We are at a very interesting time that gives us great opportunity for reflection—we are between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. We are fresh off of Thanksgiving where our attention was especially turned to all the great gifts and blessings from God; and that stirs up in us great praise of and gratitude to God, and it also—hopefully—sharpens our antennae/ radar to be more aware of God’s blessings; the thankfulness that the call of Thanksgiving Day works should not end at midnight but it hopefully continues on for a while, even until today. So thoughts of thanksgiving are still in the air/ us.
And now our attention is also being turned to Christmas and the great joy that Christmas really works as it points to the birth of our Savior those 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Again, Christmas does not begin and end on 25 December but it is on the radar for a while. Certainly the world around us is reminding us of the upcoming Christmas season, to be sure for its own commercial and secular purposes. But as Christians, let us use even that reminder of Christmas to start preparing our hearts to hear the Christmas proclamation that there is born for us a Savior, who is Christ the Lord; to start preparing our hearts to welcome and to receive like that first manger in Bethlehem did, the Savior.
Now, may these thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas be mingling in our hearts and lives. And as they do, may they drive us to use this holy season of Advent as one of preparation, that our hearts be filled with holy awe and thanksgiving; sorrow over sin and longing to hear our Savior’s coming to us today in word and sacrament; and with a fervent desire to look for and await His coming on the Last Day. May we always look for and rejoice in our Lord acting in our lives.
This idea of the Lord coming and acting/ intervening in our lives is a very vital thought. The thing is, God is not off somewhere distant and removed from us, unconcerned with what is going on in our lives, just letting things play themselves out in the world. Rather, God is active and at work and intervening in this world He created and in our lives personally. And that’s what the season of Advent reminds us of. In Advent, we hear again of the promises and prophecies God gave His OT people of rescue, help and a Savior from sin. When it comes down to it, what are the prophecies of Jesus, what is the coming of Jesus, but God acting and intervening in the world/ in the lives of His people? So when God gives His people a promise of help, when He gives them a prophecy of the coming Savior not only is that God’s intervening/ acting in the world but with each promise and each prophecy, God is giving His people a look at the results of His intervention. The purpose of His promises to help/ of the prophecies is to give His people strength and hope; it gives us the glorious assurance that He is always working and for our good. And in the prophecies—like those we reflect upon in Advent—He shows us what happens when He intervenes and that gives us strength and hope in the midst of our current situation.
Our text is a beautiful OT prophecy of the Messiah that the Lord had St. Jeremiah give the OT people. Not only had the holy prophet been calling the people to repent of their sin of idolatry and rejection of the Lord and His ways; not only was he foretelling destruction on account of their refusal to repent—that too was God intervening—but he was also giving strength and hope and comfort to the faithful—God is intervening and He will send the Savior: Their Prince shall be one of themselves; their Ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make Him draw near, and He shall approach Me, for who would dare of himself to approach Me? Declares the Lord. And you shall be My people, and I will be your God. As we examine our beautiful Advent text, we will what great cause we have for thanksgiving: our Savior has come.
The situation in Jeremiah’s day is that because the people were rebelling against the Lord, the Lord was sending in the foreign power of Babylon to punish the people and bring them to repentance. When the Babylonians would come in, they would destroy Jerusalem and the temple and take the people away into exile. If the nation would be punished like that—by God’s intervening—wouldn’t that mean an end to them? Wouldn’t that mean, then, that God’s promise for a Savior would be gone? Answer—absolutely not! God is faithful to His promises! He would also still intervene and send the Savior.
Our text: Their Prince shall be one of themselves; their Ruler shall come out from their midst. I will make Him draw near, and He shall approach Me… The “them”, the from their midst are the Israelites. The Savior of the world would be a Descendant of Abraham, just like God had promised. Israel would be God’s instrument to mend our broken fellowship with Him. That was Israel’s role; that’s why God chose Abraham and promised him that he would have many descendants, a great nation, the Israelites, would come from him and one of his descendants would be the Savior. The wonderful and amazing thing is that when God called Israel to be His people, it was for a purpose: through them He would send the Savior of the world. And the same thing applies to us—God calls us to Him, to be His dear Christians for a purpose. That purpose is to bring His saving word and work into the world, to bring to others that good news about Jesus, to bring to them that forgiveness of sin and peace and reconciliation with God that Jesus won for us by His life, suffering, death and resurrection.
This brings us to Who Jesus is—He is true God and also true man. That’s the wonderful thing that we see at Christmas: God became a true man. God, the Creator, entered His creation and became a creature so that He could save/ rescue His creatures—us/ humanity—from sin and its consequences. At the time the angel announced Jesus’ conception and birth to St. Mary, he said [Lk. 1.31]: You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son… and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. Notice: true man, Son of the virgin, a true Israelite/ descendant of Abraham, in the line of David. Their Prince shall be one of themselves; their Ruler shall come out from their midst. Notice Jesus’ humanity— one of themselves and out from their midst.
But Jesus, of course, is more than just a true human being. He’s the very God Himself. He is God Himself intervening in a very wonderful and special way in His creation. In this beautiful prophecy we don’t have to fumble about trying to figure out who that Prince and Ruler is. It’s Jesus, the Savior long promised! Elsewhere, the Divine Savior is described/ prophesied this way [Is. 9.6]: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be on His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. That divine, eternal Prince of Peace is also the one that would be a true human being, a true Israelite born of Mary, a descendant of David, just as God had promised: Their Prince shall be one of themselves; their Ruler shall come out from their midst. Our greatest blessing is that the Son of God came into this world and was born a true man, one of us. All this to be our Savior!
But notice closely what is said about Jesus in our text/ prophecy: Their Prince shall be one of themselves; their Ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make Him draw near, and He shall approach Me, for who would dare of himself to approach Me? Declares the Lord. Look at this talk of “drawing near”. That’s priestly talk. That describes the work of a priest: to approach God with sacrifice. But who is doing this work of a priest? –The Prince, the Ruler who was born an Israelite! In this Ruler/ Prince is combined also the work of a priest. And this perfectly describes Jesus—our King and our Priest. A job of a priest was to bring sacrifices to God. That’s what the priests in the OT did as they approached God and brought the sheep, bulls, goats, etc. But what is important to note is that in the OT the priests were not kings and the kings were not priests. The kings came from the line of David; the priests came from the tribe of Levi. And never should the two meet—except here in Jesus who is the divine King, the Prince of Peace, and He is also the Priest of the NT offering up that perfect, once for all sacrifice for sin. But what does it say here in our text? I will make Him draw near, and He shall approach Me, for who would dare of himself to approach Me? Declares the Lord. Jesus is different than the usual OT priest. No High Priest of the OT would dare to draw near/ approach the holy God by virtue of His own authority and character. But Jesus, the Ruler and Priest to come combines both the royal and priestly roles in Himself. Listen to what we read in Hebrews [7.26,27]: For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. How blessed these OT hearers of Jeremiah were who heard the result of God’s intervention! They heard that the Savior would be a royal priest who would offer up the perfect, once for all sacrifice! The regular OT priest was a sinner who would first have to sacrifice for his own sins before He dare approach God. But here, with Jesus, what do we read? –Not only did He not have to do that, but God Himself will make Him draw near, and He shall approach [Him]. Jesus alone has the “credentials” to approach God—and Jesus did so, even offering Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world and He continues to stand before God as the intermediary for the sinful world, for you and me. What a great blessing we have from Jesus’ work—He who is our Prince and our Priest!
Perhaps it may be easy to think that Jesus is true man—after all it is a historical fact that He was born and lived and was a real person. But if Jesus were only a man, He could not be our Savior; He could not be our intermediary. If Jesus were just an ordinary person, He’d be a sinner like the rest of us. And it would be impossible for Him to approach the holy God and live! Not only did Jesus approach the Holy God to offer Himself as the perfect, once for all sacrifice for sin but what do we read in our text? -- I will make Him draw near, and He shall approach Me. Jesus is the holy God, the Son, in whom the Father delights. He is holy and sinless in and of Himself and so draws near to the Father and is drawn by the Father to offer Himself as the sacrifice to reconcile the world to God.
What a great blessing Jesus’ work is for us! He came into this world, became true man, in order to bring us to God. We read from the Apostle [Hb. 10.9,10]: then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.”…By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For the benefit of us all, Jesus, the God-man/ the Prince and Priest drew near to God. Now through His holy word and sacrament, Jesus brings us to faith and by this draws us out of the world of sin, of death and hell, and draws us to God where there is forgiveness of sin, life, heaven, the fullness of grace and mercy. What does God say at the end of our text after telling us the work of Jesus? “And you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” Ultimately that is the result of God’s intervening on behalf of His stricken people—be it His OT people or be it us today.
This Advent, we do well to remember and reflect on these OT prophecies because in them we see what happens when God intervenes. May they encourage us and give us the strength, especially when we are in the midst of trial or suffering, to remember that God is busy and at work actively in our lives working all things for our spiritual good. In all things may we give our Lord thanks and look for His blessings—especially rejoicing in His coming and work for us and our salvation. INJ