14The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In 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. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16 NRSV)
Jerusalem had been under Siege for a year and a half. SIEGE the word itself would send shivers down your spine. The armies of your enimies surround you, cut off food suplies, and wait. It was nothing less then the slow suffocation of a city. There was no way to eat, and there was no hope to survive. It turned people into monsters that did things that even the most corrupt men dare not whisper. Siege was the kind of bondage that would eat you from the inside out. As you body wasted away so often your humanity would fade. Even the most sacred bonds of love and family became twisted and depraved as the survival instinct overcame every ideal and virtue.
Jerusalem had been under Siege for a year and a half, and there wasn’t much hope that they would pull out of it alive.
Jeremiah had warned the people this would happen. He really had, he had done it with word and signs and cries. He had persisted even when other Prophets had been executed for saying the kinds of words he was saying, and now he was locked away by order of the King, darkness was at the door and there was little hope he would make it out alive.
The situation was BEYOND dire when Jeremiah heard the words of the prophesy above that WE so often associate with such hope and Joy. We, in the church, read this passage to “Kick off” advent and the new church year in just a couple weeks. In the season of advent we set aside time to prepare our hearts for Christmas when we remember when Jesus Christ took on flesh and came into this world. At this time we remember the words of those who waited for a savior, and rejoice in the knowledge that God was faithful to all his promises.
These words have come to mean far more then the thin hope they held for the original hearers. For us in the church they are how we begin the story that will take us through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These words offer a powerful language that the earliest Christians grabbed hold of as they encountered the Kingdom of God and said, “You see this (pointing to the the words of Jeremiah), THIS (pointing to the kingdom of God) is what he was talking about!”
There is such a sweetness to a promise that you can take hold of. There is such Joy in a God you can see at work. There is indescribable beauty in these words because for us they are such a powerful testimony to God’s faithfulness.
But remember Jerusalem had been under Siege for a year and a half, and when Jeremiah heard the words “The days are surely coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel” there wasn’t a good chance Jeremiah would ever make it out of prison alive to share the word of what God had spoken. This promise was not one he would taste in his lifetime, but he was still faithful, and there is something about that that stirs me.
In C.S. Lewis book “The Screwtape Letter” presents a series of letters from one Demon to Another on how to tempt and draw his charge to the gates of Hell. Over and over the Senior Devil, Screwtape, corrects the Junior devil, Wormwood, who seems intent on tempting in simple and obvious ways, the real truth requires a deeper understanding then is immediately obvious. In one exchange Screwtape explains the curious habit of God withdrawing from his beloved ones with these words, “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
When someone who has been stripped of everything still fights for what they know is right there is a new kind of force unleashed. There is a mysterious power in poverty. All of us recognize it. That is why we are moved by stories of faithful suffering.
- Nelson Mandela brought the attention of the world to Apartheid, because he suffered for 27 years in prison, much more then his actions that convicted him did.
- Mother Theresa’s life of service is incredible in and of itself, but is even more powerful in light of her memoirs in which she describes a period of 11 years where she felt completely isolated from God.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer is seen as an authority on discipleship because he believed what he said enough to die for it at the hands of the Nazis.
- The early Church so inspired the world around them through their suffering that the church father Tertullian wrote: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50)
We are moved by stories of faithful suffering…We recognize the power…But some people don’t just recognize the power, they know it. Jeremiah, like so many before and after him, knew that Power. And so did Jesus.Jesus Christ emptied himself, and took on flesh. He was mocked, he was ridiculed, he cried out to have the Cup of suffering taken away from him, but he was faithful to the end. THAT is why at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is LORD.
Christ calls, “follow me, take up your cross, and suffer, join with me in the work of saving this world.” But he doesn’t explain how it will work, he just calls us to do it, and in it we experiance something mystical. As we die we find there is a saving power of resurrection.So often we want it in reverse. We want resurrection without death. We want salvation without the cross. We want glory without humility. We turn God into a means for our love, joy, and peace… and rarely do we see that he is calling US to be HIS love, joy, and peace. Even when it costs us our lives.In John 12 Jesus says these words, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”Have you allowed God to plant you? Think about it. Have you allowed God to plant you? To bury you?Are you content to be a seed in comfort when God intends for you to sow in tears?
The Joy we know in the promise given through Jeremiah did not come through complacent people who were content to stay where they were but though those who looked round upon a universe from which every trace of God seemed to have vanished and still obeyed. And the one who cried “my God my God why have you forsaken me?” reconciled ALL THINGS to himself (Colossians 1:20).That my Friends is the mystery of our faithSo I ask you again, have you allowed God to plant you…The call is never over… Jesus tells us in Luke 9 “”If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. “
Not weekly, Monthly, or Yearly
It’s not about the mission trip you did last year. Or the year of service before that. It’s not about the soup kitchen last month, or the coat you gave away. It’s about who rules your life, DAILY
Let’s read that passage again
“The DAYS are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In 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. 16In those DAYS Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16 NRSV)
Are those days our days?
We rejoice in the Work of Christ Jesus, but to we live under his rule?
The pain of life is all too real some days, but the power of the Gospel is revealed in continuing to pick up the cross when we fall and to follow in the steps of our Lord on the way to Golgotha.
May God grant us all the grace to hold fast during the storms, and bring us into New Life Daily.