First Sunday in Advent (Ad Te Levavi)—2 December 2018

5212053Jeremiah 23:5–8

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ 

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’  8 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”  (ESV) 

Matthew 21:1–9

1 When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,  2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” 

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  (ESV)  

 

The following sermon was preached by our field worker, Seminarian Matthew Fenn.

The Righteous Reign of God

Text: Jeremiah 23:5-8

Old Testament Lesson for the First Sunday of Advent, 1yr.

 

 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Introduction

 

Can you think of a government that isn’t plagued with problems? Even in Canada, we don’t have leaders who are always just and wise. Even well-intentioned politicians fail. More often than not, most of our leaders are corrupt and self-serving. We’re used to politicians who make promises to us while campaigning, but only keep a fraction of them. No sooner do they get into office, then they begin to dismantle everything the previous administration did, good and bad. We are cursed with leaders who are more concerned about winning the next election and pushing their own agendas than caring for the people.

 

I. The Need for God’s Righteous Reign

 

The Kingdom of Judah realized their need for good leaders a little too late. These kings had failed so spectacularly that God himself intervened and Babylonian armies carried their entire nation into exile.  God’s judgment fell upon the kings of Judah because they failed to fulfill the duties of their office. They failed to demonstrate the true qualities of kingship. A king should “do what is just and right in the land.” (v. 5) This is what God still expects from kings and political leaders even today. Instead the kings of Judah oppressed the weak and vulnerable. They sought the counsel of false prophets and led the people into idolatry. Their greed, injustice, and unfaithfulness led to disaster.

 

In exile, Judah was finally able to see their need for a just and wise king. Do we not also see the need to have a just and wise prime minister and parliament? I’m certain that no one would think our Canadian government today should be called just, wise, and faithful. It is easy to become fed-up and cynical about politics when all you see are lots of problems and very few solutions. And with our cynicism we stop praying for our leaders and no longer confess government as the gift it is. We know too well that no government can rid Canada of poverty, crime, injustice, sickness and death. There are limitations to government, yet we still need it. Listen to stories from Syria and Iraq about how government fell and chaos arose, and you see why. We may complain about government, but it still provides an indispensable service to society. 

At the end of the day, government is not the problem. The reason why governments are inherently unjust and corrupt is because WE are unjust and corrupt! Governments are made up of people just like you and me who are sinners.  Paul said in Romans, “There is no one who is righteous, no, not even one.”  We desperately need a ruler who is just and yet among those born of Adam, there will never be found one. We may see our physical needs, and still not see our spiritual need. 

 

Hoping for a better government which will improve our lives is not the solution either, although that’s something to pray for. What we really need is the tangible and real reign of God. While we are focusing on the little problems, only God has the solutions the big ones we all share like injustice, sickness, and death. That’s why we Christians pray for God’s kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven. 

 

But if God’s kingdom – his reign – were to come and set everything right, then we have a problem.  Since God is going to bring all wrong doers to justice for their crimes against him, wouldn’t that also include you?  After all, we are all citizens of earth, are we not? All of the unfairness and injustice in Judah moved God to act. If you think that God will not do anything to correct all the unfairness and injustice of this world, you’re wrong. As sinners, we are part of the problem, not the solution because it is our sin which has bent and distorted this world. Our good and just God promises that the crookedness will be set straight. That means we all deserve to be brought to justice. We need God’s reign because in this rebellious world filled to the brim with injustice, justice has to be served.

 

II. The Benefits of God’s Righteous Reign

 

Jeremiah prophesied that one day there’ll be a new king. God gave David his word that one of his sons would reign forever, and unlike our politicians who fail to keep their promises, God always keeps his promises, and he even blesses us with descent government in Canada.  There will be a new king from the lineage of David who will be wise and “do what is just and just and right.” His reign will bring salvation and the ultimate deliverance from slavery and bondage. God’s people mourn in lonely exile, awaiting the coming of Emmanuel, the king.

 

Then, one spring afternoon outside of Jerusalem, nearly 600 years later, that long awaited, long expected King – that MESSIAH – finally made his appearance.  The prophets had foretold it: “Behold, O daughter of Zion, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” Yes, Jesus of Nazareth, rides on a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The crowds confess who he is, “Hosanna to the son of David.”  “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Behold, the King of glory waits. The king of kings is drawing near; The Savior of the world is here.” (LSB 340.1)

 

Jesus Christ is David’s long expected heir – the promised messiah. And unlike any of our politicians, he is perfectly qualified to be king. He is the king that shall reign wisely. He is always just, fair and good. That’s what we call righteousness – being fair, good, and always keeping your word.  Jesus is the kind of king we need – a king who shows faithfulness toward his people. This is a faithfulness that moves him to intervene; to act on our behalf and to rescue his distressed, exiled people. God enters the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This righteous branch of David is raised up and nailed the cursed branch of Calvary. All the unfairness and injustice of this world is dealt with in the death of Jesus. The righteousness of God’s reign is seen through his acting on your behalf, to save you through the death of his own Son.

 

In Christ God demonstrates his righteousness. God promises us salvation through his Son, the Messiah. And as David wrote in our Psalm, “No one who waits for the Lord shall be put to shame” We can trust what God has done for us in Christ because he keeps his word and lives up to his obligations. God’s righteousness means you can trust his promises because he is totally reliable. As St. Peter said, ““All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet. 1:24-25.)  God made a promise to David, a promise which was renewed through Jeremiah. And God kept his Word.

Jeremiah says the name by which the Messiah will be called is, “The Lord is our righteousness.”  Yes, although we are not righteous, we are not just, fair, good, and always keep our word. But Christ our Lord is righteous. Our righteousness is not found in ourselves, nor is it found in voting for the next politician who promises change. It is found in Jesus Christ and all his righteousness is now yours through trusting his promise to you. As you hear God’s Word read and proclaimed to you, that is the reign and rule of God coming near. When you were baptized you were made a citizen of the God’s kingdom. In the Holy Communion you get a foretaste of the feast we will have at marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom.  As you strive to lead a godly life and to turn from sin, that is not your power, but the power of the Kingdom of God at work in you. God promises that on the last day, when King Jesus sets the whole universe right again, you will be declared to be in the right, not because of what you have done, but because of the righteousness of Jesus given to you.

 

Jesus is king. We praise and bless him because he is a just and fair. His righteousness means that he keeps his promises. He has intervened on your behalf to save you. He saves you from your own corruption, sin, and injustice. He pardons your offenses and gives you His own righteousness. He now promises you that under his reign there will be righteousness and blessedness forever. His reign is not for one or two terms, but it lasts forever and ever. There is no transition team to move from one heavenly administration to another. We’ve heard of Queen Elizabeth I and now Elizabeth II. Not in the heavenly kingdom. There is no Jesus I and Jesus II, because Jesus Christ is first and last and there is no other. None preceded him, and none shall succeed him. His reign is a reign without end, it’s a reign that saves you, and that’s a reign we need. To him be the glory! Amen.

 

And may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen