Be Prepared! Lord, Prepare Us
14 "‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 "‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord is our righteousness.’
Every few years another movie will come out that captivates the multitudes of children. Over the last few years we’ve had movies like Despicable Me and Frozen. And kids are just entirely content to watch those movies over and over again until they have the whole movie memorized almost. They just never seem to tire of it.
When I was a kid, one of those movies that I loved to watch over and over again was The Lion King. How many of you have seen The Lion King? Just kind of a brief overview for those who haven’t seen it. It’s a story about the struggle between the good characters and the evil characters (surprise, surprise!). The good lion is named Mufasa—he rules over all the land. He has a son named Simba who will one day be the one that rules over all the land. Evil uncle Scar is jealous that he doesn't get to rule the kingdom. Evil uncle Scar kills Simba’s dad and banishes Simba. And I’ll stop the overview of the story there so that I don’t have anyone hassle me after service about ruining the end of the movie for you.
In my 5 year old mind, one of the more memorable scenes of the movie was when evil uncle Scar was plotting the death of Simba’s dad. He sings the song, "Be Prepared." Evil uncle Scar sings this song to his evil minions—the hyenas. The basic message of the song is, "Get ready, big things are about to happen—life changing things. You can't be caught unaware. You need to be prepared." As a kid, the song and the scene is a bit scary. There’s green smoke and lava looking stuff flying everywhere and the ground is breaking apart. There’s hundreds and hundreds of hyenas….and in the midst of all of it, evil uncle Scar repeatedly sings the phrase, "BE PREPARED!"
As an adult, that call to be prepared doesn’t really become any less scary. That call to be prepared is constantly sounded in the world around us. It is sounded so often that we either begin to worry about it or become desensitized to it and ignore it entirely. There is one call to be prepared that we can't ignore. Above all else it is important that we are prepared for the coming of our Savior. Today we’re going to look at Jeremiah and think about just what it is that prepares us for our Savior’s coming.
The people of that southern kingdom of Israel were terribly unprepared. We spent the last couple weeks in Daniel. We talked about how the Babylonians attacked the kingdom of Judah three different times. Each time they crippled the nation a little bit more. Each time they took captives with them. Daniel was one of those captives. Daniel and Jeremiah were contemporaries. Jeremiah began his ministry BEFORE the Babylonians showed up. He repeatedly—at God’s command—pleaded with the people of Israel. Time and time again he told them that if they didn’t turn back to the Lord, the Lord would send destruction on the kingdom of Judah. And eventually, that destruction came. Babylon came and attacked and crippled Judah.
We can either listen to the world’s call to be prepared, or we can listen to God’s call to be prepared. We can't listen to both. The people of Israel had tried to listen to both, and it didn’t work. God gave Jeremiah this message to declare to the people in Jeremiah chapter 7, "Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: 9 ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord….. If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless."
The people of Israel tried to have it both ways. They listened to the culture around them as it told them to be prepared…. "Be prepared! Do what is right for you. Do what it takes to make sure that you come out on top. Whether you have to steal, murder, or commit adultery isn’t important, just do what you got to do. If you have to suppress the weak and defenseless in order to be prepared, then so be it! Trust in your military strength—because that’s what prepares you for any coming invasion of a foreign nation! And when it comes to spiritual preparation….how can you really know if the God of Israel is the one true God? You better make sure to cover all your bases. Just to be safe, you better worship your God, AND the gods of the cultures around you."
When it comes to the spiritual realm, you can't be prepared for more than one thing. You are either prepared for destruction, or you are prepared for salvation. And let’s be careful to not be misunderstood here… I am not saying there is no value in preparing for SOME of the things that our culture tells us to. There is value in preparing for the future. There is value in making sure our finances are in order. There is value in being prepared when it comes to our health—taking care of our bodies while here on earth. Scripture even tells us that being wise about some of those earthly preparations are valuable, worthwhile and God-pleasing!
So the key question becomes this: what are you putting your trust in as though it can save you? And the truth is, we need to be careful to not be prideful and trick ourselves into thinking that we are so different from the Israelites. It is a daily battle to reclaim our trust from the things of this life. We live in a culture that tells us that the key to being prepared is amassing a small fortune. The key to being prepared is networking and knowing the right people. They key to being prepared is taking care of yourself first and foremost. The key to being prepared is being knowledgeable and educated. The key to being prepared is being the best version of yourself you can possibly be. As sinners, it is difficult for us to see these things for the false fortresses that they are. Day after day we struggle and fail as we listen to our culture and begin to place our trust in those things. None of those things prepare us for our coming Savior.
The Lord allowed the rug of preparation that the Israelites were standing on to be ripped out from under their feet. Their money didn’t stop the Babylonians from invading and taking captives….Neither did their armies, nor their worship of false gods. Just like the Israelites, we sometimes need that rug to be ripped out from under us so that we might be ready to again hear what God has to say about what prepares us for the coming of our Savior.
The good news is, you ARE prepared for the coming of our Savior. But not because of your net worth. Not becauses of your education. And not because you’re at the peak of your physical fitness. Nothing that you have done has prepared you. The Lord has prepared you. Listen to God’s Words in Jeremiah 33.
Jeremiah 33: "In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land...This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness." The thing that would bring true peace and security to the people of God was not money or armies or kings, it was a "righteous Branch." This righteous Branch would come from the line of David—so God was talking about a person that would come from the line and heritage of David. Then it says that the name of this branch is: "The Lord is our Righteousness."
As we think about the first coming of our Savior this Advent season, we can't help but also think about his second coming—that’s why our readings today have a bit of end times flavor to them. When you get right down to it, there is one thing that we need to be prepared for in this life more than anything else—the coming of Jesus. When Jesus returns, the things that we use in this life as we strive to "be prepared" will be worthless. No amount of money prepares you to stand before a Holy God. No amount of education or fame or physical fitness prepares you to stand before a Holy and Perfect God. Only that last line in our reading prepares us to stand before a Holy and Perfect God—The Lord is our Righteousness.
Only Jesus prepares us to stand before God on that last day. Christ is our righteousness. Here’s an easy memory hook for the meaning of that word righteous. To be righteous means that you are right with God. To be right with a holy and perfect God means to be without sin. We’re not made right with God by our own doing. We are made right with God through Jesus death on the cross. On the cross he took our sin and gave us his righteousness—his perfection. We are without sin and therefore right with God.
As we hear the calls to be prepared that our culture sends out, let us be level headed about them. To be prepared for matters of this world to the best of our ability. However, may God help us to regularly check our hearts and make sure that we aren’t beginning to use those things as our main source of peace, security and preparedness. Our peace and security comes from the Lord, from Christ our righteousness. In Christ, we are prepared. Amen? Amen.