For Advent 2018, Faith Church will be following the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. Each Sunday we’ll look at how the four readings tie together thematically, all supporting the goals of the season of Advent. Thus we are pausing our series on Deuteronomy. We’ll return to that after the New Year 2019. Why does Faith Church observe Advent? This post explains our thought. And this post from the Deuteronomy series refers to it as well.
In this series of posts we start by meeting a guy who was living in a very dark time. It was one of those difficult phases of life that most of us know by personal experience, times when you can look all around you and seriously question whether God is real, or if he is able to keep his promises. You look around you and you wonder, “Why? Lord,Why?”
I was talking to someone this week who was going through a difficult and painful time in their career, and they said that very thing, “Why is this happening to me?” At times like this, it can seems like there is no hope.
Maybe you’ve been there. The worst is when the difficulty and the pain carry on and seem like they are not going away anytime soon. As Tom Petty sang, “the waiting is the hardest part.” And in the waiting game,you can be very tempted to have dark thoughts.
So let’s meet Jeremiah. He was in one of those dark times. Turn with me to Jeremiah 33:14-16.
To get a sense of the backstory of this passage, look back at Jeremiah 32 where we learn that Jeremiah is prophesying at the very end of the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (which was the southern kingdom of Israel). The scene takes place in the capital of Judah, the famous city of Jerusalem. A powerful enemy force of the superpower nation of Babylon has built siege works around the city walls, and they are starving the people. It’s only a matter of time until the city gives up, and all is lost.
So Jeremiah, directed by the Lord, buys his cousin’s field, as a prophetic sign. Kinda weird, right? At that moment when Babylon’s armies are surrounding the city, God wants Jeremiah to buy a field? The people inside the city walls, Jeremiah’s friends and family would have been thinking, “Jeremiah, what in the world are you doing? This is a ridiculous time to buy anything. We’re all going to die!” But God had a reason for Jeremiah to buy the field, and he sure got their attention.
God’s message was that, though things look dire now, one day people will buy and sell property in the land again. Through Jeremiah, God says that Israel has turned its back on him, and so he is allowing Babylon to wipe Jerusalem from the face of the earth as punishment for Israel’s sins. But one day in the future, there will be restoration. And that promise of restoration is what we read about in Jeremiah chapter 33.
Specifically looking at 33:14-16, we see the words, “The days are coming!” What days? The days when God will fulfill the gracious promise he made to his people. Look at verses 15 and 16. There we read of the promise of a new king. He uses the image of a branch sprouting from David’s line. The famous second king of Israel, David was known as a “man after God’s own heart.” Long before Jeremiah’s time, 400 or so years earlier, David ruled the land, and God promised David that, if his descendants followed the way of the Lord, David would always have someone from his royal line on the throne of Israel. Well, as Jeremiah looked around the city, he knew the 400 year streak of having a Davidic king on the throne in Jerusalem was nearly over. The kings had turned away from God, and thus God allowed Babylon to capture them. And that is what eventually happened soon after this passage. Jerusalem was destroyed, and never again was a Davidic king on the throne.
But here in Jeremiah 33 we have a new hope, a prophecy of a new Davidic king who will come, who will do what is right and just in the land. A new day is coming, declares the Lord, a new David! And who might that be?
We find out about 600 years later,when God sends an angel to a humble unknown peasant girl. In Luke 1:26, the angel Gabriel appears suddenly to a young lady named Mary in the Northern Israelite town of Nazareth,and the angel says Mary is highly favored, that the Lord is with her. Mary’s life is about to change forever. The angel tells her in Luke 1:31 that she is going to bear a child, and that child will be great, the Son of the Most High, and get this, God will give Mary’s son the throne of his father David,and her son will rule over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end. Imagine Mary hearing that!
Mary knew that she was of the line of David, but 600 years had gone by. That would be like a descendant of George Washington in our day saying, “George Washington is my great, great, great,great, great, grandfather.” The lineage is interesting, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore. So there’s Mary, knowing that David is her great, great, great, great, great, grandfather. But what is God talking about? She’s going to have a son who will be on the throne of David? And he will have a kingdom that will never end? What does it mean? To get some perspective, we’ll need to turn to the second reading of the day, and we do that in the next post.