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November 26, 2023

The Lord Prescribes New Heart Medication

Passage: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Within the field of modern medicine, there are many different medicines that are prescribed just for the treatment of heart disease. Many people with heart disease may have to take several of these different kinds of medicine every day. Though this can sometimes be difficult to deal with, it is best for the patient to remember that their doctor in prescribing copious amounts of heart-med prescriptions is aiming to keep them as well as possible and will try to find the best medicines for them with the fewest side effects.

And so, yes, heart medication is complicated, and since that is the case, why bother taking it? Now, we all know that that is a ridiculous question to ask, especially when asked between the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are known for their foods high in fat and cholesterol. Anyone who does stop taking their heart medication during that time is playing a dangerous game with their health.

So, then we must ask: are we going to stop taking our heart medication this season? No, I don’t mean tablets and pills from our weekly planner container. I’m talking about the medication for our souls, the heart of our very being. To do so, to stop taking our spiritual heart medication, would be a spiritual death wish, for our hearts need this medication badly; so, thank God that He gives us this heart medication, a new regiment of medication much simpler than the old version, and it keeps our hearts healthy and safe for when the day comes when Christ calls us home. So then, let us consider than how the Lord has prescribed us a new heart medication.

(We pray…)

So, in examining our spiritual heart medication it is good to see how this theme fits in with the first season of our new church year. When one considers the season of advent, they would see that the nature of its focus is one of preparation. And what are we preparing for? The coming of Christ back from Heaven when the world is over. And so, the way in which one prepares for this is by focusing on His first coming when He gave His life to take away our sin, and this good news of salvation is found in Christ’s Word and Sacrament where He comes to us now and makes our hearts ready. This is what we do to prepare now, this is our heart medication plan to save us from the fatal heart attack of judgment when Christ returns. But this wasn’t always the medication plan of the Lord…

In the days of the Old Testament, prior to Christ’s first coming to this earth, the people of Israel were chosen by God as His people while He saved them from the hands of the Egyptians and brought them to Mt. Sinai to enter a covenant, an agreement with God. Having the seriousness of a marital agreement, so God’s covenant made at Sinai was with the Israelites. This covenant not only presented God’s moral will to Israel, but it also controlled the entire religious and practical livelihood of the Israelite people. This covenant of old was more restrictive than the new covenant, and it was so according to God’s will. It was meant to set the people apart from the rest of the heathen, gentile nations, so that they would show themselves as the people of God! They were to be distinguished, for they were the royal family who would bear the privilege of bringing the world’s king into the world. And so, what an honor! But with the anticipation of this great and exciting day came the great responsibility—the covenant of Sinai. Needing to observe all sorts of commanded customs, so Israel was given a rather involved heart medication plan so that their hearts could be maintained as the healthy people of God…and did they succeed? No, but often they skipped their medication. In fact, they immediately threw God’s heart medication away when the Israelites worshipped a newly made golden calf rather than the Lord, and they did so right next to the pharmacy: Mt. Sinai. This old covenant was broken often, and in turn this broke the heart of Israel’s Bridegroom, the Lord. They broke the pact and agreement of the Law! And if this hasn’t been clearly pointed out elsewhere in the Old Testament, God makes it clear yet again with His prophet Jeremiah in the surrounding context of his inspired work. With this old covenant Israel would struggle and do so severely. And they would struggle willfully! It’s not that they are weak! It’s that they are deliberately sinful….

So, seeing the old way of God’s heart medication, let us fast forward to our time. After Christ’s first coming, the way of medication changed. One would even say it became much simpler. There were no more civil or ceremonial commands such as Sabbath and blood sacrifices. There isn’t even a physical temple in Jerusalem anymore! To put it this way, rather than 10 pills with a very specific exercise regiment, God gave us just one pill: His Word and Sacraments! It’s very simple really. Just take the pill. Just come to God’s Word to hear the forgiveness of sins to make your heart ready. What’s so hard about that?

Well, what’s the tendency with taking prescription meds? Many people will stop taking prescription meds because they forget their importance, they don’t like what it does to them, or they take the pill for granted and go on thinking half the regiment is enough. But if someone stops taking pills for their chronic heart disease, do they no longer have heart disease? No, in fact most likely the disease or history of disease will always be with them, taxing their bodies and minds, never truly leaving them. And so it is with our spiritual heart disease. Our new system of medication may be a lot simpler than what used to be given back in Old Testament times, but does that mean we should stop taking it? As humans struggling with our flesh, we all have had ebbs and flows in our spiritual lives, and if not kept in check, a crucial decision to stop taking our spiritual meds, stop coming to God’s Word and Sacrament at Church or privately at home, may leave us dangerously unprepared for spiritual heart attack. For here is the crucial, crimpling reminder for each one of us: your heart disease doesn’t go away until your dead. Many churches in today’s world believe that you can overcome your sinful flesh on this side of eternity, becoming perfect on earth. That just isn’t true. No, this heart disease of sin is chronic. It won’t leave us here on earth. These medications are meant to stave it off. Don’t stop taking it. If you do, don’t be shocked then if your spiritual heart goes into spiritual cardiac arrest when Christ comes again to find you not fit to be in Heavenly glory.

So then, if you’re worried about not taking your heart medication often enough, perhaps it’s time to shift our focus away from the stern warning of our doctor’s orders and look rather to the gracious and blessed gifts that come in the medication that God gives us. And so, here is the breakdown of God’s new heart medication. He prophecies of it through His servant Jeremiah saying that God will make for Israel and all people a new covenant, a new agreement. God will do it in those days, that is the days when Christ comes and sets things right, when He comes to earth in human flesh to fulfill the old covenant perfectly in our place and then offer that life for our own on the cross, purchasing us as God’s own people. This is the set up for the new covenant, the new heart medication to be given. It had to be this way, for there could be no other way. And so, as our Gospel reading for this morning has presented, Christ’s reason for being born on this earth is so that He may ride into Jerusalem and offer up His life as a saving sacrifice for all people, including you and me. This loving act of our King, Jesus Christ, is then the sole acting component in our heart medication. He has taken away our sin on the cross, and now we are promised that one day He will return again in glory to take us to Heaven where He will do away with the disease that cripples our spiritual hearts.

And so, being reminded as to what the special component of our new heart medication is, we look further than at the words of Jeremiah to study further the mechanics of our new heart medication. He says that the Lord in those days will put His Law in everyone’s mind and heart. Now, lest we be confused, we must understand that the prophet uses the word Law here in a way that is different from its common understanding. Here he is not referring to the Law of Moses, the old medication system, but think rather of the teaching of God in general. God will put His teaching, His saving truth, in His people’s hearts and minds. He will put it within them, their inner most being, their disease hearts, to work on them. By this act then will God make His people His own and He will be made their God. It is through His saving teaching; His Word will set them apart. Through this new covenant, this new teaching, this new prescription medication, we will know the Lord! They shall all know Him. This means that whether weak or strong, young or old, rich or poor, many shall know the Lord through His Word. This Lord God shall forgive their iniquity and the people’s sin He will remember no more. This is ultimately how God makes all His people. This is the new covenant, the new medication, then, namely that it’s not what we do, it’s what He has done for us. He sent the Savior Jesus into this world the first time to take away our sin, He teaches us this now so that the Savior’s gracious and forgiving love can come to us in Word and Sacrament, and this will prepare us for when He comes again in Glory to take us our heavenly home. So then, it’s that simple! God prepares our diseased hearts with the medication of His Gospel Word. He set it up through the work of our glorious King Jesus, and He gives it to us regularly in order to prepare us for when, as the apostle Paul put it in our epistle reading, night is over and the daytime comes around at judgement day.

So then, as it would be wise and beneficial to take heart medication around the holiday season—a season loaded with cholesterol and fatty foods--let us this Advent and Christmas season take our heart medication! For at this time of year, as many minds and hearts get lost in consumerism, many are apt to forget what Christmas and advent are all about. And so, let us all be assured that by the Holy Spirit’s gracious guidance we may take the wonderful heart medication for our souls, that they may be directed at the real reason for the Christmas and advent season—Christ’s fulfillment to save us all from the fatal heart attack demise of sin. And so, in cleansing your heart of its sinfulness and working on it to walk in works of light in preparation for when Christ returns, may the Holy Spirit mend your souls with the heart medication of the Gospel of our coming King Jesus that your hearts may be grounded in God’s saving love to the day we die and our heart disease is gone forevermore.