Sermon – Advent 1 – December 2, 2018
Jeremiah 33:14-16 ‘The Promise Keeper’
CT: When all seems lost God gives us hope in the promise He fulfilled through His Son.
Intro: In 1995 a young Keanu Reeves starred in a movie called, ‘A Walk in the Clouds’. He played the part of a young man who agreed to accompany a young lady back to her family vineyard in California, posing as the father of the baby she was carrying. It was all to ease her father’s conscience, but as you can guess, they fell in love and all looks peachy. Young Keanu is taken under his father-in-laws wings and taught the family business, tending to the vines brought over from Europe many decades ago. The family vineyard had a bright future till a fire razed the vineyard. All looked lost until the aged father found one root stock still alive. It was hope; a place to begin; the promise of something new and living out of total destruction. In a similar way our short reading from Jeremiah interjects God’s hope into a dark and frightening time; the promise of something new and living out of total destruction and death.
Despair: Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet; reading his book is like entering the dark pit of another person’s frustration and despair. God called him to preach repentance to hardened hearts, hammering the people with words of warning and judgement, but the people could not stand to hear God’s word graphically uncover their sins (but then neither do we). They would have put Jeremiah to death, but God caused him to stand like an impenetrable bronze wall before their outrage.
But that didn’t leave Jeremiah in a very good place. He never married because of the painful judgement he saw coming against Jerusalem. How could he bear up under the pain of losing a wife and children that way? Jeremiah saw King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon level Jerusalem and the temple, and watched as those left alive were dragged off to 70 years of exile. In the end, Jeremiah was taken against his will to Egypt. But so powerful was Jeremiah’s work as a prophet that some people hundreds of years later thought Jesus was the prophet Jeremiah returned from the dead. (Matthew 16:14)
Hope: From the line of David, king after king served up injustice upon the nation; after centuries of entertaining the worship of many false gods and the chasing after riches and treacherous alliances with other world leaders there was little hope on the horizon for change. Modern politics can leave you feeling the say way; is there any hope for a just and righteous leader? And now with the complete crumbling, uprooting, and erasing of everything those people held dear, all was lost. But Yaweh spoke words of light to pierce their darkness, bringing hope into despair. He would take what looked like a complete failure; the corrupted, broken down, destroyed line of kings from David, and cause a righteous Branch to sprout. Not just another king in an epic line of human failures, but a truly righteous one!
This doesn’t happen without God’s intervention. Our sins dig a hole so deep that only God can lift us out. In order for every wrong to be made right, if true justice will be applied to all people for all things, we’ll have to look to God’s answer; we don’t have one! Only Yaweh can bring justice to an infinitely broken world. Finally, there would be One who would do what is just and right in the land! There is hope!
Righteous: But think about it; if God were to judge every person according to their words, actions, and thoughts; if He were to hold you accountable for every moment of your life; how could you stand? Well, you couldn’t! No one could! The best we can do is offer excuses, call it water under the bridge or default to trying to hide in the masses saying, “Well, no one is perfect!” But that’s simply not true; God is perfect; Jesus, God with us in human flesh is perfect. This ‘Jesus effect’ was not lost on the disciples. They could not help but call out and praise the coming of the Righteous Branch of David, and if they didn’t, the stones would do it. He road into Jerusalem on the colt of donkey to execute justice and righteousness for all people. The people were right to call out, “Hosanna!” “God save us!” because that’s exactly what He was doing.
Remember when Jesus entered the Jordan River to be baptized by John, He said it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. The full weight of God’s justice against our rebellion; against our every infraction of His Law to love Him and love each other was laid on Jesus. The donkey carried Jesus, but He carried the sins of the world. We understand justice, and it’s not sweeping sins under the rug; it means that someone needs to pay for what they’ve done. I might overlook the need for justice if you’ve been wronged, but not when I’m the one who has been unfairly dealt with. Yet our world is riddled with examples of injustice, poor sentencing, and crimes that go unsolved; there is a lack of justice and righteousness in our world because justice is administered and hindered by sinners like you and me, which is why God’s promise spoken by Jeremiah and fulfilled by Jesus is so important; so sweet to our ears.
At the cross God’s mercy and justice meet. His mercy flows with the blood from Jesus’ gaping wounds as He pours out on you and me underserved, unmerited grace upon grace; the forgiveness of all your sins. And yet justice is done; every sin is dealt with; no sin is left unpunished.
Promise Kept: The sinful, fallen line of King David was infused with the full presence of God in Christ Jesus. Jeremiah’s words of hope to Judah and Jerusalem reach far beyond them; our salvation and our security also rest on this righteous Branch from David’s line. That’s why we celebrate Christmas. God brought about the events of that first Christmas in Bethlehem; He caused it to happen. It was the power of the Holy Spirit that overshadowed a young virgin named Mary that she would conceive and give birth to a son. He was given the name Jesus because He would save His people—save you—from your sins! Only in this way can we now with confidence say that the LORD—that is Yaweh—the one and only true God is our righteousness. And this is yours because God is a promise keeper. And He doubled down on His promise to you as in the waters of your Baptism He gave you the security of Christ’s righteousness as if it were your own; as a gift, freely out of His love for you.
As Yaweh also spoke through Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” (Jeremiah 31:3-4a) You have the security of living as God’s people because He has and continues to build you into His people, forgiving your sins, making you His own, and sustaining you to eternal life. Yes, the first Advent of our Lord foreshadows His return in glory to judge the living and the dead; to judge us with the justice and righteousness of His blood shed for you that you and I might not perish, but have life in His name.