The Sunday Next Before Advent, 2015
For The Epistle. Jeremiah 23:5-8
The Gospel. John 6:5-14
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Stir up we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.
We ask God this morning in our opening prayer that He would graciously intervene on His sometimes tired and weary people… in a special way as we anticipate another year ahead of us.
Its original version contains similar language but more to think about because of its wording.
Originally in the Gregorian Sacramentary in the 6th or 7th century the prayer read:
Stir up we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, more readily following after the fruit of thy divine working, may obtain from thy goodness, larger assistances.
Those two words in the beginning “Stir Up” translated from the Latin excita….to excite….have a double meaning.
1. God’s will.
2. Man’s power.
We desire then that God would rise up, stir up His might, His power, His strength and in turn excite our wills to perfect service.
And this brings together the idea behind our lessons for today and their goal in exciting us to a new year of service to God and to one another….all in light of what God has done for us and continues to do for us in a New Year.
The lesson for the Epistle is a vision of the restoration of Israel when all of its scattered children will return to the holy land under a king in the line of David.
The people of God were scattered and the land of Judah became a Babylonian province.
Jeremiah is prophesying that this would indeed be remedied at some future point.
Our Gospel lesson also a Pre-Advent lesson especially with the last line we heard this morning: “When the people saw the sign that he [Jesus] had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
(John 6:14 ESV)
But first our Lesson for the Epistle today: “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.’
(Jeremiah 23:5-6 ESV)
Why is Jeremiah saying this and why are we reading this right before the Advent of Christ?
At the time of Jeremiah, there were two kingdoms. North and South. Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
The northern kingdom had been carried into captivity by the Assyrians and Judah stood alone against her enemies. However, the southern kingdom of Judah had fallen into a bad state.
King Josiah who reigned when Jeremiah came onto the scene, tried to bring about reforms and restore the old order. He tore down pagan idols and temples and other signs of paganism.
The Book of the Law that had fallen into disuse and vanished was found and when it was read aloud the King and the people were reinvigorated.
Jeremiah assisted the king’s movement in spreading the message of restoration and obedience to the Only True and Living God.
Josiah was killed in battle unfortunately by a random arrow shot by the enemy. After Josiah died, wickedness returned to the land and eventually Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.
Consequently, the nation was carried away as was the north years earlier and taken into captivity in Babylon.
The Prophet Jeremiah who is writing today was around to see most of this.
He also, however, foresaw far beyond this entire calamity to how Babylon would eventually fall and a kingdom greater than all would rise wherein there would be righteousness and peace.
This is what we concentrate on in our day. Knowing this history helps us to understand God’s unfolding plan of redemption and how we are all a part in that.
Not executors of it, but recipients of it.
We are inheritors of what Jeremiah prophesied.
So when he writes: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD….” We know we are looking to something after Jeremiah, obviously, but we might still ask, how will this look??
It goes on: “…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch…”
In the kingly line of David, one would come who would be a Righteous Branch.
The branch is of course that which springs from the trunk….the main part of the tree.
He goes on: “…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.”
This king, this righteous branch will reign. He will deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days, both Judah and Israel (north and south,…both kingdoms) will dwell securely.
So there will be a uniting of all in other words.
And finally here is his title: “…And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 ESV)
Probably more accurate to say, Jehovah our righteousness. The LORD our Righteousness.
And of course it is Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of all of this prophetic utterance and prediction.
Working backwards, then, we see that Jesus is God because He has the title Jehovah….LORD. This is a challenge for all those who believe Jesus is some sort of secondary creature created by God.
Jeremiah here tells us that Jesus, the one to come (from his standpoint) is God Himself. Jesus is YHWH. Jesus is Jehovah.
He indeed did execute justice in the land in one way in His earthly travels.
He was a strong advocate of the weak and helpless. And in the last day He will be the ultimate vindicator of all those who are promised justice when He comes to judge the earth and show His salvation to all who are His.
At the same time, He was and still is the One who unites all nations.
Paul says that there is therefore neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is that righteous branch, come from the Father, who is the source of all. He is in the Davidic line….the line of Kind David so His kingship is further established on an earthy level.
He now sits, enthroned as King of Kings, executing justice and equity. Working all things to the end he desires.
But if we look over at the Gospel lesson today, all of this glorious imagery is concealed and cloaked in the story and the setting.
John 6 records that Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing the great multitude following Him, says to Philip, out of compassion, where can we buy bread that these people may eat?
On the surface it sounds like Jesus is asking Philip if there is a place close by where they can get some bread to feed these needy people….this scattered, hungry, tired people.
Philip sees the question at face value and begins to calculate what it would take. But Jesus has a deeper meaning to His question and as we read about it 2000 years later we can see a bigger picture being presented here….especially in light of what we have just heard about him from Jeremiah.
It’s as if Jesus were saying, “Philip, this multitude is in great need. They are in need of more than just food though. Where do you think the source of that food might be?
Do you think that we might buy bread so that they might eat and be satisfied for a short while? Or do they need something bigger and more life sustaining?
So to train Philip’s mind on His larger intent, Jesus takes the small amount of bread and fish and He multiplies it so that all of the people are able to eat and eat in abundance.
So He could have turned to Philip after or during all of this and say, “See Philip. I am the bread that these people need. It is not just the food I have given them, but it is I myself that they truly need.
The despairing of the disciples…Philip, Andrew also in this story. They saw only temporal answers at this time. They eventually came to understand the eternal and spiritual meaning behind all that Christ said and did.
But in this lush grassy place, they only saw the immediacy of it all.
Jesus was pleased to show them a greater and more perfect solution through this miracle.
This is what is so hard for so many at this time and for many even today.
This Jesus is not really on the surface very much like the Righteous King…the Exeuctor of Judgment and Justice...the One who reigns and prospers.
He looks too humble and meek. Even when we read about this miracle, without the eyes of faith, even this seems to not amount to much.
Hence the need for stirring. Hence the need for God to rise up and stir up in us eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to recognize that Jesus is the King foretold in the Old, realized in the New…
..so that we might with those who saw that day a glimpse of that Righteous King, say, (with one small change in wording) “ This is indeed the Prophet who [has] to come into the world!”
(John 6:14 ESV)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.