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First Midweek in Advent

Jeremiah 33:14–16

James T. Batchelor

First Midweek in Advent
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Wed, Dec 2, 2015 

The history of the Children of Israel in the Promised Land was like a great roller coaster ride.  Just as a roller coaster slowly makes its way up to the top of the first drop, so also God led Israel, first by Moses and then by Joshua, to the spiritual heights as they conquered the Promised Land.

Then, just as things started to settle down in peace and prosperity, the Children of Israel fell spiritually.  They plunged down into the depths of spiritual darkness.  As they fell, they rejected Gods protection over the land and the surrounding nations invaded and captured both land and people.

Soon the Children of Israel turned once again to the Lord and they once again rose up out of their despair.  God rescued them from their enemies and they prospered once again.

The prosperity made them complacent and once more, they plunged into spiritual darkness and rejected Gods protection.  The surrounding nations began to capture people and land until the Children of Israel turned back to the Lord.  The Lord rescued them and they prospered once again.

This cycle repeated over and over again.  But, just like a roller coaster, every spiritual height was not quite as high as the last one, and every spiritual plunge went a little bit deeper than the one before it.  Eventually, the spiritual plunge was so deep that the people never turned to the Lord.  They were lost.

Soon Israel had a great civil war.  The tribe of Judah absorbed the tribe of Benjamin and remained faithful to the descendants of King David, but the Northern Ten Tribes broke off and formed their own nation.  The Northern Ten Tribes had nothing but evil kings.  Eventually, the Assyrians conquered the Northern tribes and carried them away and resettled the land with their own people.  The Northern Ten Tribes became the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.  Judah in the south was all that was left.

Eventually, Assyria tried to capture Jerusalem, but the commander of the Assyrians made a big mistake.  He stood before the walls of Jerusalem and boasted that his god was greater than the God of Jerusalem.  The God of Jerusalem, the one, true God sent an angel to strike down 185,000 troops in the Assyrian army.  They never bothered Jerusalem again.

Unfortunately, the power vacuum left by Assyria allowed the Babylonians to create an empire.  After Babylon gained control over Assyria, they turned their eyes south toward Judah and Jerusalem.  The Lord called Jeremiah to give the bad news to Judah.  The Babylonians were coming and they were going to capture Jerusalem.

The Scriptures inform us that Babylon had a different attitude toward Jerusalem.  After Jerusalem fell, a captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, The Lord your God pronounced this disaster against this place. 3The Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you. (Jeremiah 40:23) While the Babylonians did not yet believe in God as the one and only true God, they were quite willing to give Him a place of great respect within the pantheon of gods they already revered.

So Jeremiah had the sad job of chastising Judah for their sin and warning them that they would fall to Babylon if they continued to reject God.  His calling was very frustrating because every word that He proclaimed in the name of the Lord came true, but no one listened to him.  The Babylonians stripped the gold and silver from the temple and all the other buildings of the city and then they tore Jerusalem down to the ground.

Todays text from the prophet Jeremiah comes from the time that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had Jerusalem under siege.  The Holy Spirit had spoken through Jeremiah and made it abundantly clear that both the king and the people had forsaken their God.  They had followed the ways and the religious practices of the world.  They had assumed that if they did just enough to keep the temple worship going, bringing sacrifices and offerings, then God would be pleased, even appeased, and that he would protect them.  After all, he was their God, and they were his people.

To the eyes of the outside world, the siege of Jerusalem looked like just another act of aggression and expansion by the dominant world power at that time.  In the eyes of prophet, priests, and a small minority of the people this was Gods Righteous judgment on the sins of his people.  In the eyes of the king and most of the people, this seemed an unfair action by a God who should be saving them, not destroying them.

Jeremiah had to stand up to false prophets, who prophesied peace when there was no peace, and he had to stand up to the king, who refused to believe either that the city would fall or that this was Gods just judgment against him, his leadership, and the sins of all.  All this got Jeremiah to become the object of scorn and derision; he was put in stocks and then in prison.  So much for the life of a faithful prophet!

Sadly, the people did not come to their senses until it was obvious that Babylon would enter the city when they saw that they were to leave their beloved land behind and enter exile in Babylon.  It was then that the Lord gave words of comfort to the exiles.  Right in the midst of all this message of judgment comes a section of his book that speaks of Gods love, his everlasting love and commitment to his people.  Yes, God would punish them, with the tough love that takes discipline seriously.  Yes, their sin had to be punished.  Yes, Jerusalem, the home of king and people, would be lost, and they would be refugees in exile.

You see, God had a future and a hope for them. In fact, just as the siege of Jerusalem was underway, Jeremiah even bought a field invested in real estate just to demonstrate his conviction that God was committed to this land and to bringing the people back to it. He saw a future for both the king and the city, and he described them both in the same way: In those days (those days to come, when God would fulfill his promises once for all) and at that time (a time of Gods choosing, not ours) I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness. (Jeremiah 33:1416)

I read a recent headline that said a majority of Americans feel like strangers in their own country.  I dont know if that is true or not, but I do know that there are days when I feel that way.  How about you.

Imagine how the folks from Jerusalem felt when they woke up in Babylon!  This wasnt an exotic vacation to see the Hanging Gardens; they were in exile, far from home.

Yet for them, and for us, God has provided a place where he calls us home.  Its a place where true peace and justice, righteousness and salvation are to be found, to be given, to be shared.  It is completely dependent on God, not on us, or on our efforts even to make the world a better, a safer, place.

The one who provides this place came long after the residents of Judah went to exile in Babylon.  Never the less, their faith in Gods promise to send a new king to sit on Davids throne has come true.  Those who were exiled to Babylon became the ancestors of a people who returned to Jerusalem seventy years later.  They did not follow the Lost Ten Tribes into oblivion.  Instead, they rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple.

You see, back then in the time of Jeremiah, God promised a king and a city that only he could provide.  Yes, the king and city that his people had messed up had to be destroyed, but God found a way to punish sin and yet to save his people.  God promised a new and better king, of the house and lineage of David.  He promised a new and better city, which would be called righteous.  But note where the righteousness, justice, truth and peace are found: Yahweh (God) is our righteousness.

Then about 600 years after the time of Jeremiah, Jesus came to Jerusalem and showed Himself to be a new and better king.  He was of the house and lineage of David, but His kingdom was not of this world.  He was at the same time both Davids son and Davids Lord.  He established a new Judah and a New Jerusalem.  By the precious blood of His sacrifice on the cross, He has made it possible for the people of all nations to be citizens of this New Jerusalem.  He is the righteous Branch to spring up for David.  People who believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins may live in this world, but they are no longer of this world.  Those who live in this world, but are no longer of this world have an eternal home with Jesus a place where all is righteousness and no sin can dwell.

While we live here in this world, we have embassies homes away from home.  Places where God not only dwells with His people, but He also reveals Himself and passes out His gifts.  Here the king and His people come together.  He feeds us with His word and His body and blood are here to forgive and renew.  Here He strengthens us until He calls us home to the New Jerusalem where we shall be safe and secure forever.  Amen

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