One of Those Days (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
Rev. Peter Heckert
+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.
The text for our meditation for this first Sunday in Advent comes from our Old Testament text, especially where Jeremiah prophecies, “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.” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …
Here we are, at the start of a brand-new church year! We’ve come full circle once again and entered that holy and reverent season of Advent, anticipating the coming of our Lord Jesus—both as the Babe of Bethlehem and also as the righteous Judge coming on clouds descending! We hold this season sacred, and for good reason: it is a season of hope.
That said, it can’t be denied that it’s a bit of a mixed bag, right? Such an anticipatory season … during a time of year when the days grow darker and shorter, when things slow down and brown and decay, as the temperatures drop and, for some individuals, seasonal affective disorder takes hold. That’s not to mention the rise in covetousness and materialism, along with the accompanying cynicism, as everyone scrambles and elbows and curses one another, just to take advantage of that really awesome sale. This year, it might seem even worse than usual, dealing with inflation and critical supply chain crises, a seemingly perpetual pandemic, living in a nation always on the edge of violence and disintegration, with a perfectly preventable tragedy in Waukesha being the latest example. These are hard times, where virtually every day seems to be “one of those days,” and that does make it a bit easier to relate to the author of our text, the “weeping prophet,” also known as Jeremiah.
He didn’t hold that moniker for no reason; indeed, Jeremiah had plenty of reason to weep and wail, mourn and lament. His was a life of struggle and hardship: called by God as a youth to be a prophet, to stay alone, unmarried and childless all his life, and to proclaim the truth of God’s Word in love … to hard-hearted, evil people who didn’t want to hear it, who actively opposed and abused him, tried to kill him, and eventually kidnapped him to Egypt. Jeremiah had it incredibly rough … for him, every day really was one of those days.
And he wasn’t exactly silent about it; thrice in Scripture, he lifts his cry and complaint to YHWH. In chapter 15, he cries out, “I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” Again, in chapter 20, after being beaten and humiliated by the false-prophet Pashur, Jeremiah writes, “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long ….” Beyond this, he wrote an entire book of his lamentations, crying out to YHWH for reprieve from his sufferings, painting Him as the instigator and perpetrator of all the prophet’s woes.
Yet … even in the midst of such agony and sorrow, even as he cries out, “[YHWH] is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces …,” he also writes, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’” Or, in the case of our text, “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.” So much hope … in the midst of such despair. As he trudged through life, through wanton suffering, outlandish corruption, and unfettered cruelty, how could Jeremiah say these things? Two words: God’s promise.
As a prophet, Jeremiah knew the reality of YHWH’s faithfulness, and that it was not diminished because of man’s faithlessness. The God of his fathers had made sure and certain promises to not only the prophet, not only to his people, Israel and Judah (in spite of their rank iniquity), but promises to the whole world. He had promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations. He had promised the people of Israel to lead them out of the land of Egypt and into the land flowing with milk and honey. He promised David to abide with him and all his line. Whether immediately or in the fullness of His timing, YHWH fulfilled those promises. Thus, Jeremiah trusted that, in the fullness of time, YHWH would send a redeemer. “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 our righteousness.’” He knew and proclaimed this promise to a people unworthy to receive it … but he did not live to see it fulfilled.
That’s a marked difference between us and Jeremiah. The weeping prophet lived in the hope of the promise, but still lived under the sacrificial system. He didn’t have the benefit of seeing the Meshiach born as a Babe in Bethlehem to a teenaged girl nobody. He didn’t hear all the teachings nor see the miracles of the man that babe grew up to be. He didn’t see Him bloodied and beaten, scourged and whipped, crucified and eventually killed. He didn’t hear Him cry out, “It is finished.” He didn’t see that holy body placed in a new tomb … nor did he see Him dislodge the stone from its place in front of His tomb and waltz out in glorious, victorious resurrection.
We didn’t actually see it ourselves either, but we believe, we trust, we know that the righteous Branch has sprung up from David. We know His justice was executed in His execution, as He made full atonement for our sins, and He gave His righteousness to all in the world who trust His Word. We know that God’s people are saved, and that in our baptisms, we His people received a new name by which we are called: “Christians,” that is, “Christ-bearers,” those who have been given His righteousness as a garment. HE is our righteousness, and it is by His name that we are known. We have the benefit of knowing who Jeremiah yearned to know: Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ, the incarnate Son of God, and we have the benefit of knowing that, because of His death on the cross, all our sins are forever atoned for, and eternal life is ours.
We can’t truthfully make an apples-to-apples comparison between ourselves and Jeremiah. Yes, there are similarities, but his situation and circumstances, the trials and tribulations which he faced are not the same as what we see today. There is one thing, though, that we do hold in common with Jeremiah: we live in a sure and certain expectation and hope for God’s promise to be fulfilled. For the prophet, it was the promise that the Messiah would come and save His people from their sins; for us, who live in this apostolic age after the Messiah has already completed His salvific work, we look forward in eager expectation to His return. One of these days, likely to be one of those days … is going to be the Day, when all wrongs are righted and our king comes on clouds descending to take us to be with Him forever.
+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.