Tuesday of Pentecost 17 – Jeremiah 11:18-20

18 The Lord made it known to me and I knew;
    then you showed me their deeds.
19 But I was like a gentle lamb
    led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
    they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
    let us cut him off from the land of the living,
    that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
    who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
    for to you have I committed my cause.

I had been on the local Lutheran high school board for a year or so when the group asked me to serve as the vice-chair. It was not a terribly difficult position. I said yes, probably without asking enough questions. Several months into my tenure, the chairman abruptly announced that he was resigning from both his position and the board itself. Suddenly, I was the chair. I had just started to come to terms with this new position when the phone call came. A parent was accusing the organization’s director, a close friend of the former board chair, of abusing her child. Then another call came. I had not understood what was happening with my predecessor, but clarity was now forthcoming. The former chair had set me up in a way. He knew what was coming, could not deal with an accusation of this nature lodged against his friend, and so he handed it off to me. I felt a little like a lamb led to slaughter at that point.

Those were probably some of the most trying and difficult days of my ministry. I am ever grateful to God for putting a skilled and brilliant attorney on the board with me. He assumed the role of vice-chair and was invaluable to me as we navigated investigation and consequences of this situation.

Jeremiah occupied a far loftier political sphere than the board of directors of a small Lutheran high school. He had been the advisor to King Josiah, and we think Jeremiah was largely behind the many religious reforms which Josiah enacted. You can read about them in II Kings 22 and 23. When Josiah died, his sons rejected Jeremiah’s advice and we think his career as an oracular prophet started then. We are not sure which event he is talking about in this passage, but it appears that Jeremiah had a near escape as someone laid a trap for him. He says that he was like a lamb led to the slaughter. The consequences were dire. They seem to have meant the slaughter part quite literally and not metaphorically. But God revealed all to Jeremiah. He was saved and Jeremiah lays the whole affair in God’s capable hands. If there is vengeance to be taken, God will do that. Jeremiah looks forward to God’s judgment.

Jeremiah’s position is difficult to take. We often want to exact our vengeance on others. I was not happy with the former board chair or the executive director for blindsiding me with this. But ultimately this is in God’s hands. We did what we could do and had to do, and I believe we did the right things. If there is a millstone to be hung about anyone’s neck it is not mine to hang it. That belongs to God.

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