1st Sunday in Advent LSB #’s 331, 673, 813
Text – Jeremiah 33:16
In those days Judah will be saved, & Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
THE KING’S CITY: SAFE & SECURE
Where do you live? Where do you call home? That isn’t always an easy question to answer. Our mobile society keeps us moving, & along with that comes restlessness & instability. In a virtual world of electronic reality, space & time are both compressed & expanded in a confusing, dazzling, & sometimes dizzying way. But we all want & need a place to call home.
Sociologists have come to the remarkable conclusion that a safe & stable home has an enormous positive effect on child development – who would have thought!
Adults recall fond childhood memories, which may include that fateful moment when we wanted to run away from home – usually got a block or two before the rights & liberties of independence gave way to the certainties & securities of a place called home.
This is a universal truth, engaging all cultures in all time & places. We don’t know a lot about the emotions of home life in Bible times, but we do know that family & land & home & hearth were an anchor where being “on the road” was no less dangerous than in our day & age.
The “home” that engages us in Jeremiah is actually much greater than our traditional family home – it is the home of a whole country, a nation, a people. In our Advent lessons from the OT prophets, we will listen & learn about God’s kingdom, & God’s king, & what it meant to be the people of God in His kingdom.
In the days of the OT prophets, God’s kingdom on earth was under the human leadership of the line of David. A king had his palace & temple in his capital city. These became the focal point, even the identity, of his rule & his reign. For our spiritual ancestors in the OT that was Jerusalem, or, in a more theologically focused way – it was called Zion. Zion was the citadel of God’s “palace,” His dwelling place in the midst of His people.
We should note there was often a good deal of tension between the king’s palace & God’s temple, as the king sometimes forgot that his place was “next door” to the temple, & not the other way around. The king was the under-shepherd who ruled on God’s terms, not his own.
In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, both the king & the temple were being threatened, even under siege, by the Babylonians & their king Nebuchadnezzar. There was a good & godly reason for this. Jeremiah had made it clear to all: both king & people had forsaken their God; they had followed the ways of the world & the religious practices of the pagans.
They assumed that if they did just enough to keep the temple worship going, bringing sacrifices & offerings, then God would be pleased & so protect them. After all, He was their God, & they were His people.
In the eyes of the international press, the “CNN” of that day, the siege of Jerusalem was just another act of aggression & expansion by the dominant world power of the time. In the eyes of the king & majority of the people, this seemed an unfair action by a God who should be saving them instead of destroying them.
In the eyes of prophet, priests, & some of the people, this was God’s righteous judgment on the sins of His nation. So Jeremiah stood up to the false prophets, who “prophesied peace when there was no peace.” He stood up to the king, who refused to believe either that the city would fall or that this was God’s just judgment against him, his leadership, & the sins of all.
This got Jeremiah to become the object of scorn & derision; he was put in stocks & then in prison. So much for the life of a faithful prophet! But, Jeremiah had a bigger picture. He knew God’s judgment, yet he also knew that this was part of a larger plan, not to destroy & kill, but to restore & make alive. In the midst of all this message of judgment comes a section of his book that speaks of God’s love, His everlasting love & 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, “home” of king & people, would be lost, & they would be refuges in exile. You see, God had a future & a hope for them.
In fact, just as the siege of Jerusalem was underway, Jeremiah bought a field – invested in real estate – to demonstrate his conviction that God was committed to this land & to bringing the people back to it. He saw a future for both the king & the city. He described them both in the same way:
In those days (those days to come, when God would fulfill His promises once & for all) & at that time (yes, at God’s “right time,” not ours), I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, & He shall execute justice & righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved & Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it (Jerusalem) will be called: Yahweh (God) is our righteousness. (Jeremiah 33:15 ESV)
Dear friends in Christ: Have you been away from home too long? You know the feeling. It can be rough out there; sometimes it can be rough at home. But deep inside, we long for a home that is safe & sound, where we are loved, saved, & dwell securely.
Imagine how the folks from Jerusalem felt when they woke up in Babylon! This wasn’t an exotic vacation to see the Hanging Gardens; they were in exile, far from home. Yet for them, & for us, God has provided a place, right here on earth, in space & time, where He calls us home. It’s a place far greater than any capital city of the world.
It’s even greater than the most loving & safe home for any family or extended family. It’s a place where true peace & justice, righteousness & 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. You see, back then in the time of Jeremiah, God promised a king & a city that only He could provide. Yes, the king & city that His people had messed up had to be destroyed, but God found a way to punish sin & yet to save His people. He promised a new & better king, of the house & lineage of David, but not just another David. He promised a new & better city, which would be called righteous.
But note where the righteousness, justice, truth & peace are found: Yahweh is our righteousness. You see, back in the time of Jesus, there was One born of the house & lineage of David, to be a new & greater David, David’s son, yes, but also David’s lord. He came also to be the new & greater temple & city, where God would dwell on earth in the midst of His people.
Right now, in these days of Advent preparation, we can celebrate, right here, right now, that we have a home; a city, if you will, a place to call home, where God is with us with an everlasting love.
Call it church, call it our faith family, call it the Body of Christ, where both king & city come together in one person & in one place, where his body & blood are here for us to forgive, renew & empower us to be the place where God dwells out there in the world, for all.
Where do you live? Where do you call home? Where is a place for safety, security, salvation & life? With all we will do in the weeks ahead, with overfilled schedules at home & running around, today we remember the anchor of our lives, our home with God in Jesus. We remember it in this place where Yahweh cares for us with forgiveness & life!
It is in this place that we truly live, as a foretaste of heaven. Amen.
Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee? When shall my sorrows have an end? Thy joys when shall I see? O happy harbor of the saints, O sweet & pleasant soil! In thee no sorrow may be found, no grief, no care, no toil. O Christ, do Thou my soul prepare for that bright home of love that I may see Thee & adore with all Thy saints above. Amen.
LSB 673:1-2, 6
Pastor Dean R. Poellet