Jeremiah 33:14-16. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Righteousness is the opposite of sinfulness. Sinfulness is destroying us as we destroy each other. Sinfulness oppresses. Sinfulness steals. Sinfulness withholds what is owed. Sinfulness seeks self gain at the expense of others.
But God is righteous. He is just. He seeks to lift up the oppressed, the poor, the needy, the downtrodden. His righteousness is a standard; his justice moves people to that standard. His justice raises us up. It feeds the widow and orphan. It welcomes the displaced. It visits the imprisoned. It pays a fair wage. It doesn’t steal, harm, lie, or murder. It offers help and never pushes others down.
David’s kingdom was to be a kingdom of justice and righteousness. It never was fully realized, but here in Jeremiah we have a promise to see it restored by the righteous Branch. This is a prophetic term used to describe the coming Messiah – the one promised since the beginning of time in the protoevangelium. God declares that the days are coming. What days? The days of fulfilled promise. The days of the restoration of the throne of David. The days promised in the Davidic Covenant. The return of the King.
A righteous branch that will execute justice and righteousness.
This is what they’ve been waiting for for thousands of years. This is what we still wait for today isn’t it? Righteousness. Justice.
Jesus, the offspring of David, will restore justice and righteousness to the world. The thing we need most. Think about the ministry of Jesus. It was one of righteousness and restorative justice. The exalted he humbled and the humble he exalted. The poor he fed. The sick he healed. The forgotten he remembered. The forsaken he accepted. Truly he executed justice and righteousness in the land.
This is our hope. This is what we wait for today. The return of the King to restore justice and righteousness in the land.
Scrooge restores justice
This is the message of Christmas – we cannot do it ourselves. We are so lost, and so far away, and so rebellious that, apart from an invasion of righteousness from God himself, we are doomed. This is why the righteous Branch had to come. We cannot accomplish righteousness and justice on our own. Yes, we’ve tried. But we always fall short. Organizations created to help the poor are riddled with scandal. Well intentioned ministries that do more harm in a community than good. We are so very good at identifying the problems, and so very bad at doing the hard work of restorative justice, which includes forgiveness. Even the church, in its desire to preach forgiveness, has forsaken justice so many times.
And so we rejoice with the last line of our text above: And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
The Lord IS our righteousness. You see the situation is so desperate because unrighteousness or sinfulness is not just an external problem, it is internal. We are by nature unrighteous. Therefore the solution can never simply be for a new King to arrive and execute justice. This would only be a band-aid. The real solution is for us to be made righteous ourselves.
And this is what God has done. The Lord IS our righteousness. How can this be? How can God go beyond doing righteous deeds to actually being our righteousness? The answer is of course our union with Christ. The incarnation. “To live is Christ.” Our union with Christ is our righteousness. That is what we were really waiting for, even though we didn’t even know it. But now, in Christ, we do. We know and we believe that in him the righteousness of God is fulfilled in us. And that was worth waiting for.
What is the difference between the Lord being your righteousness and you being your own righteousness? How is it different from the Lord doing righteous things? How does your union with Christ make the Lord your righteousness?
Hail the Son of Righteousness!