Jeremiah 33:14-16 Your King, the Branch of David, is coming
As we enter into the season of Advent, the celebration of our Savior’s first coming draws near. Then he came as a humble baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. As we enter into the season of Advent, we are also reminded that our Savior’s second coming is drawing ever nearer. Then he will come in glory as Judge. So the weeks leading up to Christmas are to be time of repentance, but so often it becomes a time of distraction. We are so busy with all the preparation for our celebration of Christmas that we lose sight of our Savior. It is a time for repentance, yet so easily it becomes a time to indulge ourselves – Christmas parties, special holiday foods, expensive gifts – sometimes people spend the next several months paying it off all the money that is spent for their Christmas celebration. The devil and the world in which we live work to place so many things in front of us, so that we easily get distracted and fail to properly prepare for our Savior’s coming. So many things can distract our attention and keep us from being ready and watchful for the Lord’s return.
All the signs that Jesus gave – which we heard in our gospel reading, the wars and disasters, false prophets – the whole list was pretty much fulfilled already at the time of the disciples. So we need to be prepared. We need to be in God’s Word. And yet how easy to wonder – when will he return? We might be tempted to think that it is a long way off. We are tempted to become complacent in our faith and comfortable in spiritual matters. The apostle Peter warns against such thinking. He says, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” … But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” God fulfilled all his promises concerning Jesus’ first coming and we can be certain that he will do the same in regards to his second coming.
But how hard it is to wait. We don’t like to wait – and it’s not just children who may be looking forward to presents on Christmas, none of us like to wait. We live in a society that demands instant gratification. And we too often find it hard to wait. But we are a people in waiting – the Christian Church is a church in waiting. Christians wait in eager anticipation of our Savior’s return. As we look forward to our Savior’s coming – we are assured of God’s love and faithfulness. Your King, the Branch of David, is coming. He is coming to fulfill God’s gracious promises. He is coming bring us God’s righteousness.
In our text, the Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, reminds us that “The Days are coming” – the days when he will keep his promises, when he will come again in glory. Those days, first of all, refer to God keeping his promise to send a Savior.
Jeremiah was preaching to a Jewish nation that was facing the Lord’s judgment. The northern 12 tribes of Israel, years earlier, had been carried off into exile by the Assyrians. During Jeremiah’s ministry, the Babylonians would conquer Judah and Jerusalem and carry the remaining tribes of Israel off into exile in a foreign land. This was a result of Israel’s idolatry and sin. They failed to trust the Lord and instead turned to false gods. They had put their trust in earthly things – in earthly alliances with foreign powers, in their own wealth and possessions. Justice and righteousness were things in short supply in Israel and Judah before their destruction. Those who had, those who were in positions of wealth or power, took advantage of others for their own benefit. People were concerned about their own physical welfare. Their society was focused on materialistic things. They were guilty of greed and materialism. And as one would then expect, they had for the most part rejected those faithful prophets of the Lord – men like Jeremiah. So the Lord would punish his people.
But here God promises to restore Judah and Jerusalem. God would keep his promises and he would send a Savior. The Babylonians would be overthrown by the Persians. The Jews would be allowed to return to the Promised Land. Jerusalem and the temple would be rebuilt. And from that remnant, the Savior of the world would be born.
God would “cause a righteous Branch to sprout up for David.” The line of David was the royal line in Judah. These were the kings. But after defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, Israel would no longer have its own king. It would be subject to foreign powers. But God promises to raise a new shoot, a king from that dead line. And so Jesus – the King of kings – was born from the line of David. Jesus’ rule is eternal.
So God would keep his promises. God had promised King David, “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. … Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
God is faithful. He promises and he then fulfills. We can count on all his promises. He has given his own Son to be our Savior and our King.
And notice how different this king is. He is far different than the other kings who ruled Judah. So often, rulers are concerned first about themselves and their position. But Jesus willingly humbled himself to serve us. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This king will do what is just and right. God’s justice and his righteousness is a terrifying thought for the sinner. Righteousness is doing everything perfectly. That is what God demands. Everyone falls far short of God’s demand. We are not righteous. God’s justice demands that sin be paid for, that all sin be punished.
But Jesus is “Our Righteousness.” Jesus did everything perfectly. He was without sin. He lived that perfect life for us. On the cross, all our sins were transferred to him and he suffered the punishment which God’s justice demands. By faith, his righteousness is credited to us. We are righteous. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Jesus washes us clean with his blood shed on the cross and makes us holy and righteous in God’s sight. In Revelation we hear, “These in white robes … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
In fact, verse 16 tells us the Lord’s church will be named “The Lord is our righteousness.” Earlier in Jeremiah that name was given to the righteous Branch – to the Messiah. But here Christ’s kingdom, his church, is called by his name – because through him it has been made righteous. What an incredible name the Lord gives to his church – to his people. By faith we are united to Jesus. The Church is Christ’s body. Think about how close a relationship that is. How do you separate one from the other? You can’t! What is true of Christ is true of his Church. The apostle Paul points to that close relationship in Romans chapter 6, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
The result of Jesus’ righteousness, the result of Jesus’ death on the cross – is rescue and salvation for us. One of our Easter hymns points to the joy and certainty we have in Christ’s resurrection because we are so closely united with him by faith. The hymn asks, “Shall I fear, or could the head rise and leave his members dead?” Then in the next stanza, the hymn writer answer the question – “No, too closely am I bound unto him by hope forever; faith’s strong hand the rock has found, grasped it, and will leave it never. Even death now cannot part from its Lord the trusting heart.” Since we have we have been united with Christ in his death, we have also been united with Christ in his resurrection and we receive all the benefits of his death and resurrection. Jesus death was the perfect sacrifice to pay for all sin. Jesus resurrection proves that he was victorious. Death no longer has any power over him. Salvation is ours. Since we have been united with Jesus, death no longer has power over us either. We no longer have reason to fear death. We know what will happen to us after death. We know that heaven awaits us. We know that we will rise to live and reign with Jesus forever in heaven. We are united with him. It has to be so.
The Savior’s work is not completed until all his saints are safe in heaven. The Lord’s gracious plans extend beyond the cross and the empty tomb to the eternal banquet of heaven. At Christmas time, we spend a lot of time looking back, focused on the events of Jesus’ birth. But we also need to look forward to the reason that Jesus came – it was to establish his kingdom by his perfect life and sacrificial death. It was to gain eternal life in heaven for us. We can be assured of our place in Christ’s kingdom.
How that affects our lives right now. Our new lives, united with Jesus our Savior and King, are lived for his glory. We can serve him in righteousness and look forward to the day when we will serve him perfectly in heaven.
What wonderful comfort and hope we find in the promises of God. He is faithful to every one of them. He was faithful in keeping his promise and sending Jesus into this world, born a humble baby to be our Savior. He will be faithful in the future when Jesus comes again in glory to take us to heaven. Because of God’s great love and faithfulness, we can be assured of our place in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus has washed us clean from sin and made us saints. He is the Lord our Righteousness and united to him we too are righteous and worthy of eternal life.