Jeremiah 23:5-8 (Midweek Advent Series)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 1, 2010
God’s Love Covers Me with Christ
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text this evening is the Old Testament Reading from Jeremiah 23:
“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. 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.’ “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,’ 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.”
God loves you dearly, and that is shown most clearly by the Lord’s desire to come to you to save you. Advent means “coming.” The Lord is coming. During Advent we joyfully relive the countdown to Bethlehem, waiting for the perfect timing of our God to send us our Savior as Mary’s son. We also rejoice that the Lord comes to us here and now in His forgiving ways—the Gospel, Baptism, absolution, and Christ’s body and blood. We might call this current coming of our Lord in His forgiving ways as a second advent.
But we also wait for another coming of our Lord—Jesus’ final advent. He is coming to set His people free. On the Last Day He will judge the living and the dead. How can you be sure you are prepared for that day? How can you be sure you will be found righteous, innocent, pure, and holy? By trusting God’s beautiful, comforting promise in Jeremiah 23:6 where God promises that Christ will be your righteousness, your perfect record—no wrongs and all good credited to your account as you trust in Christ. Because “this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ ”
“The Lord is our righteousness.” There can hardly be better news than this, for we are certainly not good enough in ourselves.
Rod Torreson, the poet laureate in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a Missouri Synod Lutheran school teacher. He grew up on a farm in Iowa. His family had a loyal farm dog. The dog was a tame, helpful, protector of the chickens and sheep. He was joyful. His whole back half would swing as his tail whipped when greeting his master. But this dog had a dark secret, a terrible double life. At night he would catch up with a pack of wild dogs and hang out. They didn’t smoke and play cards. They’d track down sheep; sink their canines past the wooly fluff right into lamb’s flesh. One morning the Torreson’s caught him sneaking home at sunrise with some lamb caught between his teeth.
You and I are living double lives, too. We look so tame and domesticated, pious little Christian family dogs. But there is a battle going on inside me, inside you. Wild dog thoughts race through our fevered minds. Animalistic instincts leap within us, seeking to be free. Free to sink our teeth into our best friend’s reputation by barking out cutting words. Free to wander off wherever we want into dens of iniquity. Free to stare our sharpened eyes on what the Lord does not want us to see, leering into the glowing computer screen, panting in the dark corner. Free to dump our Master and be our own masters as we chomp down hard on the flesh of rebellious fruit. Oh sure the loyal dog inside gains control for awhile, but “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). We have divided hearts and split minds. We’re tame on the outside, wild on the inside. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
Lord have mercy on us! Hosanna, that is, save us! Deliver us! And even before we cry out, He already has. For God loves us dearly. He saw our need before we were. Before His advent to judge our Lord comes twice—both advents to cover us with Christ’s righteousness, His perfect goodness, that at His last advent we can stand and live forever.
That is why the God who loves you dearly sends a righteous branch from David’s clan. A beginning tree doesn’t look like much, especially a little shoot growing out of a stump. But this shoot from the stump of David’s nearly decimated family tree has got a name: “the Lord is our righteousness.”
First, this branch that God raises up is not just anyone. He is “the Lord!” This is not just some regular old descendant of David. This offspring is not another Solomon who starts out with great promise but fails miserably. This is Yahweh Himself.
Second, this branch that God raises up is not just His own righteousness—proof of the Lord’s own holiness, goodness, and perfection—but He is your substitute. He has come to stand before the court of God’s judgment in your place. He has come to be your not guilty verdict and your straight A report card. “The Lord is our righteousness.”
What a blessed substitute before God’s judgment. In place of our sinful conception—for we all like King David, as Psalm 51:5 testifies, inherited sin from our parents—God places in evidence the sinless conception of Jesus. In place of our childhood disobedience, God places in evidence the perfect obedience of Mary’s Son. In place of our teenage foolish choices, Gods places in evidence the wise choices of Jesus’ early manhood. In place of all the good we’ve meant to do but left undone, God places in evidence the completed work of the God-man. In place of our death, part of the wages of our sin, God places in evidence Jesus’ death because it is the wages of all our sins. In other words, when God the Judge opens your record He sees Jesus’ record. According to God’s judgment you’ve lived every moment from the womb to the tomb without a single failure of any kind. For “the Lord is our righteousness!” Not even the tiniest smidgen of your sin is showing—only Christ.
But remember, it’s not that you are righteous, that you’ve done the good you ought. It’s that He is righteous. And by being in Christ you are righteous, for “the Lord is our righteousness.”
So, repent. Fess up. Yes, I am a poor, miserable, wild dog of a sinner. And the eternally free Son of God, who willingly bound Himself into our slavery, proclaims you free. And the angels are rejoicing. Welcome home. Eat the Lamb of God’s flesh to feed the believer and strengthen him for the daily battle against your wild dog flesh.
Abide, that is, hang out, stick around with, Christ and His Word, Holy Scripture. Abide, hang out, dwell in the Church, the hospital for dogs infected with mad dog disease. Live in the embrace of your Baptism into Christ’s resurrection. You are God’s own child—even as the war in your body continues. The Son has defeated sin, satanic wolf, and death for you and declared you free. And on that last advent, the Day of the Resurrection, you in Christ will be completely free, no more sickness, no more aching tiredness, no more chaos, no more sin—you’ll then be as righteous as Jesus is for you today and on Judgment Day.
Until that final advent, return to the new life God gave you in Baptism. Hear your true Master’s voice. Confess the truth God’s Scripture gives you: I am a sinner. I deserve eternal punishment. But the Lord is my righteousness. Amen