The Righteous Branch – Jeremiah 23 : 1 – 6
Martin Luther had a dream. Not Martin Luther King, who gave that famous speech ‘I have a dream’…but Martin Luther, the great reformer.
I can’t remember the exact details, but it goes something like this:
It was Judgement Day, and everyone was having to give an account of the life that they had lived.
As Luther stood in front of God’s throne, a list was read out of all the wicked things he had done whilst here on earth.
He recognised the reader as being Satan, accusing him in great detail…and as the list grew longer and longer, Luther’s face grew longer and longer too.
But suddenly Luther said to Satan: ‘There is one thing on that list you haven’t mentioned, and that’s the day when I asked Jesus Christ to become my LORD and Saviour, and everything on that list has been nailed to His cross, and His perfect Righteousness now clothes me and covers all those sins on the list’
At that moment, Satan departed.
Well, Luther’s dream is a scenario all of us are going to have to face one day, and during this season of Advent we not only prepare ourselves for the first coming of Jesus at Christmas, but also His Second Coming when He returns again.
Luther’s dream of being before the Judgement Throne of God is going to be a reality for all of us…and the big question we face is: ‘Are we ready?’
One recurring dream I have is of turning up at church and realising I’ve forgotten the notes for my sermon!
And it makes me wonder, what would be the one message from the Bible I would focus on if I had no notes?
And the answer is here, in the passage we’re looking at in Jeremiah 23 this morning.
It’s Verse ‘The LORD our Righteousness’
Here’s the truth that gave Martin Luther his confidence before the throne of God, when that long list was read out.
Here’s the one verse that will determine our future destiny on that Last and Final Day:
‘The LORD our Righteousness’
So let’s begin this morning by having a look at it, as we read it’s context in Jeremiah 23.
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet…
There may be many reasons for why he was called that, but one of them must be that he was called to give a deeply unpopular message to the leaders of Judah.
As we begin we need to remember that Jeremiah was a prophet, and prophets in the OT spoke the very Words of God.
So as we look at this chapter we’re not just hearing what Jeremiah is saying….we’re hearing what God is saying.
And God has a complaint to make against the leaders or shepherds of Israel (v1)
> From the time of King Mannasah, whose reign was long and filled with evil, the leaders of Judah had become increasingly corrupt.
They encouraged idolatry, and even sacrificed children on altars outside Jerusalem.
And God had said way back in Leviticus 23 that if Israel disobeyed His commandments and turned against Him, He would judge Israel.
The blessings of the covenant would be replaced by a curse. God would undo all that He had done for Israel since the day He had brought them out of Egypt.
And we see God’s Words coming true when Judah and Jerusalem are captured by Babylon, and the people are lead off into captivity for 70 years.
But this is not God’s last word.
Out of the devastation and destruction comes a new promise which we read about in Jeremiah 23:3 (read)
> One of the serious allegations that God had against the leaders/shepherds of Judah was that they no longer cared for His people…
Now God promises that He Himself is going to gather the people, and bring them home and care for them, and He’s going to do this, firstly by appointing new shepherds to oversee His people, and then by raising up a Righteous Branch from the line of David.
This Righteous Branch is going to be a very special King.
As verse 5 says…He will do what is just and right…He will reign wisely…unlike these previous kings and leaders who no real interest in those they governed.
And through this Coming King, God’s people are going to be saved and live in safety.
But the key factor in this King’s identity is the Name He is going to be known by:
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU…or THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
It’s through the power of this King’s Name that God’s people are going to be saved and live in safety…
Through His Just and Right life…His perfect life…His people going to be made righteous.
Now in our minds eye, let’s fast forward the tape 5/600 years…the exiles have returned from Babylon…there’s a new king on the throne called Herod, whose very disturbed to hear that a baby King has been born in Bethlehem…
…there’s even a bright star over the place where He is born…
This Baby is going to grow up and be followed by thousands and eventually millions and then billions of people all over the planet, because they’ve come to see that in Him they can be saved from their sins and that in Him is true life to be found.
And His Name?
1 Corinthians 1:30…“Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our Righteousness….”
Here are the Words of God spoken through Jeremiah being fulfilled…The LORD our Righteousness appearing in Person in the LORD Jesus Christ.
Now at this point we might be wondering:
‘What does all this have to do with me?’
‘Why is it so important that Jesus should be The LORD our Righteousness?’
To answer that question we need to do a whistle stop tour of the first few chapters of Romans, because it’s in Romans that we discover we have a real problem, whether we’re aware of it or not…
And the first few chapters of Romans points out that our problem is actually our UNrighteousness.
Paul shows us that it’s not just atheists and pagans and idolaters who are unrighteous….but even the religious folks who think they are ok.
Paul puts it very plainly in Romans 3:23 ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…’
When we look at the evil kings of Judah who encouraged terrible practices like child sacrifices, we can see the reality of sin and evil in all it’s twistedness and darkness, but for many of us, we like to think we’re not that bad.
The book of Romans challenges that thinking by saying it’s not about whether we’re like Hitler or Mother Theresa…it’s about whether we meet GOD’S standard of righteousness…
And there is only One Person who ever lived, Who ever met that standard, and that was the Just and Right King that God Himself provided, the One He promised way back in Jeremiah 23…His own perfect Son, Jesus.
After taking 3 chapters in Romans to demonstrate that ‘no one is righteous’ because ‘all have sinned’, Paul then says:
‘BUT NOW apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify…’
Here we’re seeing Jeremiah’s prophetic words coming to life….
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS HERE…… IN PERSON…IN THE PERSON OF JESUS.
And how does this righteousness come to us?
Romans 3:22 ‘This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’
Faith is the channel through which we know the forgiveness of sins and the promise of being CLOTHED with the righteousness of Jesus, a righteousness that is His, not ours, because we can’t provide that righteousness…
And the wonderful thing about this righteousness is that’s it’s not some woolly concept.
It arrives in a Person, in the Person of Jesus…the coming King born in a stable at Bethlehem..
And so it is a righteousness that is revealed in history…in time and space…
It is the fulfilment of all that God has promised not just in Jeremiah but in the whole of the OT..
That little Baby would grow up to become a man…a man who would eventually lay His life down on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem 2000 years ago…lay His life down so that we could know the forgiveness of our sins and be clothed in His righteousness.
If you’ve ever wondered what is that makes a person a Christian, it’s this:
A Christian is a person who knows they haven’t got their act together
A Christian is a person who knows that deep down inside something is wrong, that even our very best thoughts, words, and actions are flawed by what the Bible calls sin.
Jesus Himself put it like this: ‘Out of the heart of a person come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander…’
The problem is right in here, in the heart…it’s in my heart, it’s in yours.
The Christian is a person who knows these things about themselves, but trusts that God has provided a way of being righteous in His eyes, which doesn’t rely on how good or bad our hearts are.
The Christian trusts that God has provided something we are unable to provide for ourselves…Jesus Christ, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
And that righteousness simply comes through putting our faith and trust in Jesus.
Paul goes on in Romans to talk about Abraham, and how Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
That may not sound particularly important to us, until we think about the kind of faith Abraham had.
Abraham believed God when God said that his wife Sarah would become pregnant at 100.
Even someone in a pre scientific world knows that pregnancy at 100 is not only unlikely, it’s impossible.
And the Bible tells us that Sarah’s womb was dead.
Yet Abraham believed God could bring life out of death…
…That He could bring life when there was nothing there, just as at the beginning of time God created a universe out of nothing…that’s the meaning of the Hebrew word for create, ‘creating out of nothing’.
And Abraham believed God could bring Isaac back to life after he was asked to go and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah.
Imagine that, being ready to go through that horrific act with the knowledge that Issac was the only one through whom future generations would come…everything seemed to go against what God was telling him to do.
And yet Abraham believed God, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
I’d like to finish with situations in our own lives where it might seem impossible for things to change, particularly when it comes to those areas of unrighteousness in our own lives.
It might be that there are things we’ve done in the past where we find it hard to believe God can forgive us, those skeletons in the cupboard which we believe are so ugly, so horrendous that we’re beyond recovery.
If that’s the case, take heart, because the Bible tells us that we have a High Priest in heaven Who continually brings His atoning work on the cross before His Father God.
Calvin puts it like this:
‘Christ turns the Father’s eyes to the Son’s righteousness…and in doing so, averts His eyes from our sins’
There’s no sin in our past that is too great to be forgiven… BECAUSE JESUS HIMSELF is our righteousness…
God’s care for us, God’s love for us is seen in providing a way, though the death of His Son, not just for us to be forgiven, but to be clothed in the Righteousness of His perfect Son.
The work of Jesus in heaven RIGHT NOW is bring His atoning work to the Father on our behalf. All that is required is faith, just like Abraham’s faith.
He trusted God, even though it seemed in natural terms to be impossible.
The wonder of the Gospel is that whatever we’ve done, wherever we’ve been, we can know, through the cross, the forgiveness of all our sins, and the promise of a righteousness that God gives us through His Son.
I wonder if you’ve ever come across the phrase ‘famous last words’?
Last words often characterise the life a person lived…
Apparently on the comedian Spike Milligan’s gravestone are the words…
… ‘I told you I was ill’…
Tragically, the handwritten words written on a card by George Best’s deathbed were: ‘Don’t die like I did’
And reportedly the last words of the Buddha summed up his life’s teaching when he encouraged his followers with these words: ‘Work hard to gain your own salvation’
But what were the last words of Jesus before He died on the cross?
“It is finished”
The LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS has done it.
Category: Sermons , The Bridge
Tags: The Bridge