The Days Are Coming!
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost Trinity Lutheran Church
19 July 2015 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell in safety. And this is the Name by which he will be called: Yahweh Our Righteousness.’”
“The days are coming,” the Lord promised. Good thing! After all, the days were very dark for the people of Judah. How bad were they? Let me tell you. Babylon was an up and coming world power. Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s gifted war general and king, had defeated mighty Egypt and now his eyes were on Israel. He wanted to gobble her up with one bite. So Nebuchadnezzar brutally attacked Jerusalem and humiliated King Jehoiakim. He carted off the prophet Daniel and his three friends, renaming them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Exile and monikered with Babylonian names was Nebuchadnezzar’s way of rubbing Israel’s nose in his victory.
A couple of years later Nebuchadnezzar viciously attacked Jerusalem again. He took King Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin into exile and replaced him with his uncle, Mattaniah (which means “Gift of Yahweh”). Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah (which means “The Righteousness of Yahweh”). Are you lost with all those hard to pronounce names? Don’t worry about it. You can read all about this history in 2 Kings. There’s really only one name I want you to remember at the moment and that’s the name Zedekiah.
Again, Zedekiah means “The Righteousness of Yahweh.” Nebuchadnezzar gave Mattaniah the name Zedekiah to mock God. Nebuchadnezzar was making fun of God’s apparent weakness by installing a 21-year-old pathetic puppet king who couldn’t make up his mind about much of anything.
Zedekiah was neither the Lord’s gift nor his righteousness. 2 Kings reveals the truth. Zedekiah “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Zedekiah continued the idolatry of his fathers that lead to the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem. He ignored the warnings of Jeremiah and tried to silence him. Instead of leading the people to Yahweh and His righteousness, He lead Israel to false worship, false trust, false alliances and finally ruin. He was the last of Judah’s kings – the end of King David’s line.
So, the Lord declares through Jeremiah: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” The Lord comes down very hard on those who mislead His people. Who teach them false doctrines. Who introduces false worship. God is very jealous for His people. His people are incredibly precious to Him. He wants what is best for them. They are His flock. His sheep. Nothing gets the Lord’s anger inflamed quicker than when those who have been given the office and responsibility to teach and to lead His people do not teach and lead.
Brothers and sisters, please remember that the word “pastor” is the Latin word for “shepherd.” So, woe to the pastors who destroy and scatter God’s flock whether it was in the Israel of the Old Testament or Israel of the New Testament, the church, made up of both Jew and Gentile. Woe to the pastors that do not use God’s Word but instead feed the sheep with whatever garbage they want to hear. “Because you scattered my flock and drove them away and did not care for them, I will punish you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. This is a frightful sentence. It should strike the fear of the Lord in the heart of every pastor, every shepherd of the Lord’s people.
That’s good. After all, we all need to be reminded that God does hold pastors accountable for their office. Yes, pastors are accountable to their congregations. Very true! They are accountable to every member of their congregations to keep the promises they made when they were ordained. When I was ordained I promised before God to preach His Word purely according to the confessions of the church; to baptize, and lord’s supper according to Christ’s mandate and institution; to exercise evangelical discipline of the members; to teach and catechize the young and the old; to hear confession and absolve sins in the Name of Jesus; to tend to the sick, the weak and the dying.
That’s exactly what Acts 20:28 means when it says: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops/pastors).” That’s exactly why Jesus said three times to Peter: “Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep,” (John 21:15-17). That’s precisely why Peter writes to his fellow pastors in one of his letters: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (as ones who watch over the flock), not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be,” (1 Peter 5:2). Hebrews 13:6 says, “Obey your pastors and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”
Brothers and sisters, one of the big truths in Scripture is that God holds His shepherds accountable. To Himself! Not to be successful but to be faithful! Not to make the flock happy but to keep it faithful to the Lord.
But this is exactly our problem: both pastors and people / shepherds and flocks. We don’t want to be under another. We want to be free wheeling, independent, stubborn, sheep. We will not be told what to do, even if it is God who is telling us what to do. We will not be guided, lead, taught, preached to or given to! New Testament Israel is just like Old Testament Israel!
Jesus encountered the same with the crowds that followed Him as if He were some kind of American Idol Rock Star or movie celebrity hunk. The crowds didn’t get it. So Jesus HAS COMPASSION ON THEM. He knows that they are like sheep without a shepherd. Lost. Straying. Fighting. Butting one another.
Note how He has compassion on them! He teaches them! Many things! He disciples them. Remember, disciples are made by baptizing in the Triune Name and teaching everything Jesus has taught. That’s why Jesus sends pastors who are shepherd-teachers.
We ought to thank God for the shepherds He sends us and pray for them. I say this not because I think pastors deserve more honor. In many ways pastors receive way too much honor already. In fact, they receive the wrong kind of honor – the kind of honor that keeps them safely at a distance and out of our lives. Brothers and sisters, the highest honor you can ever give a pastor is to hear him and take to heart God’s Word that he’s sent to preach and teach. When the pastor speaks God’s Word you are to hear it as God’s Word – God’s personal address to you. When the pastor calls you to repentance it is God’s call to repentance. When he warns you it is God’s warning. When he comforts you it is God’s comfort. When he teaches and forgives it is God’s teaching and forgiveness.
The mark of a faithful shepherd is that he preaches the Good Shepherd Jesus for you and for your salvation. “The days are coming,” says the Lord through Jeremiah, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” When all looks lost – when all are tempted to despair – God will shape the course of history in order to establish the kingdom of salvation. From the sawed off left for dead stump of King David’s family tree, destroyed by wicked sin, brazen rebellion, and in your face idolatry, God promises raise up a Branch. A king! Not like Zedekiah or any of the unfaithful kings in David’s lineage. God will give a king unlike any other earthly king. He will be a righteous king! A king who will do justice and righteousness in a land and an earth that know neither.
Who is Jeremiah talking about? You know. It’s King Jesus! Through Jeremiah God is promising the Messianic kingdom to Israel and to the world.
So the prophecy of Jeremiah has been fulfilled. The days that were promised have come. God has raised up this righteous Branch on David’s tree. He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. He was baptized in the Jordan River. He preached and taught with the compassion of God. He hung on the Good Friday cross to die for Israel, the world and FOR YOU. Jesus is God’s Shepherd King. He did justice to your sin by taking it in His body and getting damned with it in your place. He did what is right by atoning for all your sin with His divine bloody sacrifice on the cross. He takes all your bad and gives you all His good! He takes you sin and in exchange He gives you His righteousness. He takes your hell and gives you heaven.
Brothers and sisters, you and I are very fortunate to live in those days that Jeremiah could only see from a distance. From our perspective, we live in those days, “the last days,” the in-between days, days between Jesus’ death and resurrection and His appearing in glory on the Last Day. We live in the last days. The days in which God is gathering His scattered people, baptizing all nations, teaching them, gathering them into the church under shepherds who will lead and guide them according to His Word.
You are part of that. You are baptized. In that baptism you have His very Name stamped, branded or tattooed on you, His mark of ownership. And if you’re not baptized you should be. What’s keeping you? You are taught. You are fed with His Word and you come to His supper. You are under the care of Good Shepherd King Jesus.
Well, I need to finish. And I’d better hurry. So here goes. A little more of the Lord’s giving FOR YOU.
“And this is the name by which he will be called: Yahweh our Righteousness.”
What a name that is! The Lord Our Righteousness!
Did you catch that? The Lord is our Righteousness! That’s Jesus! He was made your sin, even though He was sinless, so that in Him, baptized into His death and His resurrection, you have the righteousness of God!
What joy! Gods deals with you through His Son. He puts Jesus between you and Him so that God doesn’t see you in your sinfulness. Instead, He sees you covered in the blood of Jesus! God looks at you through “rose colored glasses,” stained red by the blood of Good Friday King Jesus. Because of the shed blood of Jesus God the Father refuses to count your sin against you. It’s all filtered out and cleansed by the blood of Jesus’ death. All God sees now is the righteousness of King Savior Jesus.
Now don’t misunderstand. The preaching of Jesus in this way gives you no excuse to do whatever you please. Instead, the preaching of Jesus in this way means that you have the freedom to do what pleases God. The Lord Jesus is Your Righteousness! That’s the Name you bear in the world. It’s etched on your foreheads and hearts through Baptism. You are the Lord’s people. You are His chosen and holy people who show off their Good Shepherd’s righteousness in the world, before your family and friends, your neighbors and co-workers, at school and next door.
“The Lord Our Righteousness” is the name that makes all the difference in everything you do. Everywhere you go and in everything you are given to do, you are called to say with your lips and your lives: “Jesus is the Savior. He is our Righteousness.”
So, when things go well in your life Jesus is your righteousness. When things don’t go so well in your life, Jesus is still your righteousness. When you stumble, fall flat on your face, and sin Jesus is all the more your righteousness. Even if you are sent into exile, wilderness and the grave, Jesus is your righteousness. In the hour of your death, Jesus is your righteousness.
And finally, on the Last Day, when He calls you from the grave, He will still be your righteousness and you will still be His righteous people!
In the Name of Jesus.