Behold! The Days Are Coming
Topic: Biblical Verse: Jeremiah 33:14–33:16
The First Sunday in Advent
November 28, 2021
“Behold! The Days Are Coming”
On this weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday, we begin a new church year and it starts with this blessed Advent season. The word Advent comes from two Latin words, ad and ventus, meaning “to come to or toward.” And the One who is coming to us is the One who has already come. More than just preparing us for the Christmas celebration of Jesus’ birth, Advent calls us to humble repentance before Jesus’ coming again on that great and final day. Advent calls us to live in holy expectation and joyful hope of Christ’s coming. In the midst of all the things on our to-do list in getting ready for Christmas, now less than a month away, this holy time of Advent invites us to quiet reflection, patient waiting, to “be still and know that the Lord is God” (Psalm 46:10). During this Advent season, as well the Christmas season ahead, the theme for preaching is entitled, “Behold!”, and is based on the appointed Old Testament lessons for worship. Today, on this First Sunday in Advent, the message is based on the Word of the Lord revealed through the prophet Jeremiah, entitled, “Behold! The Days Are Coming.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
“Behold” – that’s a word we don’t really use very much anymore, except maybe to be a little dramatic in some point we are trying to make. Some other words that we could use for “behold,” might be “observe,” “witness,” “look,” or “see.” But it is that word “behold” which is before us today, and which we will focus on in this Advent and Christmas season. So what is it that we are to behold? The faithfulness of the Lord in keeping his promises. The faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of our unfaithfulness. Jeremiah, who lived more than 500 years before the time of Jesus, was all too aware of Israel’s unfaithfulness. He was called to be God’s messenger, his spokesman, set apart for this purpose while he was still in the womb (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Jeremiah is sometimes called the “weeping prophet” because he was called by God to bring a message of judgment upon God’s people for their flagrant sin and their stubborn refusal to repent and turn to the Lord. Like the Lord Jesus himself, Jeremiah also wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Time and again, God’s people refused to turn away from things like worshiping and offering sacrifices to other gods; open adultery; complete disregard for the poor and needy; even child sacrifice. Living faith and trust in the Lord God had degenerated into a check-the-box, going-through-the-motions kind of faith that really is no faith at all, but is actually self-serving idolatry. The people of Jerusalem and Judah believed as long as the temple was there and the appointed sacrifices were being offered, they were safe and secure. They believed that nothing bad could happen to them because God would never allow anything to happen to his holy dwelling. And how wrong they were! Though they did not want to hear it, Jeremiah reminded the people, “Behold, the days are coming!” And yet, with this message of judgment also came a message of hope, as recorded in today’s Old Testament lesson.
“Behold, the days are coming” – this is both a message of judgment and a message of hope; a message of Law and a message of Gospel. The message of judgment is that like God’s people of old, we also are guilty of faith that is more dead than alive; of just checking the box and going through the motions; thinking that we can somehow appease and manipulate God through all of this. We have not kept covenant with God. We have not feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things, as Luther’s Explanation of the First Commandment puts it. And the things that we do fear, love, and trust will eventually fail us. Sometimes we have to learn all this the hard way, which is not what the Lord would have for us. He would spare us that suffering and pain. The Lord calls us to something better. He calls us to a future and a hope. “Behold, the days are coming” – this is also a message of hope. The words of Jeremiah here refer back to the promise made to David (see 2 Samuel 7) that God would raise up an offspring from David and establish his kingdom forever.
This is all about the promise of the Messiah, the anointed One, the Savior. This promise is bigger than just David; it is for “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 33:14). The promise is for all of God’s people. This promised One, the “righteous Branch” (Jeremiah 33:15), will “execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). This is in direct contrast to almost all of the kings of both Israel and Judah who were expert in doing the opposite: perverting justice and fostering unrighteousness. That promised One, this righteous Branch is Jesus. He has executed justice and righteousness in our behalf by bearing for us God’s righteous judgment against our injustice, our unrighteousness, when he took upon himself the crushing burden of our sin and unfaithfulness upon the cross. By faith, a great exchange takes place here: Jesus takes on our guilt and sin while we receive Jesus’ holiness and righteousness. This is the new Name which the Lord God assigns to himself in that closing verse from today’s Old Testament lesson: “And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 33:16b). No longer will the Lord be known by the Name associating him with the mighty act of delivering his people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 20:2). When the righteous Branch comes, the Lord will be called “the Lord is our righteousness.” The Exodus event of God’s mighty act of deliverance of old gives way to a greater and more wonderful deliverance through that righteous Branch, Jesus, who is worthy of all of our praise and worship.
In Jesus, our righteous Branch, we understand that phrase in a new way: “Behold, the days are coming” (Jeremiah 33:14a). In Jesus, our righteous Branch, whose blood cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7), those days are not just coming at some future point, they are already here! Between Jesus’ first Advent (his birth, life, death and resurrection) and his second Advent (his great and final coming) is Jesus’ Advent among us here and now. Jesus our righteous Branch comes to us now in this time of grace through his blessed Word, the cleansing waters of holy Baptism, and the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus our righteous Branch comes to us here and now to strengthen us so that like Judah and Jerusalem of old, we may “be saved, and… dwell securely (Jeremiah 33:16a). “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Amen.