. This was revolt.

I think that, quite possibly, this was bubbling under the surface the entire time that King Josiah was trying to make his reforms across Judah. Josiah was trying to turn his people to back to the LORD. Cutting down idols. Restoring worship to the Temple and not the high places. Cleaning up Jerusalem.
But many Judahites didn’t like it one little bit. "There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem.”

Today, I have four points of practical application that I think we can draw from these two chapters, and here is the first one:


Do not be super surprised if people come together to resist the LORD and His good plan for them. on’t be shocked because this has been happening ever since the dawn of humanity. Don’t be floored by this because it’s the story of the whole Old Testament. 

These people were the covenant people of God! These weren’t the foreign nations. This is Judah! This is Jerusalem. On one level, it is shocking because these were to be God’s people, and just look at them! There a definitely shocking sense of outrage.

But on another level, it should not shock us, because that’s how people can be. Ever since Adam and Eve, people have come together to resist the LORD and His good plan for them.

Now, it must be noted that these conspiracies never take the LORD by surprise. And they never actually threaten Him. Remember Psalm 2?

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’

[And how does the LORD respond? “Oh no, what will I do?” No.]

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” (Ps. 2:1-4 NIVO)

And He enthrones His Messiah to take care of it all.

But that’s the conspiring of the nations. What about the conspiring of God’s nation?  Of Judah itself. What will the LORD do about them? V.11

They “have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers."

“Therefore this is what the LORD says: 'I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. [They didn’t listen to me. I’m not going not going to listen to them.] The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. [Why not? Because those gods are like a scarecrow in a melon patch! They can’t hurt you, but they can’t help you either. No matter how many you make. Verse 13.] You have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.'

‘Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. ‘What is my beloved doing in my temple as she works out her evil schemes with many? Can consecrated meat avert your punishment? [No!] When you engage in your wickedness, then you rejoice.”

The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form. But with the roar of a mighty storm he will set it on fire, and its branches will be broken. 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 was a broken record about the broken covenant.

Are you starting to get a little tired of the repetition of this message?

How do you think Jeremiah felt? He had to deliver it for forty years! We’ve just been in his book for 10 weeks. 

Don’t be shocked if people conspire against your Lord.

I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder. Because I can easily fall into the error of thinking that people are basically good and deep down they all love God. And so I’m shocked when I encounter opposition, hostility, or even persecution. I should know better though. Remember what we just saw in 1 Peter?

It is true that all people have something good in them. They are all made in the image of God. And they all know something about God.

But aside from the work of the Holy Spirit in someone’s heart, deep down, humans are not good and they do not love God. Instead, they make and choose other gods. And, in fact, they work together to oppose the One true God.

The New Testament has a word for that. It’s the word “kosmos” or “world.” Humans united in conspiracy against the LORD. And the Bible says that we should not fall in with them: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn. 2:15 NIVO).

The Lord is not threatened by these conspiracies. And He wasn’t threatened by Judah’s conspiracy. Though He is clearly pictured as hurt by it. "What is my beloved doing in my temple as she works out her evil schemes with many?”  

Nothing will stop the LORD’s judgment from coming on Judah. That’s why Jeremiah is not allowed to pray for them. It won’t do any good. There will be no leniency. They have passed the point of no return.

They are going to be uprooted. The LORD Almighty had planted them, and now He’s going to undo that planting. They will be exiled. Pulled up by the roots.

Do not be shocked if people conspire against your Lord...and if you get caught up in the crossfire.

In verse 18, we get the story of the second conspiracy. And this one was a conspiracy about Jeremiah. Look at verse 18.

“Because the LORD revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. [The LORD knows about a conspiracy against Jeremiah, and told him about it so that he could escape. Verse 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.’

[They were out to get Jeremiah. And they would have succeeded if the LORD had not revealed the plot to him. So Jeremiah asks the LORD for justice. V.20]

But, O LORD Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.”

Now, that sounds kind of harsh to me. But Jeremiah isn’t saying that he is going to take vengeance on his enemies. These men who were conspiring to assassinate him. He’s just asking for the LORD to give them a taste of their own medicine. And the LORD says that He is going to grant Jeremiah’s request. V.21

“Therefore this is what the LORD says about the men of Anathoth who are seeking your life and saying, 'Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD or you will die by our hands'–  therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.'”

Now, before we go any further. I want to point out just how wicked this conspiracy was.

Who are these men who were plotting to kill Jeremiah? The men of Anathoth.

What town was Jeremiah’s hometown? Anathoth. This wasn’t Babylon. These were his Israelite neighbors. These were his family! 

Sometimes when they hate your Lord, the people closest to you will hate you, too.

And they will gang on up on you. Don’t be surprised. If they conspire against Him, they will conspire against you. 

Anathoth was a city full of priests, but for several reasons they could not serve as priests at the temple. And Josiah was going around knocking down all of the other places where a priest could do his thing. And Jeremiah was egging him on. And the men of Anathoth were sick and tired of Jeremiah’s preaching. “Broken covenant. Broken covenant. Broken covenant. Repent, repent, repent.”

They wanted to worship these other gods. So Jeremiah almost died. They put out a hit on him. 

Imagine how Jeremiah must have felt!

Actually, we don’t have to imagine. He tells us. Look at chapter 12. Jeremiah is frustrated that all of this is still going on. And so he does something that might shock us. He brings it up to God. Look at chapter 12, verse 1.

“You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”

Here’s application point number two:


Jeremiah sure is bold here, isn’t he? “Yet I would speak with you about your justice.” Whoo! Them’s strong words.

Now, notice that he starts with, “You are always righteous, O LORD...”  He knows what we learned a few weeks ago about Who LORD is and what He loves. He knows that LORD “exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,” for in those He delights (Jer. 9:24 NIVO)! He knows that. He’s banking on that.

But Jeremiah doesn’t understand God’s timing on that.

When is that going to happen? These men conspired to kill me, and you said you’d deal with them. When? Why not now? I don’t understand. You said there would be all of these curses. You said there would be all of this judgment coming. You keep making me a broken record about the broken covenant. And here we still are! Forty years of this. Where is the justice?”

Can you relate to Jeremiah? He’s asking an age old question. “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” Why do they get away with it? “Why do all of the faithless live at ease?”

Look at your television. Look at the internet.  How many righteous people suffer and how many wicked people have more cars, more money, more popularity, more power? Look at verse 2.

“You have planted them [the wicked!], and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. [They are hypocrites.] Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. [Am I a hypocrite? I don’t think so.] Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! [Fix it! Bring the justice.] How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, ‘He will not see what happens to us.’”

“We’ll get away with it.”

“They are mocking you. Why do you allow that, Yahweh?”

Now, before we look at how the LORD responds to Jeremiah, let’s just note that He lets Jeremiah talk to Him like that.

It’s okay.

It’s okay for Jeremiah to be raw with the LORD and to tell Him exactly what He’s really thinking.

Jeremiah does this several times in the course of this book. Sometimes these interactions with God are called “The Confessions of Jeremiah” because they are so personal. But they’re actually more like “The Protests of Jeremiah!” They are the real and raw personal interactions of Jeremiah with Yahweh.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the LORD about what’s really on your mind.

When’s the last time you did that? 

And what was it about?

It’s okay. Don’t be afraid to talk to God about it.

Be careful how you speak to Him. The Bible says a lot about that, too. But, obviously, He invites us to bring our hot mess real selves to Him and even ask Him the hard questions. Where else can we go but to Him?

Talk to your LORD about your heart and your mind and your doubts and your fears and your questions.

I’m so glad that Jeremiah could talk this way to Yahweh. Because I need to some myself.

Now, what is the answer to Jeremiah’s questions?

How would you answer them if Jeremiah was asking you? “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”

The Bible gives multiple lines of teaching on this topic. This afternoon you might want to read Psalm 37 or Psalm 73 to see what they have to say about pretty much the same question that Jeremiah had.

But, here in chapter 12, the LORD doesn’t answer Jeremiah in any way like he might have wanted Him to. And if you didn’t know that the LORD often answers a question with another question back, you might be surprised at His response. Look at verse 5.

Jeremiah, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”

The answer back is basically, “Jeremiah, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” “Buckle up, Buttercup.”

Here’s application point number three:


The LORD answers Jeremiah’s question with a question of his own.

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” 

It seems to me that he’s likening the conspiracy and the pressure that Jeremiah has felt so far to a demanding foot race between men. And he senses that Jeremiah might be ready to throw in the towel. Jeremiah might feel like quitting.

But instead of just sympathizing with Jeremiah and comforting him, the LORD braces him for more. He says that compared to what Jeremiah has experienced so far, what is coming is like racing a horse.

It’s not going to be Jeremiah versus Usian Bolt or Jesse Owens. It’s going to be Jeremiah versus Rich Strike or Seabiscuit. Now how does that make you feel?

Yahweh says, “If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the [dangerous] thickets by the Jordan?” The conspiracy in your hometown is relatively safe compared to what is coming. 

How does that make you feel?

Well, I personally would like to be coddled and told that things are going to get better. Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay.

And the Bible does promise that things will get better in time. The LORD has promised good to us in the end. But you and I need to hear that things may get much worse before then. Jeremiah needed to be prepared. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather know the truth about what’s coming than to live in a fantasy world and get blind-sided again and again.

Do not be stunned to learn that things may get much harder.

The world hates the LORD. And we belong to the LORD. And so the world will hate us (John 15:18).

The conspiracies against the LORD will continue, and we will continue to be caught up in the crossfire.

Be warned. Be ready. And be faithful.

Remember, Jeremiah is not being told this so that he then fights for his rights. Or votes the right people into office. But that he stands firm in his message from the LORD and doesn’t waver in sharing it faithfully (remember chapter 1). 

Running with the horses means being ready for it to be overwhelming, but not quitting.

Trusting God no matter what.

Like Joel said last week when the storm and waves are overwhelming, trusting in Who Jesus really is and believing that He has got this and He has got you.

Friends, your life may be hard right now.  But it may get harder. I’m just telling you. 

Some of your lives are really difficult, and the Bible does not say that it will just get better right away.

There are pressures in our culture that are anti-Christian. Things might get better if God so chooses.

But they very well might get worse. And we need to be braced and ready for that. We need to be resilient. 

I’m not good at that naturally. I’m a whiner. I’m a worrier.

But I want to run with the horses.

Even if it gets harder and harder for 40 years. I’m sure that Jeremiah wanted to hear that the conspiracy would soon die down and that things would get better around the corner. But the LORD told it to him straight, and I’m sure that in the long run he was glad that he knew what was coming.

It’s not that LORD dismissed what Jeremiah was going through at that point. He wasn’t saying that his suffering then in this Anothoth conspiracy was no big deal. He didn’t discount it at all. Look at verse 6.

“Your brothers, your own family–even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them, though they speak well of you.”

“There is a conspiracy going on. But it’s part of the larger conspiracy against Me!”

He’s saying, basically, “I know how you feel.” V.7

“I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies. My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest. She roars at me; therefore I hate her. [What strong words! The lion of Judah has turned to attack the LORD of Judah! Talk about a conspiracy! What choice does Yahweh have than to bring judgement? V.9] Has not my inheritance become to me like a speckled bird of prey that other birds of prey surround and attack? Go and gather all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. Many shepherds [foreign kings] will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland. It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares. Over all the barren heights in the desert destroyers will swarm, for the sword of the LORD will devour from one end of the land to the other; no one will be safe. They will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. So bear the shame of your harvest because of the LORD's fierce anger.’”

They have chosen to hate me, and therefore I must choose to uproot them.

And yet, even that is not the end of the story.

Here’s point number four and last.


After all of what you’ve heard today, would you expect the LORD to talk about how He’s going to save the nations? The nations that have conspired against Him? Even Judah who had conspired against Him and against His prophet? Look at verse 14.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel [the surrounding foreign nations], I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the house of Judah from among them. But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to his own inheritance and his own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, 'As surely as the LORD lives'–even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal–then they will be established among my people. But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it,’ declares the LORD.”

Isn’t that amazing?! The LORD says that He’s going to uproot all of the wicked nations that attack Judah, just like He’s going to uproot Judah.

But that’s not all. He says that after He’s done that, He’s going to be compassionate on–not just Judah but the nations! If they repent and turn to Him, He will receive them and plant them again!

He is relentless in His amazing grace.

Even to foreigners from faraway lands like Indonesia and Pennsylvania.

This is glimpse of the grace of our Lord who has given us a mission to tell all of the nations about His great compassion and salvation. Remember, Jeremiah was appointed a prophet to the nations (1:5, 1:10). And not just for judgment! But for salvation. Gentiles can go from God-hating conspirators to God-loving members of His covenant family.

And here’s how He made that happen:

By coming in the Person of Jesus Christ and experiencing the worst of the worst of conspiracies.

They were out to get him. They had come together in secrecy and plotted against him.

Behind closed doors, they had decided to gang on up him and lead him “like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.”

They were out to get him.

There was a conspiracy against him.

And I’m not talking just about Jeremiah.

I’m talking about Jesus.