Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday Nov. 29th 2015 - / Jeremiah 33:14-16 / Jesus The Righteous Branch (Advent 1)
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 29th 2015, Series (c) " Jesus The Righteous Branch" Jeremiah 33:14-16 (Advent 1)
“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 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.’
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Our Advent Hymn before our Sermon today teaches us that the Season of Advent is twofold. "The King shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks, when beauty guilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes. Not as of old a little child to bear and fight and die, but crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky." On the one hand we prepare to hear again the story of the birth of our Lord Jesus, we prepare again in Advent to celebrate the Season of Christmas and the first coming of the Christ Child, the salvation of the world. On the other hand in Advent we look to Jesus' second coming, we prepare for His return when He comes the second time not as of old as a little child to bear our flesh and blood, to fight our temptations and hardships, and then to die in our place for our sins upon a Roman cross, but crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky.
We live in a now/not yet world - and the season of Advent helps us see it - and because we live in a now/not yet world you are provided an opportunity to contemplate how you and I are not far off from our brothers and sisters in the faith from the Old Testament. You are not far from the faith of Jeremiah, you share Jeremiah's faith even if you don't share his personal experiences. This shared faith means that the Old Testament reading this morning is for you as much as it was for its first hearers.
The first hearers of our Old Testament reading had the promise, and some of them were faithfully waiting for the first coming of the Messiah, the birth of the Christ, just like some of us are faithfully waiting Jesus' second coming today. And while they looked ahead to this first coming of the Christ they, like we, also had things to look back too, they looked back to the Exodus when God rescued them from captivity in Egypt, they looked back to King David who had the promise of the Christ made to him. The Lord said to David, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son." Doesn't that sound like the words spoken by Jeremiah?
"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 those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which [the righteous Branch which I will cause to spring up] will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.'"
What does the Angel Gabriel say to the Virgin Mary? "The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
The "Righteous Branch" that Jeremiah is speaking of is Jesus, the Christ promised to David, delivered to you from the womb of the Virgin Mary - the same Jesus who will come again on The Last Day. In each of these cases the Word of God we hear connected to David, and Jeremiah and the Virgin Mary are not spoken in a vacuum, they don't float alone in a sea on nice things to say, there is a context, a very real circumstance that they are being said into. The Old Testament reading today may seem the most adrift however it is grounded in a time of great turmoil and trouble, one of those moments where trusting the promises of the Lord is most challenging. Knowing the context can help contemplate, help to think about what it means to trust a promise from God. It helps ask the question, "What does it look like to live with the promise?" In chronological order let's look at the context of the promise for David, and Jeremiah and for Mary. Compare and contrast your situation with theirs and remember if none of them fit just right you yourself still do have a personal situation into which God speaks His promises - or maybe count yourself lucky that your situation is less dramatic than theirs. Sometimes a quiet stretch in one's life can a blessing in disguise.
God says to King David, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom." This looked good when this promise was first made to David, he had 6 young sons, he'd just become King of Israel, the Kingdome was in unity, the Ark of the Covenant had arrived in Jerusalem, and while he was sad at the death of King Saul who'd been king before him the future looked bright. What did things look like at the end of David's life when his days were fulfilled and he was about to lie down with his fathers in death? His oldest son Amnon who would have followed him as king had been murdered by men working for another of David's sons Absalom. And Absalom, who had rebelled against his father David and was killed during his rebellion, would also not be King. As David lay on his death bed it looked as if his son Adonijah would end up being King and not Solomon the son he'd had with Bathsheba after their first son conceived in adultery had died. David was in poor health and everything in his promising family had been falling apart for years. Acrimony, murder, betrayal stood to confront David at every turn and yet there at the end of all these troubles, it is then that the Lord said that He'll establish the throne of the kingdom of David's Son forever. David was being asked to trust this now/not yet promise when things looked the most bleak, after things had gone poorly, when it looked like the promise might not be fulfilled. After David's death Solomon his son does become king and the promise is given to Him too, and Solomon like David is to trust the promise.
Jeremiah who wrote our Old Testament reading today is likewise in a bleak place. Under lock and key Jeremiah is being held captive in Jerusalem by King Zedekiah who on the one hand seeks Jeremiah's council and then on the other hand refuses to listen when Jeremiah gives it. This King Zedekiah is the last of David's linage to be king who would reign in un-interrupted succession. Zedekiah ruled in Jerusalem some 468 years after the promise given by the Lord to David and this king Zedekiah is about to become a tragic figure. Not long after Jeremiah spoke these words of promise from the Lord the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar's army swept in and, "slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before [Zedekiah's own] eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound [Zedekiah] in chains and took him to Babylon [as a slave]." If David had been like an acorn after 468 years there stood an oak tree, yes it had knots in the wood, and some dead and sickly branches, but never the less there it stood against the weather of the world. As Jeremiah delivers today's Old Testament words of promise God is on the verge of allowing Nebuchadnezzar to use his Babylonian army like an sharp axe to cut that tree of King David down to a stump. And just as these horrible things were about to take place, writing from a jail cell Jeremiah proclaims that, "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." After Nebuchadnezzar's victory there would be people who would say ... 'really ... are those days really coming? Because it looks hopeless, it looks awful, it looks like we're all finished. What's left of David's family tree has been cut down and dragged in chains to Babylon.'
Some 580 years later the teenaged Virgin Mary living in small town of Nazareth betrothed to be married to the carpenter Joseph is told that she will bear a Son, conceived not by her and Joseph but by the Holy Spirit, "and [that] the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." The Virgin Mary hears these words from the angel Gabriel while the land is dominated and controlled by the Romans and their army. Their puppet King Herod the Great was no descendant of King David, he was ruthless and cruel, a Roman political insider. Between Herod and the Romans the faithful followers of the Lord were under the thumb of an enormously powerful enemy. There had been military uprisings but none had been truly successful for very long, the thought that they could be free from it all would have seemed unlikely and would require a miracle. Even still there were people who trusted that it would come. Some thought the only way it could happen is if the coming messiah would be a military leader like David had been. Whatever they expected the faithful shared the promise that God would cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and this Christ, this messiah would execute justice and righteousness in the land.
There was this verse from Deuteronomy that David, Jeremiah, the Virgin Mary, even Zedikiah, would all have know, the verse goes like this: "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations," God keeps His promises. They could either trust it or set it aside - the same is true for you - you can either trust that God keeps His promises or you can set them aside. The birth of the baby Jesus is God keeping His promise. We now watch, we keep awake as night is flying, watching for the promised return of Jesus, His second coming. From today's Gospel reading what does Jesus say to you, when the bleak terror of The Last Day is upon the world and the sharp axe of God's Judgment is at the root of the tree of History, of Time, of this World and our lives in it, and you begin to see the return of Christ taking place, Jesus says "straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
In every generation of the Old Testament there were faithful believers in the promises of God who thought, 'Now, right now, now in this generation the Christ, the messiah could be born.' And in every generation of the New Testament times after the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus, there have been faithful believers in the promises of God who thought, 'Now, right now, now in this generation the Christ, the messiah could return!" In this way you and I are not far off from our brothers and sisters in the faith from the Old Testament. you and I are not far off from our brothers and sisters in the faith from more recent years either. And you are certainly not far from the faith of Jeremiah, you share Jeremiah's faith. If you doubt the promises of God, take heart and turn to the Lord He will forgive you, He died for that sin too. When Jesus returns He will bring to completion what has been begun in your baptism, you will be saved, you will dwell securely forever. This promise will be fulfilled for you not because of your own righteousness but rather because The LORD is your righteousness. Jesus is your righteousness. He is the "Righteous Branch" who saves you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 2 Samuel 7:12-14
 Luke 1:30-33
 2 Kings 25:7
 Deuteronomy 7:9
 Luke 21:27-28