1st Sunday in Advent “Important Days!”
November 28, 2021 Jeremiah 33:14–16
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Is it accurate to say that ‘Some days are more important than others’ ? When you & I look back over our lives, some particular days would stand out. Not all days are equal. Maybe you recall the day JFK was shot; or Jan.28, 1986, the day… the space shuttle Challenger exploded; of course = Sept.11, 2001; or maybe Aug.1, 2007 …the day the 35W Bridge collapsed in Mpls. While days of general tragedy do stick in our minds, personal days may be more important than those. Maybe it was a particular Christmas or birthday; part of a family vacation; your wedding day; or the day a loved one went to be with the Lord. It IS accurate to say that ‘Some days are more important than others.’
In Jeremiah 33, the prophet speaks to the people of Jerusalem about some supremely important days; both for them back then, and for us. When he said, “Behold, the days are coming,” we recognize those days as being crucial & historic. ‘Those days’ he’s talking about happened with the advent of the Son of God. 2,000 yrs ago, God was walking around on the earth with human flesh = not for fun, but for purpose. God came preaching the good news of His kingdom in person, healing the sick & driving out demons, then suffering & dying for our sins on the cross. And then He rose on the 3rd day, and ascended to the Father, to rule over His people & all things, and to prepare to return to judge the living & the dead.
When Jeremiah says, ‘in those days’, those were the days he’s referring to; the days when the world’s Savior walked visibly in our world, and accomplished our salvation. Those are the most important days this world has ever seen; they are the centerpiece of human history. Jesus’ days on earth are ‘those days’ that bring meaning & hope to ALL other days, before Him, and since.
So, God sent Jeremiah to point the people toward ‘those days.’ But many of the people of Jeremiah’s time, were more interested in their own days. That is, in their own needs or desires right-now. We understand that; we also think: These are the days that really count = to me. In these days, /I have rent or mortgage to pay, /I have health concerns; /I have a difficult boss, or not-great coworkers. /I have a hard schedule at home, at work, with the kids.
/In these days I’m worried about my retirement money; /I’m concerned about the dishonest politicians, and the violence in various communities. /I’m supposed to be exercising, I want time to enjoy my hobby, I need to fix the plumbing and the car. So, if God’s prophet is going to be relevant to me he needs to talk about these days. These are the days I care about.
The people in Jeremiah’s time were very similar to people today as they considered their lives. And so, it was a very human thing to do for many Israelites to turn aside to other sources of help for their worrisome days.
When we look at the OT, we wonder how the Israelites could turn away from God to other ‘gods’; but this helps us understand how. They may not have been thinking about ‘changing religions’, they were looking for some help & solutions for the concerns of their days.
Have you ever heard a Christian talk about going to a fortune-teller, or consulting their horoscope, or they join their friend in a Hindu meditation group? Those are ‘idols’ =false gods. But they’re only looking for some help & hope. It still wrong; but it’s a human thing to do. So the Israelites were tempted by other sources of help, sources their pagan neighbors were using. But that meant neglecting God’s words thru His prophets, and abandoning the worship & ways of God.
The Devil’s way is very ‘now’ centered. False prophets will offer solutions ‘right now.’ The Israelites turned to the gods of the neighboring peoples, gods who promised rain for the crops, getting fertility for the animals -or themselves- , protection from an evil king or evil spirits, or gods who promised various immediate pleasures. Turning to false gods who would give things here & now was pretty tempting; and it still is. That’s why a sign of true faith & trust in God often includes the idea of ‘waiting.’
So, generation after generation, God sent His true prophets to His people to teach them, to warn them & to turn them back; because God’s plans always had the perfect timing.
The most important things would happen in the ‘right days’ = not before, and not after.
Every true prophet was sent to support the most important message that God had for His people: God was calling them to put their hope in the promise of ‘those days’ = the coming days of the Messiah.
Jeremiah didn’t see ‘those days’ with his own eyes; altho he saw them by faith.
What he did see in his days was God’s anger upon the people who were supposed to trust & obey God alone = but they didn’t. God’s patience with His nation hit a wall. In punishment for their unbelief & idolatry, God announced that =in their days= He would bring the Babylonians against Jerusalem. He told Jeremiah that He had made up His mind to destroy the city, and nothing could change it.
And then, because God’s nature is so gracious & merciful, He has another word for His people; and that’s where we come into our OT reading this morning. God’s dual-word. First, Jeremiah had announced to the people that God’s destruction was coming, & Jerusalem would be destroyed because of their sin. AND, to any who had ears to hear, there was this second word: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. [ in his days ] Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely.”
The people did not want to hear that first word, & they got angry with Jeremiah.
We might imagine them saying, ‘Be quiet, Jeremiah! Take your useless, someday-later-promises with you! We’re tired of a God who says, ‘The days are coming’ and they never come. The Babylonians are here to take us captive or kill us today. If your God can’t help us today, what good is He? Stop talking to us about ‘the days are coming.’
In our days, we can look back as that history unfolded. God kept His terrible word, and Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. That beautiful city of God was torn apart; her great walls were toppled; the temple of God was looted & demolished. King Zedekiah was captured and taken before the Babylonian general, who killed his sons right before his eyes, and then ordered that his eyes be gouged out. The king and most of the people were led away in chains to live their days in exile in a foreign land = because they wanted other sources of help for their days.
But God’s second word -His good word- stood firm. Some had remained faithful with Jeremiah; & some would’ve repented, with their hearts turned back to God, as they were marched off into exile. For all who placed their hope in the promises of God’s Word they still had hope.
However bitter their days would be could not take away the sweet promise of the time-to-come. And this is THE KEY for God’s people of every time = back then, today, & tomorrow. It has always been an empty hope to want fulfilment & satisfaction for life in this world; this world is broken, evil, and cannot give a true life. Our hearts must not be set on ‘our own days,’ because the peace of the Lord cannot be found in the life of this world =only in the life to come. God’s people, His true people, have set their hearts on the days that are coming.
This is the promise: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord.” And those days have come. We can’t measure God’s Word by ‘our days’, since a thousand years -to Him- are like one day. We measure God’s promises simply by His Word alone. If He has spoken it,
it will be done = in His own time. After Jeremiah delivered God’s Word, it came true 600 yrs later; that was God’s own perfect time. In those days, God made a new branch sprout from the line of King David. That new branch was the very Son of God, and He came to Judah and to Jerusalem to fulfill every promise God had made to them. He conquered death & sin & hell with God’s justice. He restored the relationship between God and His people with His own righteousness.
The Babylonians & Assyrians & the Philistines all had their days of world-time; but only God’s people have been given ‘the eternal day.’ That day belongs to Jesus, who has won the eternal victory for God’s people over all our enemies. Because of the days of Jesus, the people of Judah’s faith are saved, and the new Jerusalem dwells in eternal security. ‘Those days’ are Jesus’ days. ‘Those promises’ are God’s constant source of true help and comfort for God’s people = for them, back then, and for US – as we move into the year 2022. In the days of Jesus, we can see the strong root and anchor of every promise spoken by our Creator.
This is why God’s faithful Church observes a church year, the liturgical year. Year after year, we review & relive the life of Christ, over and over again = because His life is more important than ours. From Advent, Christmas & Epiphany, thru Lent & Easter, with Ascension & Pentecost, our Scripture readings & familiar hymns direct our attention to the saving life and work of Jesus Christ. The church year directs our hearts to desire ‘those days,’ which God tells us are the most important days for us. And so, we begin another church year today -on this First Sunday in Advent- with that message: The days of Jesus are the ones that truly matter the most in the life of every sinner.
*What brought the Son of God to fulfill ‘those days’ for undeserving sinners like us? LOVE. There is no love like the love that lays down one’s life for someone else. In those days, Jesus showed us the love of our Creator by laying down His life to redeem ours. From those days, we have the forgiveness of the cross to believe, to live by, and to share with others. Jeremiah preached about & believed in those same days.
From those days we have His Holy Meal to share, in a unity of this faith & trust in all His Words thru His prophets & apostles. In His Meal, we eat & we drink, and we receive His own body & blood in remembrance of His days of work for us. At the Baptismal font, we receive the rebirth of new life with His own name upon us. His Baptism is the water of life tied to that day of Easter resurrection. Easter means that He cannot die again; and that means that death has no power over us – who are baptized into Him.
Some days are more important than others, more crucial. For us who know Jesus, those days =his days= are the most important of all. And all because of those historic days, our heart & hope is able to stand firm on something Jesus called – ‘that day.’
This is another day that is more important than any of our days. With Jesus’ ascension, He gave the promise that we will most certainly see Him again. He will return with great power & glory. Once again, and for the final time, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.
Because of His saving work for us at His first coming, when Jesus comes a second time, He will raise up all the dead. In His justice, all those who ran after other gods will be cast away from God forever. And in mercy & righteousness, all whose trust is in Him will receive a life & a place in His eternal kingdom. Jeremiah will be there, as will ALL whose hope was in that message about those days and that day. On that final day, all our troubles will be at an end. The Father, the Spirit, and King Jesus will reign forever and ever.
It IS accurate to say that some days are more important than others. Jesus’ days are far more important than any of our days. And now, the days are coming when we will see our salvation, and we will dwell securely in the New Jerusalem. In that hope, in all of our days, we will be still, take heart, and wait for the day of the Lord.