The Lord once promised Abraham that despite all the heaven-crying sins of Sodom, he would spare the city if only ten righteous people were there. He once sent Jonah to Nineveh, a city infamous for the cruelest atrocities, and when the city repented He spared both them and their cattle. He held back from destroying Jerusalem for hundreds of years, sending prophet after prophet to call them out of their unbelief, until finally the army of King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and its temple. God is longsuffering. He’s patient and He waits for repentance. He’s not anxious to judge or to punish. So as Jesus weeps over Jerusalem He shows not just the emotion of a man but the passion of God. He does not want to punish Jerusalem for her sins. How could He? He’s come to her to bear her sins. He wants to take her punishment on Himself. He will soon die for her and suffer hell on the cross for her. He has said of her, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
So punishment does come. It came on Jerusalem and it comes on all who refuse to repent. Jesus weeps that it comes. But it comes. Sin must be punished. It’s a divine necessity. The righteous God must punish sin. The glory of the Gospel is that God takes this divine necessity, this punishment for sin, onto Himself and suffers it as our Brother, so that He can both be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. No punishment remains for those who have Jesus. It’s gone. Little Micah was born in sin and under God’s judgment, but no more, he is baptized into Christ’s death, He’s a child of God. We daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment, but God will not give it, because He has already given it to Jesus and we belong to Him through our Baptism. Our Father can only see the beauty of His Son’s righteousness when He looks at us. There is therefore now no condemnation, no punishment, no anger of God, for those who are in Christ Jesus.
It is precisely because God wants all to repent and believe, sincerely wants it, so much that He cries over Jerusalem and prays for her, it’s precisely because He wants to save all that He is so longsuffering. He gives people and nations time to repent. And when like Nineveh they do, while the Jonahs, the bloodthirsty and the vengeful, may have their regrets, God has none. He welcomes back the prodigal. His angels rejoice over the sinner who repents. And so we are left with both a beautiful promise today and a stern warning.
Let me begin with the warning. There was no nation and no city more loved and blessed by God than Jerusalem. He chose her. He put His house there, His holy temple. He brought His Son into the flesh through the line of the kings of Judah. He preserved her even when she rebelled. He brought her back from captivity and planted her again in her own walls. But finally, after all His longsuffering and all His pleading, when she rejected His Son, He wept over her and gave her up to her enemies. He left her without protection, totally abandoned, and no stone was left on another when the Roman general Titus had done with her.
It’s not hard to see that the United States of America has deserved God’s punishment. She loves her money more than her virtue, her pleasure more than her honor. She worships her sports over God and chases after wealth at the expense of building Christian families. Her laws have sacrificed more babies to Moloch and Baal than all the Canaanite nations of millennia put together. Ours are by far the most liberal and cruel abortion laws in the civilized world. America commits her abominations, she blesses adultery, makes a mockery of marriage, teaches against her Creator in her schools, and then has her false prophets in her false churches cry out, “Peace, peace,” as if God approves, but there is no peace with God where there is no repentance and no Jesus.
God has been longsuffering, because He doesn’t change, and in our day too He wants all to repent and believe the Gospel. He doesn’t want to punish. He wants all to trust in Jesus who has swallowed up God’s punishment. But we cannot think that America is somehow dearer to God’s heart than the city that He chose for Himself. If He finally brought destruction on Jerusalem, then America should not test His patience. In the past God has blessed America precisely because America has blessed His Church and allowed her to preach Christ-crucified without hindrance. This is what God promised Abraham long ago, I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you. This promise still holds for the true sons of Abraham, the Holy Christian Church. God has blessed America because she at least outwardly respected her Creator, upheld marriage, extolled family and children, promoted hard work and self-control, and protected His Church. But as America reverses course in all of this, as her churches become dens of robbers worse than any pagan temple, as her laws promote perversity and her politicians move ever closer to persecuting the remnant of God’s people, she is asking for God’s punishment.
So it’s time for us to join our Lord Jesus and weep over our country. Her destruction is, I pray, far in the future. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It didn’t fall in a day either. Not every destruction is like that of Jerusalem, so quick and swift, over with in a day. But America’s destruction is assured, unless like Nineveh she repents in sackcloth and ashes, though let’s remember that in the end Nineveh fell nonetheless. Not in Jonah’s time but in due time.
And so weeping over our country’s destruction is necessary. Like the laments of Jeremiah. It’s a weeping that prays that the sinner turn from his way and live. It’s a weeping that’s longsuffering like our God and doesn’t long for destruction but for repentance. It’s a weeping that doesn’t ignore the sin, doesn’t ignore what our country deserves, but at the same time begs for God’s mercy for Christ’s sake. And it’s a weeping that accompanies our knowledge that we have no lasting earthly citizenship, but our citizenship is in heaven, ours is not Jerusalem, not D.C., not even in the end Casper, but the city of God, and before we are Casperites, before Wyomingites, before Americans, we are Christians, our King and our Lord is Christ, and we pledge our allegiance to Him.
But still we love the country God gave us in this world and through which He has given us so many good things, not least of which is the privilege of worshiping Him in peace. So we don’t weep in despair. Ours is not a weeping without resolve. Before the tears had dried on his cheeks, the Lord Jesus acted. He wept over Jerusalem and then stormed into her Temple, drove out those selling their wares, and began teaching. And He taught there every single day till His death. And people clung to His every word. And then He laid down His life for them.
What do you do when you see your country slipping further and further into the mire? Do you despair? Do you get on FaceSpace and complain about it all day? Do you just curse your enemies and go on with your own life? Jesus wept. And then He taught. The world doesn’t need the wringing of our hands. It doesn’t need merciless judgment righteously aired on the internet either. It needs to hear the Word of God and it needs to see what the Word of Jesus does to those who believe it.
It does us no good and the world no good if our lives are consumed with complaining and condemning all the evils in society and never with the joy of clinging to Jesus’ words. This is not what our Lord teaches us. No, he weeps, but as the days get closer and closer to His death, he teaches, not just the evils of the world, but the joy of reconciliation with our God, the privilege of calling on Him as Father through faith in His Son, the blessedness of sinners who thirst for a righteousness not their own and taste it in their Savior’s blood, the happiness of peace with God and life lived with a good conscience.
Here is the visitation of our Lord Jesus. Here is what makes for peace. And so our resolve here is the same. This is where you all belong every Sunday. In the house of prayer where Jesus visits His people and teaches you through His Word. You confess here your sins and your God absolves you, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” for Jesus’ sake. You sing here the glory of the God who became your Brother and loved you to His death. You learn here His Word and see how it applies to your life and how you can bring it into your home. You have placed into your mouth here the medicine of immortality, the flesh and blood of your Savior, which if a man eat he will never see death forever. You see what a noble task it is to fight against your sin and the temptations of the devil. You know why God placed you on this earth and where He will take you when you die.
And this is what not only you, but what America needs. Not simply to replace the current politicians or change the evil laws or win back the school boards, but first and foremost, before anything else, to know the day of our visitation, to know what makes for our peace, to know Jesus. It seems simplistic to say the answer is Jesus. Well it’s simple, but it isn’t simplistic. What else could the answer be? What, throughout all of human history, has the answer ever been to our deepest problems except Jesus? Who else brings peace of conscience? Who else takes away fear of death? Who else forgives sins before God in heaven? Who else blesses family and country and leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake? So any weeping over an earthly city or an earthly country, must be accompanied by the renewed resolve to cling to Jesus’ every word. That is our simple task and it will do more good than getting our guy in the White House or our judge on the Supreme Court. It will. To cling to Jesus’ Word here at church and at home, to bring children to be baptized and to raise Christian families, to support the pure preaching of the Gospel, to sing aloud and in your hearts to your Lord Jesus, to pray to Him daily, to find your joy in Him, to find your peace in His body and blood given for you, to learn from Him to stand without compromise on His Word because it is life, this will do more for the world than any war or any revolution ever accomplished. Jesus didn’t come into Jerusalem to instigate a regime change, to unseat Herod or ship Pilate back to Rome; He came and taught His Word, taught what true love was, as He Himself headed to the cross to bear our punishment and win us peace with God.
So believe what Jesus said as He wept over Jerusalem. Would that you, even you, would know what makes for your peace. That’s Jesus’ prayer. And nothing gives God more joy to answer this prayer among you His children, to give you the peace that the world cannot give as you cling with faith to the words of your Savior who has taken away all your sin and punishment and written your name in the Book of Life. Amen.