May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us. Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, dear believers,
Last Judgment Sunday – it doesn’t exactly fill our hearts with joy and excitement. It all seems so depressing. It makes us consider what our sins have earned for us. It can lead us to despair, thinking there is no way we can make the cut and get into heaven. Last Judgment Sunday – it all seems so focused on our failures. It screams condemnation and damnation. These things are all true when we look at them through the lenses of God’s law. But today doesn’t need to be a downer. Today can be a day of joy and rejoicing. Today we are reminded of the comfort we have in Christ. In Christ Judgment Day is not a day we dread or day that causes us to despair. In Christ we actually look forward to the day of his return. We eagerly anticipate him saying to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Once again we focus on and rejoice in God’s amazing grace. So the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the words of Jeremiah the prophet encouraging: Look forward to the Lord’s return!
Certainly, we are happy to receive encouragement from the Spirit as we consider our Lord’s return. It is good for us for the Spirit to point us once again to Christ so that we stop looking to ourselves and our lives for comfort in the face of judgment. Yet, we still wonder how? How can we look forward to the Lord’s return? One thing we learn from this account of Jeremiah the prophet is that we can look forward to the Lord’s return by listening to his Word.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. So Paul wrote to the Romans. His words still ring true. God still speaks to us and encourages us through the words of Holy Scripture. We would do well to listen to them. We will be blessed by listening to the Word of the Lord. So let’s pay close attention to the message from God that comes to us through Jeremiah: Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.’”
Consider this king who refused to listen to the Lord. His name was Jehoiakim. He was an evil king who made life difficult for the Lord’s prophets. He would not listen to the Word of the Lord and suffered dearly because of his inattention to the Word of God. Learn from his negative example that tuning out God and following the ways of the world will not pay off at the end of time and may lead to serious problems before then.
Consider the faithful prophet who continued to speak a message that was unpopular with king and commoner alike. Learn from Jeremiah that the difficulties we face as we cling to the Word of the Lord will quickly be forgotten before the throne of God in heaven.
Consider this one, true God who continues to hold out hope for his dearly loved people, even as they seem determined to turn away from him. Stand in awe of how merciful God is to everyone – including us. Learn from God to always hold out hope whenever the Word is at work.
Friends, the Word is that important. It serves to condemn disobedience. Certainly, we see that at work in this account of Jeremiah and the harsh message he had to announce. But always remember what is behind such a harsh law message – a heart of a perfectly loving God who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God calls people to repent so that he can announce forgiveness to them. The Word is not just this harsh Word that demands repentance, it is also the comforting Word that announces forgiveness to poor souls distressed over their many sins.
The Word gives us proper preparation for the Lord’s return for the Word focuses us on Christ – the God-man, our Savior and substitute. With this focus we are moved to cling to God’s promises. As God promised a Savior and was true to his promise, so when God promises forgiveness in his Word and through his sacraments – he remains true to this promise. Through the Word we grow in the grace. We grow to appreciate God’s great mercy. We grow in our understanding of God’s love for us in Christ. We grow to actually look forward to the day of our Savior’s return.
So God urges us to look forward to the Lord’s return by listening to his Word! This makes a whole lot of sense, for in his Word we are focused on Christ as our only hope for salvation. It makes sense because the Word works to create and grow faith. It makes sense because the Word is the life-line that keeps us connected to Jesus. But there is another encouragement for us found in this account from Jeremiah 26. Look forward to the Lord’s return by turning away from sin.
Listen to how the Lord pleaded with his people Israel through his prophet Jeremiah! This is the very same way that God deals with us. Yes, listen to the Lord’s pleading. Through Paul he pleads with us, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Through Ezekiel God announces, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, Repent and live!” In his private conversation with Jeremiah God bares his heart for us to see and hear. He says, “Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way.” God wants us to see our sins and repent of them.
Yes, God wants our lives to be lives of repentance. This means we need to be aware of sin. So God gives us his law which makes our sinfulness painfully clear. God condemns us for our sin. God doesn’t mince words or sugar coat our natural condition from conception. We are guilty. We stand condemned. We deserve to spend our eternity in hell. This causes us to feel the wrath of God. This leads us to painfully long for and cry out for God’s mercy.
God wants our lives to be lives of repentance. However, repentance is more than sorrow and regret over sin. It also consists in trust in Christ. So through his Gospel, God focuses us on Christ. Living for Christ means clinging to him and him alone for forgiveness and salvation. Oh, what a great Savior we have! He is our life! He is everything to us for without him we would be eternally lost. Look to Christ for your forgiveness, for your life, for your joy. This kind of focus on Christ is a great gift and blessing from God. Faith is a gift that God gives us. Through this gift of faith we cling to Christ and Christ alone for our deliverance from sin, death, and the devil.
Dear fellow children of God, we are indeed blessed. By his miraculous grace our ears have been opened to his Word. We are blessed with the certainty of faith – the certainty of knowing that Christ has done everything necessary for our salvation – the certainty of knowing the God loves us – the certainty of knowing we will hear Judge Jesus announce that we are not guilty! Live in this certainty! Find your confidence in Christ! Yes, friends by God’s grace we look forward to the Lord’s return! We look forward to it because we listen to his Word and we strive to turn away from all sin! Our gracious God works in our hearts through Word and Sacrament so that we grow to live our faith more and more and do all things to the glory of our Savior God! Because of Jesus the Last Day will be a day of great celebration for us – the first day of eternity with our dear Lord! Oh, what a glorious future our gracious God has given us through Christ! May we express our thanks eternally! Amen.