The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. The text is Jeremiah 11:18-20 and is ripe with Messianic language. However, the immediate context of these words of Jeremiah tells us he has discovered a plot against his own life. Not only so, it has been put together by his own people, even his own family. Such a rejection by one’s people is a great tragedy anywhere but is especially brutal in this middle east context.
So, Jeremiah laments and pleas with God. This is the first of the famous laments/confessions of Jeremiah. He will do this frequently throughout his prophetic writing. But, as in all Hebrew lament, Jeremiah will place the responsibility in God’s hands. The “Lamenter” does not ask to carry out the vengeance/action himself, rather He trusts the LORD God to take care of business. One of the benefits of this is that the Lamenter might be wrong in what he calls upon the LORD to do, thus the LORD will always do what is right, whereas the Lamenter might not.
Returning to the Messianic language in the text, although the immediate context of a plot/threat against Jeremiah’s life is apparent, the language also foreshadows, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Verse 19, “But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter,” is very similar to Isaiah 53:7, “...like a lamb led to the slaughter...,” which is the verse the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading when Phillip explained to him how it is a reference to Jesus in Acts 8:32. It is interesting that the people at the time of Christ, as they considered the coming Messiah, thought “the prophet” would be Jeremiah and/or Moses, plus Elijah. Much of it has to do with this kind of Messianic language.
We can also see the “lamb” motif coupled with sacrifice here. From the Passover lamb to the two goats/lambs of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), to the lambs sacrificed at the Temple, all the way to John the Baptist proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God...,” this theme of a lamb being slaughtered for the forgiveness/atonement of sin points to Jesus.
Although the immediate context of a plot/threat against Jeremiah’s life is apparent, the language also foreshadows, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
11:18 הוֹדִיעַנִי וָאֵדָעָה (ho-di-A-ni va-e-Da-ah) root: ידע (yaw-dah) Hiphil/Qal: “to know” “(The LORD) caused me to know and I knew”
הִרְאִיתַנִי (hir-i-Ta-ni) root: ראה (raw-aw) Hiphil: “to see; cause to see; show” “He caused me to see; He showed me”
מַעַלְלֵיהֶם (ma-al-lei-Hem) from: מַעֲלָל (mah-al-awl) “deed; practice” “their deeds”
11:19 אַלּוּף (al-Luf) “gentle; tame; docile; pet”
יוּבַל (yu-Val) root: יבל (yaw-bal) Hophal: “to be brought; be led; be conducted”
לִטְבוֹחַ (lit-Vo-ach) root: טבח (taw-bakh) Qal, Infinitive: “to slaughter; butcher”
מַחֲשָׁבוֹת (ma-cha-sha-Vot) from: מַחֲשָׁבָה (makh-ash-aw-baw) “plot; plan; scheme; purpose; intent; thought; device”
נַשְׁחִיתָה (nash-Chi-tah) root: שׁחח (shaw-khath) Qal, Cohortative: “to destroy” “let us destroy”
וְנִכְרְתֶנּוּ (ve-nich-re-Ten-nu) root: כרת (kaw-rath) Niphal: “to cut; cut off” “we will cut off”
יִזָּכֵר (yiz-za-Cher) root: זכר (zaw-kar) Niphal: “to remember”
11:20 וַיהוָה צְבָאוֹת (va-Yah-weh tze-va-Ot) “But LORD of hosts” “Sabbaoth LORD”
שֹׁפֵט (sho-Fet) Qal, Participle: “to judge” “the one who judges” “who judges”
בֹּחֵן (bo-Chen) Qal, Participle: “to examine; put to the test; try” “the one who tests” “who tests”
כְּלָיוֹת (ke-la-Yot) most commonly translated as “heart” or “mind,” but in Hebrew is actually “kidney”
נִקְמָתְךָ (nik-ma-te-Cha) “vengeance; retribution”
רִיבִי (ri-Vi) from: רִיב (reeb) “cause (as in legal matter); lawsuit; strife; dispute; legal case”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Jeremiah 11:18-20.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Jeremiah 11:18-20.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Jeremiah 11:18-20.