Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Advent Midweek I – December 6, 2017
Text: Jeremiah 23:5-8
True salvation vs. counterfeit hope
In the days of Jeremiah, every true Israelite was in expectation. The nation was severely broken—ruled by kings who had more interest in feasts and fertility gods than the spiritual welfare of God’s holy nation. But the problem wasn’t just the kings. The prophets, who were supposed to shepherd God’s people in justice and righteousness, had come up with their own methods. The prophets before them—Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha—had always been on the people’s bad side. So, the modern prophets adopted a message that everyone liked: Peace be upon Israel! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers! The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress. They preached good news! It was even something God says…in certain circumstances.
But there was something wrong with when they were preaching that good news. Yes, God has good news for people broken by sin and afraid of destruction. But He has no good news for the unrepentant heart. It’s not just the broken heart that God heals, but the broken and contrite heart, that is sorry for his or her sins, that God will not despise.
In a time where Jerusalem and her kings were indulging in pagan worship despite multiple warning to repent and return to the Lord, it was not time for a message of “Comfort, comfort, ye my people.” The shepherds who were preaching nothing but good news were actually the ones the Lord spoke of immediately before our reading tonight:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 23:1-2)
They had set up their own brand of righteousness, and they were in competition with the Lord. It was a good news that required no admission of wrongdoing. Wouldn’t it be great to hear that God suddenly changed His mind about sin?
It was also good news that could be self-administered. The Lord said of them, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” It was the equivalent of collecting only affirming Bible verses, so that no matter where you turn, God agrees with you and tells you that you’re on the right track.
Because of what the lying prophets were doing, the Lord promised to set things straight Himself: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.” And this salvation and security will be no thanks to the prophets who maligned God’s Word. By their consoling and pandering to the wicked, they gave them the feeling of salvation and security. But a feeling of salvation and peace is different from actual peace with God. The true salvation came from outside of us, in this Righteous Branch.
The Righteous King did came, just as the mouth of the Lord had spoken. The Lord, our righteousness was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
The peace of Judah and the security of Israel are of the heart. Yet, they are altogether real.
In these last days, the Righteous King, Jesus Christ, reigns through faith, and the signs of His Kingdom depend on faith. But those signs have all the power of the Almighty King.
This is what the Lord, Our Righteousness does for His people even today by faith.
But it will be far more glorious when He comes again! What only believers perceive now, all of creation will see when He comes in power. The Lord God who once came in the lowliness of infancy and was placed in a manger, will come in His glory. Before Him, all the dead will be raised from their graves, and every knee will bow before Him. Those who, in their own righteousness, refused His, will face divine wrath, and their feelings and opinions will come to nothing. Yet those who hungered and thirsted for the Lord’s righteousness, those who bemoaned their sin and the power it had over their flesh, those who clung to Jesus because only He has the words of eternal life—these will be received into His Kingdom.
In that place, Satan will be no more, neither will any lies be heard. Everything will be good news, because sin will be gone. We will live in justice and righteousness under our wise and righteous King, whose Name is the Lord. He is our righteousness yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.
A branch /sprout (denotes a separate plant) who is righteous, without fault who will be king
He will execute judgment by God’s Law and establish righteousness.
Laetsch: “All branches, leaves, fruits, are only products of the Zemach…springing up from the seemingly dead root of the house of David” p. 190
Not a term of His lowliness as much as His fulfillment of the Davidic dynasty
Righteousness is His very essence, His nature and being. p190
He will raise up a Kingdom where the Branch will give life “His kingdom partakes of the nature of this King, is like Him a living, life-producing kingdom”
This King establishes a new norm, a new righteousness. “It is a norm that is established by the righteous King, and a righteousness that this righteous King, whose righteousness is that of Jehovah, acknowledges as an all-sufficient righteousness.”
It is He who is called “The Lord, Our Righteousness” because He is the righteousness of all time, that covered the sin of Adam and Eve, and washes your sin today.
“Judah will be saved..Israel dwell securely” – A complete picture: the first describing deliverance, the second the freedom from fear and danger and want. “Deliverance and safety here are spiritual blessings”
The title given Him is what He shall be called by all.
THE LORD, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS THEN, NOW, FOREVERMORE.
- The Lord establishes righteousness.
- He determines right from wrong, justice from injustice.
- The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day thought it was more expedient to make their own righteousness.
- But the Lord would raise up a Righteous King who reigned who truly executed justice and righteousness.
- His first coming in lowliness established His reign of faith in human hearts.
- Everything which the Lord spoke was true: Judah saved, Israel secure—spiritually.
- It’s true today for everyone who believes in Him.
- And His reign is through means which depend on faith.
- His second coming will establish His Kingdom in power.
- We also confess, He will come again to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. In that day, His will reign without a rival.
- In that day, we will be saved from every enemy, and dwell securely outwardly.