Thursday, December 14, 2017

Is Jesus the One?

Matthew 11:2-11 John the Baptist was the one who baptized Jesus.  He proclaimed Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus and heard the Father’s voice proclaiming him his Son. 
Because of this, many early church fathers and modern bible teachers reject the idea that John was now having doubts.  They say that John is preparing his own disciples to follow Jesus upon his death in prison and so he wanted them to hear with their own ears what Jesus had to say about himself.  But what we see here is an odd way to do that.
What I think is really behind their unwillingness to admit that John is having a crisis of faith is a kind of “hero-worship” and Jesus himself says that among those born to women none are greater than John.  But in saying that Jesus also I making the point that John IS among those born to women. 
In other words, he is a fallen, sinful human being just like the rest of us and he is susceptible to the same struggle and doubts that we all have and how much more would that be true for John who knew what happened to prophets who publicly criticized kings. 
And so this story, like the story of all the great heroes of the faith is written for our instruction so that we would learn what to do with our faith struggle and doubts and that is to take them to Jesus.
When I gave my sermon title to Bobbie, “Is Jesus the One?” she immediately said:  “yes!” and that is exactly where the Holy Spirit wants to bring each one of us today.  The Bible says that: 
“when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
            Are you the one?  I don’t know if a more important question has ever been asked-- or can be asked--and we too need to know the answer to it and be certain about it.  Is Jesus the One?  Is he the One that we can stake our entire life on?  Or is there another?  Is he the one in whom all the promises of God are fulfilled or not? 
To ask this question and to seek an answer is not sinful doubt–at least not the way John asked it and the approach he took.
            What did John do with his questions?  He turned to Jesus.  He turned to Jesus as the one who could answer his question-he turned to Jesus for assurance that his faith was not misplaced.  What John did, and the questions he had, was a deep expression of faith that is completely consistent with other great statements of faith in the Bible.  After all, “Lord I believe–help my unbelief” is the prayer of a believer not an unbeliever.
            All of us have faith questions at times–all of us struggle to understand portions of Holy Scripture–all of us want to grow in our faith and in our confidence in God.  John the Baptist shows us the way to do that.  Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Search his Word.  That is exactly what Jesus would have us do.  He said:
 “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them”.
            In effect Jesus says, search the Scriptures–see what they say of the Messiah–and then see what I do and you will know the truth–that I am the one.  Yes there are still things to come–but trust the one who has already fulfilled so much-- to accomplish the rest.  Jesus gives the same answer today to those who struggle with doubts and questions. 
God is not afraid of our questions–he is not ashamed of our struggles.  He wants us to have the assurance of a deep and abiding faith and so he invites us to turn to his son Jesus–to search the Scriptures—to pray to him—and to receive the sacraments for assurance-- so that our faith in Christ does not waver.
            We need that Spirit-given certainty BECAUSE when it comes to the person and work of Jesus (as it is revealed in Holy Scripture and proclaimed by the Church) doubt is not a virtue.  Doubt is not the sign of a discerning spirit or intellectual superiority.  Doubt and skepticism, when it comes to our faith in Jesus Christ, are tools of Satan that are used to trip us up in our walk of faith and the spiritual consequences are severe.
            Twisting Scriptures to his own advantage–asking us, as he did Adam and Eve:  “did God really say”--causing us to doubt--Satan desires to steal our salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.  That’s what’s at stake when it comes to doubt and it’s deadly serious.
            Jesus told John’s disciples: Blessed is the one who is not offended because of me”.  In the original Greek, that word translated as “offended” means to “trip up” and the word itself is the technical term for a kind of trap used to kill small animals. 
            Life and death are what’s at stake when it comes to knowing and believing what Jesus says about himself–that he is the one--none other than the True God in human flesh–the Messiah sent to save us from our sins by his own death and resurrection.  It is eternal life to know that and believe that for ourselves. 
That is the message that the disciples were to relay to John as he faced his own death-- and that is what Jesus would have us know and believe today.  And for the people who surrounded him that day listening in, and for us here today, Jesus makes the question personal.  The Bible says that:
“As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John:  ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  What then did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft clothing?  Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in king’s houses”. 
Jesus says in effect, “What about you?  Where is your faith in all this?  What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  Something for entertainment value?  What did you go out to hear?  Were you drawn to John because he told you what your itching ears wanted to hear or because he spoke the truth about the One to come? 
            That’s still a good question for us to ask ourselves regarding our worship services and our pastors. 
Do you listen to what the pastor has to say because he tells you what you want to hear- or do you listen because he brings you God’s Word even when you don’t like to hear it?  Is he a reed swayed back and forth by every wind of doctrine-- or does he stand fast on those eternal truths handed down by the prophets and apostles of old?  Do you come to worship to be entertained and visit with friends or to grow in your faith and knowledge of Jesus? 
            The answer for the people that day was that they went out to John precisely because he brought God’s Word–not like their religious leaders who taught the doctrines of men–but because John would not be swayed by the opinions of men.  They went to John because he unswervingly held to the central message of the Kingdom of God–to repent of sins and believe in Jesus.  That message is life and salvation and the people received it in faith. 
            And so what was John’s reward for his faithful service?  Fine clothes?  A room in the king’s house?  No!  He was cast into the king’s prison in the rough camel hair garments of his Jordan days–known as a true prophet of God not only for his faithful proclamation-- but also for the opposition he received and the suffering he endured from sinful men-- like so many faithful men of God.  And among them all-past, present and future–John the Baptist was the greatest.  Jesus said:
“What then did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’”. 
            This was why it is so necessary to recognize who John was and why he was so important–he was the messenger sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. 
To know John the Baptist and to believe his message is to know and believe in Jesus the Messiah of God.  That is how important John the Baptist was—because he pointed to Jesus as the Savior of the world.
            As remarkable and as wonderful as all this is, Jesus saves the best for last-- for he tells us that those who are the least in the kingdom of heaven are greater than even John the Baptist–the greatest man who ever lived.  Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.  Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” 
How is that possible that you and me–regular folks with regular lives-- least in the Kingdom of Heaven as it were--are even greater than John the Baptist?
            It’s because we have been blessed to see the whole salvation story that God tells in the death, resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.  John would not live to see it–he was executed a short time after these events. 

He never got to see Christ’s death on the cross that atoned for the sins of the world.  He never got to witness the glorious resurrection that changed the course of the world from death to life.  But we have heard it and seen it through the Word and Sacraments and by these gifts of God’s grace we know that Jesus is indeed the One.  Amen.

The Sun of Righteousness


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Sun of Righteousness

Malachi 4:1-6 Malachi prophesied in those years after the return of the Israelites from Babylon.  God keep his promise to bring them home.  He was faithful.  But in very short order their faithfulness to the Lord who delivered them began to falter.
They became more interested in their own homes and businesses than rebuilding the house of the Lord.  They didn’t bring their best offerings to the Lord and simply went through the motions in worship.  They couldn’t understand why God wasn’t blessing them—why the evil seemed to be doing just as well as they were doing.  And the Lord spoke through his messenger:
"Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.
            God had not forgotten about justice—he had not abandoned his expectations for how people should live their lives—evil would not win out in the end-- for the day of fiery judgment was coming. 
Very few things are as clearly taught in the Bible as eternal punishment by fire.  Human beings are terrified of being burned in a fire—the pain is unbelievable.   To think of eternal torment in the fires of hell is horrible.  It’s meant to be.
Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels and not for men.  There is absolutely no reason for any person to go to hell.  But that punishment will most certainly await the arrogant and the evildoers.  Malachi says they are ripe for judgment like stubble that quickly catches on fire. 
It is important to note that besides evildoers, the arrogant will also go into the fires of hell.  We would expect the evil to be cast into the fire.  All of us can picture Hitler and Stalin receiving the just punishment of their evil deeds.  But the arrogant?
That hits a little close to home.  The Lord had a warning for the people of Malachi’s day who thought that their homes were more important than the Lord’s house—who thought that the Lord ought to be satisfied with their worship when their hearts weren’t in it—who questioned the ways of the Lord—the message was:  you too will go into the fires of hell with all of those who do evil.  Malachi said:
The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
            It is important to note whose words of judgment these are.  Malachi is the one who is speaking them—but they are the Word of the Lord—the Lord of hosts.  This title means the Lord of heavenly armies—the Lord who cannot be conquered—the Lord of power and might who will utterly destroy his enemies. 
We will listen to this warning or not-- but there should be no confusion on anyone’s part who it is that is speaking these words to us tonight.
The judgment and punishment for the evil and arrogant will mean the destruction of everything they hoped for—destruction so complete and final that they cannot rise again.  Evil was not a part of God’s good creation in the beginning-- and it will not be part of his new creation at the end. 
The evil and the arrogant and all of those who stand against God’s ways will be separated from the Lord and his people by a fiery chasm that no one can ever cross for all eternity—a place of torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Because of the certainty of that day, because of the eternal consequences of that day, there is one thing that we need to know and that is:  how to avoid the punishment to come.  The LORD said:
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
            When we recite the Ten Commandments we begin with:  You shall have no other gods before me.  But these are not the first words that Moses heard on Horeb.  God gave the law to Moses beginning this way:  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  I am the LORD. 
Before Moses went to Egypt, he asked God his name and God answered:  I AM.  The God who was and is and always will be.  Yahweh.  Jehovah.  The LORD.  God’s name is not just some title—it is who he is in his very essence.
I take time to explain this because it is only those who fear the Lord’s name who will greet the day of judgment with gladness—it is only those who know God as their Savior who will experience healing rather than punishment on that day—it is only those who fear him who will know that day as glorious light rather than deepest darkness.
It was the great I AM who delivered the Israelites and set them free from Egypt and it was the great I AM in the person of Jesus of Nazareth who delivered the world and set us free by his death and resurrection. 
During his earthly ministry Jesus wanted to make sure that everyone knew who he was.  He said:  I AM the bread of life.  I AM the light of the world.  I AM the living water.  Before Abraham was—I AM.
Those who believe in him and trust him and receive him in faith as their Savior and stand in awe of the holy name of Jesus:  The LORD saves—have nothing to fear on the day of judgment.  There will be healing and restoration and new life for us on that day—a day of eternal vitality and gladness where death will be destroyed and all that is broken, healed. 
Malachi says that on that day when the evil and arrogant are cast into eternal fire, we who fear the name of the Lord will be like calves let loose from the stall—no longer constrained by the hardships of this life that pen us in—no longer confined by the darkness of this dying world--but free to live in the brilliant sun of an everlasting day.
That day will not only be vindication for the Lord but victory for us.  Malachi said that all who fear the name of the Lord:
shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
            Throughout the world today there are people in positions of power and influence who misuse and abuse God’s people.  Christians are imprisoned and killed for their faith—pastors’ lives are made miserable for speaking the truth—decent, hardworking folks are defrauded and robbed.  None of this escapes the eyes of the Lord.
And while the child of God is called upon to follow in way of the cross in this world, not avenging ourselves of the wrong done to us—there is a day of vengeance to come when we will see all of those who have used wealth and power and influence to misuse and mistreat us-- not only kneel before the Lord as he pronounces eternal fiery punishment—but we will see them as ashes under our own feet.
These words of warning must lead us to ask ourselves:  Do I truly fear the name of the LORD or am I deceiving myself and others?  Will I stand victorious on that day or will I be ashes under the feet of the righteous?  The only way to know the truth about whether or not our faith is real is to ask ourselves how we are living our life.  Is our faith shown in what we say and do and how we treat others?  The LORD said:
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
As we have already mentioned, when God gave the Ten Commandments at Mt. Horeb he began by reminding his people of his redeeming work—that it was because he had saved them that he was calling them to live a holy life, guided and informed and shaped by the statutes and rules he was giving them.
These words that call us to remember the Ten Commandments were words that the people of Malachi’s day needed to hear-- and we do too.  We can fake fear of the Lord by sitting in pews and putting money in the plate—Malachi’s people did it-- and people still do today.  We can deceive others and ourselves-- but we cannot deceive God. 
God sees and knows the truth.  Do we truly love him by worshiping him and honoring his name and putting him first-- or is our faith just pious sounding words?  Do we love our neighbor by caring for their physical needs and making sure they have the necessities of life and speaking well of them to others-- or is our love empty words?  
We have been delivered and set free from sin by Jesus Christ and are called to holiness of life—our thoughts, words, and deeds guided by the Ten Commandments so that our life with God is marked by an active, living faith-- rather than by empty words which will not stand on the fiery day of his return.  The LORD said:
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction."
Before God sent the flood that destroyed the world—he raised up Noah to warn the world of judgment and deliverance.  Before God destroyed Nineveh he sent Jonah to warn them of God’s judgment and call them to repentance.  And before God destroys the world on the last day he has sent John the Baptist to call people to repentance and faith—warning that the ax of God’s judgment was already laid at the root of the tree.
The message of God through these men was exactly the same:  repent and look in faith to the LORD for deliverance and salvation.  It is the same message you are hearing tonight. 

Each of us has an opportunity right now—a moment full of God’s grace—in which to listen to the voice of God through his chosen spokesmen, repent of our sins, and trust in the one they all pointed to as the Sun of Righteousness:  Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Your Redemption Is Drawing Near!


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Your Redemption Is Drawing Near!

Luke 21:25-36 The sun came up this morning just as it always has-- and it will go down tonight just as it always has—and the moon will rise just as it always has.  The earth is beneath our feet, the sky is above us, and the oceans are kept within their boundaries.
That’s the way it has always been and even the chronic worry warts among us never give these astronomical and geographical facts a second thought.  But what we take for granted in the heavens and on earth-- won’t always be that way.  Jesus says: 
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
What has existed in the natural world from the very beginning of time--what countless generations have experienced to be true and constant--will change as the broken-ness of creation that is due to human sin reaches its final, horrible conclusion and the heavens and the earth and the oceans will begin to come apart at the seams. 
In the midst of these signs in the physical world, Jesus will return and all people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
When Christ ascended into heaven, he promised his disciples he would come again exactly as he left.  And so he will return again–down to the last detail–just like he promised—and if this is the faithfulness with which Christ will fulfill his promise to return, we can be confident that Christ is faithfully fulfilling his other promises to us: promises to bless us and forgive us–promises to abide with us and provide for us.
When Christ came the first time, he came in the meekness and humility of a little baby.  But when he comes again, he will come in power and glory–everyone will see him, know him to be the King of Glory, and bow their knees in either in faith or in fear.  Everyone!
During Jesus’ life upon this earth it was possible to ignore him.  He never preached to great crowds.  As hung upon the cross outside of Jerusalem, people turned their heads away--glad that some criminal was getting what he deserved.  As he comes today through Word and Sacraments, we know how often he is ignored, scorned, and ridiculed.
But when Christ comes again, he will come with power and glory–the fullness of his divinity shining through his human flesh and everyone in the world will see him and know him for who he really is: the living God of the universe who brings judgment and redemption.    
On that day, there will be distress among the nations and people will faint with fear.  And why not?  Everything that unbelievers have lived their lives for–everything that they have trusted in–everything that has filled their lives to the exclusion of Christ, will pass away.  Everything that has taken the place of Christ in the lives of unbelievers will be destroyed. 
In God’s perfect judgment, their empty way of life and foolish thinking will be shown for what it is.  Can you imagine it?  Everything gone in an instant and the only thing that will have ever mattered is what their relationship was with Jesus Christ--and then the horrible realization that they had traded it away for things that no longer exist. 
I can not imagine anything more horrible than to stand in the presence of the Son of Man knowing that I had rejected him in life.  No wonder they will be filled with fear and distress!
But for the believer, just the opposite is true.  In the midst of these frightening signs, even with the world crashing down around us, we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to run and hide.  We can lift up our heads-- and see our redemption draw near as Christ returns.  He says:
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 
On the day of our Lord’s return, we won’t have hide our face in shame or cower in fear.  We will stand in his presence blameless and holy–not because we are perfect--but because, through faith in Jesus, the Lord is our righteousness and his perfect righteousness avails in the time of trial and judgment.
When Christ returns in glory and power all that we know and believe and hope for and trust in by faith will be proved true for the world to see and we will be vindicated for having put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 
All of the blessings that Jesus earned for us in his perfect life, bloody death, and glorious resurrection will be ours for eternity.  Our full redemption will be at hand.
Of course that begs the question, if Christ brings full redemption at his second coming what is it that I have now by faith?   Well, redemption!
Christ has redeemed us, that is bought us back with the price of his own shed blood on the cross from slavery to sin, death, and the devil.  These evil foes that he has redeemed us from have no right to us at all–we are God’s own children through faith in Jesus and we live in the power of his resurrection life.
And yet in this sinful broken world we still feel the painful attacks and effects of our spiritual enemies: we are tempted by the devil, the effects of sin batter us about as we become sick or suffer some other misfortune, and one day, unless the Lord comes first, we will die.
But when Christ comes again, the fullness of our redemption will come with him.  We will see with perfect clarity what Christ has redeemed us for.  On that day, we will no longer struggle under the burden of our sinful flesh.  No longer will the hateful effects of sin bring disease and disaster and heartache into our lives.  No longer will we stand beside the grave side of a loved one and mourn their passing.
When Christ comes again, it will be a day of rejoicing for all who have received him in faith and trusted in him for salvation.  Not a time for fear or worry or anguish–not a time to run and hide-- but a time to look up and see our Savior who comes to us with all the blessings of Almighty God.
Knowing this and looking forward to it in faith, how then are we to live our lives as we look forward with joy to that day?  Jesus says:
“Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
As we wait for the Lord’s return, we are to be careful so that we don’t let our hearts get weighed down by drunkenness and the anxieties of this life.  Jesus warns us about this because even we Christians are susceptible to this temptation.
This is a difficult world we live in. There is so much fear and uncertainty that plagues our lives at times.  The devil offers us an easy solution: drown your sorrows with alcohol or some other substance or thing like drugs or pornography.  Even Christians have to be on guard so that we don’t fall victim to the devil’s lie that these are easy ways to deal with the pain of living in a broken world.
These things do not offer freedom and relief but an ever deeper slavery and addiction to the things of this world and ultimately to the prince of this world.  Satan uses these things to delude us into thinking that the emptiness that we feel in our lives can be fixed by something other than God.
That is a lie-- and to continue on in a satanic delusion that anything other than God is the way to feel better about life will lead to the death of our soul.  When we are imprisoned by these Satanic shackles, the day of judgment will fall upon us like a trap and then it will be too late.
Jesus does not want this to happen to anyone and so he tells us ahead of time to be watchful for the signs of his coming—which are as clear as the signs in nature.  He says:
“Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 
According to the Lord’s own promise, the generation of those who know the signs of his coming and look expectantly and faithfully for the coming of the Son of Man has never passed away.  The gates of hell will not prevail against us!
To make sure that we remain steadfast, Christ tells us that we are to strengthen our hearts by watching and praying and making use of God’s Word which endures forever. 
That means that we are present at the Divine Service when the Word is read and preached and that we receive Holy Absolution.  It means that devotions and prayers are an important part of our life at home.  It means that we receive Christ’s true body and blood in the Sacrament-often- as God’s own promise that the blessings of Jesus’ death and resurrection are for us personally and individually.

Amidst all the uncertainty around us, we don’t have to be apprehensive or fearful.  Even when the world itself comes to an end we don’t have to be afraid.  God loves us.  He has sent his Son into this world to live and die for us.  And he is coming again to bring us the fullness of our redemption–a life of peace and joy and blessing that will never end.  Amen.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Righteous Branch


The Righteous Branch

Jeremiah 23:5-8 What does the future hold for us and our nation?  We don’t really know, do we?  But as we look forward there is much to be concerned about. 
We have powerful enemies throughout the world who hate us and would destroy us if they could.  Our own leaders don’t come close to measuring up to those godly men who guided our nation at it beginning.  And even the visible church is torn apart by faithlessness and the rejection of God’s truth.
Looking towards the future, given what we see right now before  our eyes, it is hard for us to hope for better days.
That was the situation in Jeremiah’s day as well.  Josiah had been a great king who followed after the LORD and ruled his nation wisely but the men who followed him abandoned the LORD. 
Assyria and Egypt and finally Babylon were the great empires on the world stage and all of them stood against Judah and finally would bring it to ruin. 
And God’s ancient people abandoned the LORD again and again and followed in the ways and thinking of the pagans around them.
The days in which Jeremiah was called by God to speak his Word were—like our own days—very dark indeed and hope was in short supply.  In the midst of that seemingly hopeless situation, the LORD spoke these words of better days to come when he would raise up the Righteous Branch to save and rule his people: 
“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.
            Despite living in dark days, or perhaps, because of it, we need to be reminded that Advent season is a season of hope.  The LORD points us to better days to come and we trust his promise that even in the midst of hard times and dark days he always has the well-being of his people at heart and is working for our good.  This promise of better days gives us the encouragement we need to face the future unafraid—whether it is dangerous enemies; or faithless leaders; or churches who have lost their way. 
And so then, as bleak as the situation is on the world stage—as faithfulness as is many part of the visible church—as lacking are our leaders—God has promised that we can look to the future with hope. 
That was the promise the Lord made to the people of Jeremiah’s day as well and the fulfillment of this promise for God’s people of the past -and God’s people of today-is found in exactly the same person and that is Jesus Christ.
He is the Righteous Branch from David’s line Jeremiah promised would rule God’s people in wisdom and justice in a kingdom of grace and peace and truth.
The northern Kingdom of Israel would be destroyed and lost to history; the southern Kingdom of Judah would go into exile and never again be a political power; but God’s kingdom and his righteous rule would go on forever as Jesus Christ took his rightful reign in the human hearts who trusted in the promise of a Righteous Branch and now know its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
That is what the Kingdom of God is:  the reign of Christ in our hearts and it is mightier and more wonderful than any earthly kingdom or empire that has ever existed-- for it is not bound by space or time but is found wherever there are people whose King is the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Our king rules his kingdom with wisdom and justice and grace and mercy and he rules all things in heaven and earth in such a way that it ultimately benefits his people and works for our salvation.  God promises us that:
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.’ 
When the Holy Spirit gave Jeremiah these words to preach and write, Israel had already been overcome by Assyria and their people carried into slavery.  The same judgment was about to befall Judah at the hands of the Babylonians.  And yet the LORD promised salvation and security to God’s people—all of them.
That is what the LORD meant when Jeremiah promised that both Israel and Judah would be saved—this was the biblical way of speaking of the fullness of God’s people in the Old Testament. 
But that fullness of salvation and security that the Righteous Branch would accomplish, God intended would include people from every place and time who are brought together by faith in Jesus Christ.
1. He is the one and only one who is our righteousness in God’s sight.  2. He is the LORD—the Savior God who has always come to the aid of his people.  3. He is the Righteous Branch who is the true Davidic King. 
He is the one who took on our flesh and bore our sins and fulfilled all righteousness in our place so that believing in him—his own righteousness and holiness and goodness becomes our own and we take our place in his kingdom.
Judah and Israel and believers in every time and place including us here today have been saved by his work on our behalf. 
Judah and Israel and believers in every time and place can know that their life with God right here and now --and their eternal future-- rest safe and secure in his nail-scarred hands.
These things are true for all of God’s people because they are built on the foundation of the accomplished facts of salvation history.  Jeremiah wrote: 
“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.’
            When we think about the future, particularly given the direction that the world is going right now—it is hard to see how things will get better—it is hard to have hope.  And so we are always tempted to look back—to long for what are called “the good ole days”—to believe that God’s saving work for us is only in the past
That’s where the people of God found themselves in Jeremiah’s day.  They looked back to God’s mighty deliverance of their forefathers from slavery in Egypt with a kind of nostalgia that robbed them of hope in the future. 
They believed that the LORD was a Savior God—they trusted that he really had delivered and cared for his people—but they thought that that God’s mighty saving works were all behind them. 
But Jeremiah assured them (with the same certainly with which they could look back in salvation history and see the mighty saving acts of the LORD) that in the same way they could also look forward into the future with hope-- and know that the LORD was still the same mighty, loving God he had always been and could be counted on to deliver his people from their enemies just as he had in the past.
Judah would go into exile in Babylon but just as prophesied by Jeremiah they would also come out of Babylon and return—and this promised deliverance would also be an accomplished fact of salvation history just as certainly as their forefathers walked out of Egypt.
So it is for us.  Jesus Christ has redeemed us at the cost of his life’s blood upon the cross and set us free from our enemies of sin, death and the devil.  He was raised from the dead to give us a hope that transcends death.  His death and resurrection are the accomplished facts of salvation history.  They happened in a particular moment on a particular day in history—a day that is now 2,000 years in the past.
But this same living, ascended, reigning King assures us that his mighty saving works are not all in the past—that he will come again in glory and stand upon the earth and bring us to our heavenly home.  That is the promise that has always sustained God’s people.  Jeremiah promised:  Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
            God kept that promise and brought them home to the land he had promised to give them many years before.  Despite the dark days that were before them; despite the fact that they would go through years of exile; God would bring them home.
So it is for us.  We are strangers and exiles in a dark and dying world.  We are a pilgrim people far from our true home.  But God is faithful to his promises and he will bring us to himself in our true fatherland of heaven. 

That is our hope and the Righteous Branch, Jesus Christ—who has set us free from slavery to sin and death at the cost of his own life’s blood—will rule our live in such a wise and gracious way that he will bring us to the home he has prepared for us.  Amen.