Lent II

  • 15 March 2022
  • Stuart Robinson

Proverbs 21:30: There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord.

South Head Anglican Parish, St. Peter’s Watsons Bay

I want to begin with what I consider to be a verse that we should all commit to memory – and I’ve referenced it with you on other occasions. 

The verse is Proverbs 21:30: There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord.

God’s purposes will not be thwarted: even when calculating and merciless despots invade neighbouring sovereign states, God’s activity and design for his created order will not be overturned. 

Do you believe that?

Jesus did.

We are given an example of this in our reading from Luke 13.

You matter to God so much that Jesus – to use an older translation – ‘set his face towards Jerusalem’ – Luke 9:51. 

That is, Jesus, in accord with God’s purposes for you and for me, struck out for Jerusalem for the express purpose of giving his life on that cruel cross. 

Of that he was quite clear when he said to his friends (speaking of himself), ‘the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life’. Luke 9:23.

That was God’s plan and Jesus goal. 

‘Goal’ is the actual word Jesus uses in Luke 13:32.

And the Pharisees come to Jesus and report a conspiracy; they claim that Herod -the same unstable, unpredictable Herod who beheaded Jesus’ close relative, John the Baptist (Matthew 14), also had Jesus on his ‘hit list’ (Luke 9:31).

We do not know if this was true, or if it was a lie, a ruse to rid the territory of this Jesus who described the religious leaders as murderers and reprobates (Luke 12:47ff) – but what isinteresting is Jesus’ reaction.

He refers to Herod as ‘that fox’. 

It may be a reference to Herod’s sly and cunning nature, or to that fact that dogs and foxes were ‘unclean’ creatures…and Herod was certainly immoral and lawless, but most likely it was a contemporary phrase used to describe ‘upstarts’ and ‘pretenders’.

That is, Jesus is consigning the murderous king Herod to the history of noisy, but in the grand scheme of things, ineffectual authoritarian failures.

Whereas he, Jesus, will continue in transforming the world…today, tomorrow, the next day – until he reaches his goals (vv 32-33).

Jesus must press on towards the cross and to death; his agenda; his timing. 

Jerusalem – the centre of Jewish religion, the place where those who spoke out against hypocrisy and corruption had been consistently struck down – prophets like Zechariah and Uriah (II Chronicles 24:20-22; Jeremiah 26:20-23; Luke 11:51), was where Jesus would die (as he prophesied in Luke 9) – and neither Herod nor the guile of the Pharisees would overturn that goal.

Proverbs 21:30 again: There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord.

And let me say again, you matter to God so much, that Jesus – rather than fleeing when given the opportunity, stays the course – knowing full well that death and violence await him (verse 34).

He goes to Jerusalem and to death, so that we might know – through that death – forgiveness and peace with God.

And did you notice how Jesus expresses his love for those who will become his enemies?

He longs to draw them to himself as a parent with a child or as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. It is an image of security and care and protection and provision.

Jesus models for us his own teaching. 

Remember he said, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Matthew 5:44.

And yet the people continued to spurn God’s love for them; they were unwilling (verse 34) to receive Jesus’ leadership and care.

Yes, the people of God reject the Messiah of God!

As a result of their hardness of heart, their ‘house will be left desolate’ – verse 35.

You see there are consequences in rejecting the Saviour…and in AD 70, the Jewish Temple – their ‘house’ was torn to pieces by Roman forces in the siege of Jerusalem. 

However, nothing stood in the way of Jesus’ reaching hisgoal – part of which included his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (on what we call Palm Sunday – the end of our Lenten journey) when the crowds cheered – as per Jesus’ prophecy here in verse 7 – ‘blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Luke 19:38)

Proverbs 21:30 again: There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord.

Here are some simple ‘take home’ thoughts from this gospel reading today.

First, God’s purposes will not be thwarted. He is not caught off guard by uprisings and conflagrations.

Second, his love for us is brought into clear relief by his sacrificial death on our behalf. Jesus went to Jerusalem and to the cross for us.

Third, like our Lord we are to pray for the oppressors and persecutors in this world – knowing that God longs to draw all people everywhere to himself.

Fourth, God won’t be mocked. Judgement awaits those who spurn his love and flout his commands. The upstarts will be brought to book, the hard of heart will be called to account.

Last, a story – to illustrate how even the enemies of the gospel can be radically transformed – in accord with the plans and purposes of God.

During the former Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan, Soviet General Vyacheslav Borisov was the deputy chief commander of his nation’s 100,000 combat troops.

Given the code name, “General War,” he was a feared communist military leader. But that was before Borisov met God-in-Christ.

During the war, Borisov’s helicopter was shot down. As the helicopter plummeted toward the ground, “I realized clearly that death was inevitable,” he recounted. “I was desperately seeking for a way out, some kind of rescue.”

 “My whole life played back in my mind.” As he remembered five of his fellow generals who had died in similar circumstances, he also recalled about 20 of his soldiers who had been members of underground churches.

Although KGB agents had been assigned “to eradicate faith and belief in God from those soldiers’ hearts and minds,” he said, “the work of those agents did not bring any results — it was futile.”

Reflecting on times he had told the soldiers, “You’re misled; there’s no God,” Borisov said they responded, “Mr. General, we’re not misled; you are. Only the Lord God loves us enough; only he is powerful enough to help us.”

Seconds away from apparent death, Borisov cried out to God. The lone survivor of the helicopter crash, the Russian general noted, “An interesting thought penetrated my mind, ‘The Lord God is there and everyone who calls on his name will be saved.’”

Following his lifesaving and life-changing experience, Borisov spent several months in the hospital “balancing between life and death.”

“I’m happy because I came to know Christ’s love,” Borisov declared. Prior to his conversion, “I did not know how to pray. I had never been in a church. I had never held the Bible in my hands before.“I did not believe in God. I was oppressing and persecuting Christians,” he acknowledged. “I cried out to God and he rescued me and gave me a second birth. 

One of Borisov’s primary ministry projects is seeking to supply Bibles for all 2.5 million soldiers in the Russian army. Highlighting the importance of the Bible in the daily life of Christians, he declared, “I am equipped with a weapon, the most powerful weapon on the face of the earth — the Bible, the Word of God. This is the weapon strong enough to overcome any enemy. It does not become obsolete. We need it like we need sun, air, and water.”

Proverbs 21:30: There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord.

Latest Sermons