151129 Jeremiah 33:14-16

Last Updated on Monday, 30 November 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Theme: Counting Down The Days To Christ's Coming

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent, the first Sunday in a new church year. Advent, which means "coming," is a special time for us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. Advent is also the time when many of the faithful shake their heads at what this season has become.

I have heard quite a few sermons (and probably preached a few of my own) that lamented the fact that what was designed to be a time of quiet contemplation has been overtaken by the stress of deadlines and the frenzy of commercialism. The season of Advent has become a time to overspend and overindulge and overextend ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with warning people not to get caught up in all the planning and preparations for the holidays. There is nothing wrong with reminding people that Jesus is the reason for the season. But I do have a problem with Advent sermons (including some sermons in my personal files) that fail to offer any solutions.

Today I want to do something about that. I have a suggestion to help you keep your spiritual priorities in order for the next three and a half weeks. It isn't anything new. It isn't expensive. It isn't time-consuming. If you don't already have one, let me encourage you to go out and pick up one of these. It's an Advent calendar.

Display it in a prominent place in your home. Set aside a few moments each day to open a new door. Talk about the spiritual significance of what you find inside. And as your Advent calendar counts down the days to Christmas, you will also have the opportunity to count your blessings.

Jeremiah never had the benefit of an Advent calendar. Jeremiah never heard of Advent. He lived hundreds of years before Mary wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. All he had was a promise. God had given his people a promise that a Savior would come, but Jeremiah had no idea when that promise would be fulfilled.

Kind of like us. Jesus has given us a promise that he will come again, but only he knows when that day will be. And so we wait. We wait with eager expectation. We wait with Jeremiah, whose prophetic words remind us that during this Advent season we are not just counting down the days to another Christmas. We are also...

COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS TO CHRIST'S COMING

I. The day when a righteous Branch will sprout from David's line
II. The day when God's people will be given a new name

The text begins: "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah'" (14). "The days are coming" is a phrase that appears a dozen times in Jeremiah. It is not a vague reference to some unknown time in the future. It is not like our way of saying "someday this or that will come to pass." "The days are coming" is God's way of saying that something WILL happen. The date has been set. The outcome is certain. The Lord need only give the signal and it (whatever it is) will be done.

The event that Jeremiah anticipates is a blessed one. "The days are coming when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah." God had promised Noah that he would never again send a flood to destroy the world (Genesis 9:11). God had promised Abram that he would transform his family into a great nation (Genesis 12:2, 15:5). God had promised his people that he would give them the land of Canaan as their permanent possession (Exodus 3:8).

You get the idea. God made lots of promises to his people, more than we have time to mention. So with so many wonderful promises to choose from, what was on God's mind when he inspired Jeremiah to write these words? The answer is in the verses that follow:

"In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land" (15). The Hebrews held up David as their nation's greatest king. He unified the country. He established the capital in Jerusalem. King David was a fearless warrior and a revered leader. But as great as he was, there was nothing he could do to prevent his kingdom's decline.

Judah had a few good leaders after David, but there were more bad ones than good ones. When Jeremiah appeared on the scene four hundred years after David, the nation was politically corrupt and morally bankrupt. And God had had enough. He vowed to punish the leaders for their wickedness. And he did. He warned the people that the coming wrath would be swift and severe. And it was.

But as dark as the situation appeared to be, the Lord provided a ray of hope. God promised to restore his people with a king like David, a king who would do "what is just and right in the land." Jeremiah knew him only as "a righteous Branch," but we know him by the name his parents gave him.

Jesus did what was right. Unlike his father David, he never did anything wrong. Jesus was just. He didn't favor the rich and powerful. He had compassion on the poor and needy. He loved the unlovable and gave hope to the hopeless. Even though the only crown ever placed on his head was made of thorns, Jesus was the greatest king this world has ever seen. And this world will see him again.

We count down the days to Christ's coming, when we will see him in all his glory, when we will see him descending from the clouds of heaven. We look forward to that day when the righteous Branch takes his rightful place as the judge of all because that will be the time when God's people will be given a new name.

"In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness" (16). These words have given Bible scholars some problems because they are so similar to words written only a few chapters earlier.

In Jeremiah 23 the Lord says (with reference to the promised Messiah): "In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness" (6). The question is: How can Jesus and Jesus' followers share the same name? Can both be called "The Lord Our Righteousness," and if so, how? Perhaps an illustration can explain.

This past weekend we retrieved our family Christmas decorations out of the basement. In one box there were two identical angel nutcrackers which we had given to our girls as gifts a few years ago. By just looking at the nutcrackers it was impossible to tell whose angel was whose. Thankfully my wife had the foresight to write the girls' names on the bottom of the nutcrackers. And so when they turned them over, the mystery was solved. The names made it clear which angel belonged to which girl.

In Hebrew "The Lord Our Righteousness" looks a lot like the name "Zedekiah," the name of Judah's last and perhaps worst king. Zedekiah didn't put his trust in the Lord. Zedekiah was anything but righteous. And at the very time King Zedekiah was leading Judah down the path to destruction, God promised to send another ruler who would live up to that noble name.

Jesus was righteousness personified. He not only did everything right. He has made everything right between a holy God and unholy people. He came the first time to save the world. He will come a second time to judge the world. He came once to take away our sins. He will come again to take us to heaven.

Because Jesus was perfectly righteous for us, we are perfectly righteous before God. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus' perfection is our perfection. Jesus' righteousness is our righteousness. Jesus' name is our name because we belong to him.

This Jeremiah text is packed with promises, but neither Jeremiah nor his hearers ever saw those promises fulfilled. And judging by what they did see, there were probably days when they doubted that God's promises would ever come true.

God promised them a just and righteous ruler. God's people watched as their sad excuse for a king was led away in shackles. God promised them peace and security. God's people experienced nothing but death and destruction. God promised to give them a new and holy name. God's people in exile wondered if they would lose their identity forever.

When we look at our situation today, I think we can relate. We have the same promises, and if we are honest, we probably have some of the same doubts. Two thousand years have gone by since the angels promised the disciples that Jesus would return, and so far nothing has happened.

Unbelievers are amused and maybe even a little annoyed by people like us who insist that Jesus is coming back. They call us naïve or simple-minded, and based upon the evidence (or lack thereof) we might begin to ask ourselves if they are right.

When those doubts creep in, faith suffers. When doubts take over, faith dies. What we believe or don't believe won't change the fact that Jesus will return to judge the world on the Last Day, but it will have an impact on the Judge's verdict. Whoever believes will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned (see Mark 16:16).

That is why the season of Advent is so important. That is why we need the encouragement of people like Jeremiah. Even though he hasn't come back yet, even though he might not come back for another two thousand years, Jesus will return. Our Lord will make good on his final promise because he makes good on all of his promises. He has come, and he will come again.

Most Advent calendars cover a time span of twenty-five days, from December 1 to December 25. It really isn't practical to create another calendar for Jesus' second coming because we don't know when that day will be. It could be in ten days. It could be in ten thousand days (and that would make for a really big calendar).

The Lord has chosen not reveal the date of his return, but don't let that stop you from counting down the days to Christ's coming. Remember that you serve a righteous ruler. Remember that your king has given you his own name. Rejoice because each passing day brings you one day closer to the day when you will be with Jesus forever. Amen.

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