How a King Cleans House (December 16, 2018)

How a King Cleans House (December 16, 2018)

December 18, 2018
Benjamin Ehlers

How a King Cleans House

Zephaniah 3:14-17

Have you done it yet? Have you cleaned up the house, filled the fridge and gotten ready for guests? Just after Thanksgiving my wife and I took some time to wet vac the carpets to get ready for the Christmas brunch at our house. There were a few stains we wanted to clean up after a year of kids running around. We still have to clean up a bit, but that probably won’t happen until we get closer to the day. The law of entropy (law of chaos) happens a lot faster with kids in the house, so it doesn’t pay to clean too early. But we are getting there. If you are having company for the holidays, you maybe have started the process of cleaning up the house as well.

Recently, as my wife and I were cleaning up a bit before some close friends came over, we noticed something interesting. There’s a difference between how you clean up for close family and friends verses cleaning for a first-time visitor or very important guest. For example, if you are cleaning up for close family, your cleaning is probably going to be more relaxed and not as thorough. After all, they know who you are. They know your life. They aren’t going to think any less of you if you don’t have a fresh, decorative hand towel out in the bathroom. But, if you are cleaning before your future in-laws visit, or before a college recruiter visits, you will notice all the clutter and every smudge. You will want your house in picture perfect condition.

Well, there IS a highly esteemed guest coming. He’s actually given you a list of preparations to be completed before he arrives. It’s in the gospel reading from this Sunday and last. “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Lk 3:4). “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance… every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Lk 3:8-9). Repentance means turning your hearts and minds away from sinful thoughts, away from sinful and selfish motives and set your minds on God’s will. It’s what we talked about last week. Straightening out your heart and aligning it with God’s will. Then, from that true heart of repentance flows actions that are pleasing to God. It’s a heart that is ready to welcome the King!

But who could ever do that? Maybe we can keep much, even most of God’s will by our actions…. Maybe. But who could ever do so with the right attitude and heart. Who could really do so out of love and joy for their Savior 100% of the time? Can our hearts ever be made pure and clean? Can they really ever be prepared to receive our Savior? Our sinfulness runs around our hearts like a toddler messing up our motives and creating more messes than we could ever hope to straighten out.

Imagine this. I’m going back to the house cleaning illustration. Think of all the things you have to clean up and tidy up before your guests arrive before Christmas. Better yet, think of all the things you would want done before a very important person comes to visit for Christmas Dinner. There’s cleaning, there’s picking up, there’s cooking. Maybe you even need to get rid of that ratty couch and make a few improvements. And as you are scurrying around trying to keep your head on straight, you hear a knock at the door. It’s a man offering his cleaning services. He’s got an apron on, a tote filled with cleaning supplies, and a number of other things with him. He’s hunched over from all the strenuous work he’s done. In fact, he doesn’t just offer his cleaning services, he’s insistent upon it, almost barging in as he immediately gets to work. He dusts and vacuums, scrubs the floors and the toilets, even cleans the grout and polishes the floors! By the time he’s done, everything is immaculate. And when you ask him how much you owe him, he says that his services are freely given to anyone who admits they need it.

I know that’s a pretty ridiculous scenario, but isn’t that exactly what Jesus has done for you? Jesus enters your heart unasked and finds it a complete and utter mess. Yet he doesn’t come to ridicule you for it. He doesn’t come to shame. He comes to do something about it. He comes to clean house. That’s what the blood shed on the cross means for you. It means he knows you have a problem and he already did something about it – paying the full price of all sin. It’s what the waters of baptism mean, the cleansing waters which purify you from all sin. It’s what the Lord’s Supper is, a forgiveness for every sin that stains your heart and the strength from Christ to turn our hearts to God!

And this gift of cleansing forgiveness is given freely to anyone who does not turn him away – anyone who admits they need it. No matter how disastrous our lives may seem, no matter how ashamed we are of the condition of our hearts. No heart is too polluted, no sin too great for your Savior to cleanse. That is why he came. He came not to be served as a noble guest, but to serve and give up his life to cleanse you from sin.

Let’s jump back to that scenario once again – you know, the bizarre scenario where someone you didn’t know comes to clean your entire house for free. Yeah, it’s about to get even more bizarre. When the lowly servant is finally says, “It is finished.” When he’s finished cleaning the house, he stands up straight – for what seems like the first time since he entered the house. And as he does, he removes his apron and grunge clothes to reveal the finest clothes of white and gold. You see that he is most definitely a king! He is THE king you’ve been expecting – the very important person, the one who made the demands of all the things that need to be prepared. He came himself, and met those demands for you – every single one of them and to a degree you could never hope to accomplish on your own.

Brothers and sisters, I know my illustration is pretty strange. It probably seems as if it doesn’t really fit well because that would never happen in real life! I get it. No one would ever do something like that. No king would ever prepare his own way. But isn’t that just the point. Who would ever go to such lengths, meet such high demands, put in all the work yet give you all the credit, and do it completely free of charge? Who does that?! Well, your Savior did it. You and I say, “That would never happen, but it did.” And we aren’t just talking about cleaning up a house. He entered into your life – entered humanity by taking on our very flesh. He cleaned up your very life by giving up his. His sacrifice cleansed every stain of sin. And now he reigns in your heart as a majestic king, and you his esteemed guest! He becomes the host of your own heart, and urges you to sit down at his feet and relax as he guides your life.

There’s really two pictures here that show just what kind of reign Christ has in your life. He is a Mighty Warrior, yet a gentle Father. You are safe within his care. Your God conquers his enemies completely so that they can never threaten another soul. He is a Mighty Warrior, not to conquer and subdue you, but to free his people and bring them peace. Then, verse 17 moves quickly to this warrior’s gentle side. He will delight in you, quiet you with his love, and rejoice over you. That sounds more like a father – or even a mother – than it does a Mighty Warrior. But the Lord is both. He is mighty, fierce, and firm when dealing with your enemies of sin, death, and Satan. But he is gentle and compassionate when dealing with you.

There’s only one thing left to do. Your king has come into your heart as a lowly servant to clean house for you. He has defeated your enemies and encourages you to rest in his loving embrace. The only thing left to do is rejoice! It’s actually what this reading starts with. The prophet heaps up calls to rejoice and celebrate. “Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem” (Zeph 3:14). If we took a moment to read through this whole book, listen to the prophet’s message in its entirety, we might be left with a bit of an uneasy feeling rather than rejoicing. It’s a short book, but the vast majority of it is a stern warning of destruction. Yet, this is a journey. This is our journey. Yes, God is very stern with sinful people. He disciplines sinners and eradicates sin. But he does so in a way that spares you. In fact, he does so in a way that purifies you – cleans you, through and through. And having been made pure and spotless by the Servant who suffered in your place, you can now rejoice! It’s the only appropriate thought and emotion coming out of the dark destruction of sin and your enemies. One word cannot contain the joy, so the prophet piles up four! Sing! Shout aloud! Be glad and rejoice!