Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath is gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. Jeremiah 23:19-20
These are the latter days; and we do understand what Jeremiah was telling the church in his day; or at least we should. He was preaching Christ and him crucified. He was speaking of the Lord's death, burial and resurrection on the third day by which our sins are covered; if we hold fast to the Gospel unless we have believed in vain. But in Jeremiah's day, some 600 years before the Lord's birth, the people did not believe or understand what was coming upon them. Nor were they of a mind to know.
A spirit of deep deception settled over them and they believed a lie, just like people do today. They believed that they could follow the happy message of the false prophets, rather than true and holy Word of God.
As a result they turned away from the Lord. They banished religion from their minds. They despised the ten commandments. They found plausible ways to dismiss God's claim on their lives, just like we do today. Rather than devote their lives to his Service, which is the true vocation of man, they dedicated themselves to sin. To every fleshly pleasure, even as they rejected every duty to live as the redeemed people of God. If you look at America today you will have a good understanding Judean life in the 6th century B.C.
Because of their complete disregard of all things true and eternal they were about to experience "the storm of the Lord." They were about to lose every thing they held dear: their nation, their temple, their families, their liberty, their hopes and their future; and no one was able to save them.
Their kings fainted with fear at the "whirling tempest" that was about to make landfall. Their priests and prophets went into hiding; and the people become like sheep without a shepherd, as a pack of ravenous Babylonian wolves pounced down upon them with teeth of iron, and claws of brass.
Jeremiah, the only true prophet of the day, tried to warn the church against playing fast and loose with God. He preached his message to anyone who would listen. To the king, the priests, the false prophets and to the people directly. But no one would listen. Their sin had lulled them into a deep cultural coma, even as ours does right now, and they stood helpless, even as we do today.
If we give any credence at all to God in 21st century America it is a god of our own choosing. A god who loves puppy dogs, but condones abortion. A god made in our own image and likeness who justifies our twisted values, our frantic pursuit of luxury, ease, self-gratification and of getting something for nothing. What should be sanctified is now sexualized, monetized, politicized and distorted beyond recognition: marriage, family, church, duty, honor, good order and the like.
Because of this "the storm of the Lord" is come upon both church and state today in the form of poverty, disease, terrorism, discontent, hopelessness, lawlessness, addiction, restless minds and itching flesh that can never be satisfied however many perversions it invents. We suffer for our sins because we are irreverent, faithless, careless and thoughtless about what is most important; and the anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart.
But in this Jeremiad not one, but two great truths are to be found. First, the Law! That mighty Word from God that crushes our stubborn spirits and fills us with dread so that we finally fall down in humility and repentance before him. But there is also the Gospel, the mightiest of all doctrines and the only source of comfort, peace, calm and joy to be had.
And the Gospel is this: that the "storm "Jeremiah predicted does not fall upon us but upon the Sacred Head of our Lord Jesus Christ; "who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities." He is our Refuge, our Fortress, our Shield, and our Buckler. He is the One who "became sin for us," that we might become "the righteousness of God in him!" And so we are!
While God exacted the price from Israel for her sins; and while he still disciplines us for ours even now; the true intent of his heart is not the death of the sinner; but the death of his Son on the cross "for us men and for our salvation." This is life. This is peace. This is joy in the face of all sorrow, and courage in the face of all danger.
Our Lord's death on the cross was not a political accident but the supreme expression of God's love for the world. If you want to know who the true God is, and what he is like, then look at Jesus on the cross. "Mark that miracle of time, God's own sacrifice complete! It is finished hear him cry, learn of Jesus Christ to die." (TLH #159)
But these are not mere words for us, Dear Christians, because in baptism we do in fact die with Christ. Not only die, but are also raised again. St. Paul says it like this: "If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things below. For you have died (baptism), and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming."
But not to us O Baptized Believers. Not to sinners whose wrongs are expunged by him who endured the Storm of the Lord for us. "Thy sins be forgiven thee, go in peace." Amen.